3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Committee of Inquiry : Post and Telegraph Department.
The PRESIDENT.- I have received a communication from Senator Colonel Neild in these terms-
I have the honour to intimate that I propose to move the adjournment of the Senate to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, namely, the character of the Ministerial Committee recently appointed to report on the condition of affairs existing in the Post and Telegraph Department.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [11.4]. - To formally bring before the Senate the question which I wish to discuss, I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 9 a.m. to-morrow.
Four honorable senators having risen in their places,
Senator Colonel NEILD. - The matter to which I desire the attention of honorable senators has been recognised by the Ministry and by Parliament as of very serious import, affecting, as it does, one of the great divisions of the Public Service, and a division more intimately connected with the business and lives of the people than any other, because failure in the certain and speedy transmission of postal or telegraphic messages often inflicts serious inconvenience, and, in many cases, positive loss on the public. This has been recognised in many speeches whichhave been delivered ‘ in this chamber, and is now admitted by the. Cabinet. The action of Ministers in appointing the Committee whose constitution I wish to discuss is an admission that the condition of affairs in the Post and Telegraph Department is more than unsatisfactory.I shall not use stronger language, because the matter has already been commented on in lurid terms from time to time. The personnel of the proposed Committee must be regarded as eminently unsatisfactory, not because of the personal character of its members, but because, in the first place, two of the Ministers appointed are already over-burdened with work, and cannot, while piloting the Customs Bill through Committee here, attend meetings to investigate the condition of the Post and Telegraph Department. If the Committee is to do useful work, it cannot stay in Melbourne ; but must visit each of the States, and how can Ministers attend to their duties here, and, at the same time, visit Brisbane and Perth, and the intermediate capitals? We should have to terminate our sittings, if they were to do so. We all feel the strain of this session, and it is no discourtesy to the Ministers concerned to say that they must feel it very seriously. To ‘ask them to undertake, in addition to their present work, the tremendous task of investigating the affairs of the Post and Telegraph Department is to askthem to do the impossible. Therefore, one objection I have to the personnel of the Committee is that some of its members have so much to do at present that they cannot give the time, and are not infit condition, toattend its meeting’s. My second objection is based on the maxim that no man should be a judge in his own cause. It would be eminently more satisfactory to Parliament, and to the public, if there were upon’ the Committee persons having no official or personal responsibility for the alleged disorganisation. The Postmaster-General is being asked to sit in judgment on-
SenatorMulcahy. - Himself.
Senator Colonel NEILD. - Yes, and to criticise his own laches. He is officially responsible for all that happens’ in the Department over which he presides, and, therefore, he should not be asked to report upon, perhaps, his own failure as an administrator. Senators Bestand Keating have their hands full of work, and their minds equally burdened. Like the rest of us, they are a bit run down, and are in no condition, physical or mental, to tackle the huge task that lies before the Committee, if its work is to be done properly. Of course, if it is to be a mere surface inquiry, a mere officialfrivolity, the Committee as constituted may do very well ; but if there is to be a genuine and search ing investigation intothe grounds for the many complaints which have beenmade; and, if remedies are to be found for the evils alleged to exist, the Committee, as constituted, cannot undertake thework.I do not object to the Postmaster-General, or some other Minister, being onthe Committee ; but all who are appointed should be able to attend its meetings, and there should be appointed to it persons having no official responsibility, to look after the interests of the business men and private correspondents who use the Department. Over and over again it has been statedin Parliament, and in the press, that serious injury is being inflicted on the community by the present state ofaffairs, and a member of the public who has been, or’ may be at any moment, brought into the meshes of the official blundering, should take part in the inquiry. I thought of giving notice of a motion expressing dissatisfaction with the constitution of the Committee, but, recognising that it was hopeless to get an opportunity for its discussion, I saw no other way of bringing the matter forward than by the unsatisfactory course of moving the adjournment. That is’ a course which I do not like to take; but I felt that some one should take action to give honorable senators the opportunity to express their views, and, therefore, I have moved the adjournment this morning.
Senator BEST (Victoria- VicePresident of the Executive Council) [11.12]. - I take no exception to the terms in which my honorable friend has moved his motion, though he overlooked giving me notice of his intention to move it.
Senator Colonel Neild.- I admit my failure to do so, and the apology which tender for. my seeming lack of courtesy is that I wasvery much occupied up to the moment of the President taking the chair, “and therefore overlooked the matter. I very, much regret having done so.
Senator BEST. - I can quite understand that that was so. I takeno exception to the terms in which my honorable friend has dealt with this matter. Statements alleging serious . disorganization in the Post and Telegraph Department have been made inboth Houses of Parliament, and in the press.As to their truth I cannot at this moment speak ; but the Cabinet felt it to be its duty to take immediate steps to investigate the matter, with a view, if disorganization exists, to put things on a proper footing. We have all had experience of Select Committees and
Royal Commissions, some of which have pxOved very useful, while others have not afforded the assistance which we should have been glad to receive. Ministers are responsible for- the proper conduct of affairs by their Departments, and allegations against the Post and Telegraph Department involve not merely that Department, but the Department of Home Affairs, the Treasury, ism so far as it is alleged that the expenditure should be greatly increased,, and the administration of the Public Service Act. As to thepersonnel of the proposed Committee, the Cabinet insisted - I think wisely - that the Minister of Home Affairs and the PostmasterGeneral should be members of it. They also saw fit to insist that I should become a member o’f the Committee. Now, it cannot reasonably be suggested that the Postmaster-General is responsible for the condition of affairs which exists in his Department. He has been in office, so to speak, only about five minutes.
Senator Gray. - But the Government have been in office more than five minutes.
Senator BEST. - I am referring to the Postmaster-General, who, of course, will he the Chairman of the Committee. He is primarily responsiblefor putting his Department in order, and the other two Ministers have been appointed to assist him in that very important task. In saying this I am seeking to meet the argument of Senator Neild that the Postmaster-General is responsible for what has occurred.
Senator Colonel Neild. - He is officially responsible.
Senator BEST. - If a state of disorganisation exists in the Posit and Telegraph Department, it has been brought about by no act of the Postmaster-General. Consequently, the Cabinet felt that this matter was practically one of administration, and that the PostmasterGeneral should have the assistance of two of his colleagues in bringing about some substantial reform if that ‘ were needed. The Committee possesses this advantage: In the. first place, charges against the Department have been frankly and freely made in- the- press and by honorable senators;’ and, secondly, the. Committee! know almost exactly the charges which are to be investigated. That is something for us to start with. . These charges have been specifically made, and it is for the Committee to ascertain their truth or otherwise. We have to investi gate these charges, and to consider the Post and Telegraph Department in its relationship to the other Departments towhich I have already referred. It is not the Post Office alone which will come under review by the Committee, but ‘the Post Office in its relationship to other Departments.
Senator Guthrie. - Then we shall require a Post and Telegraph Board.
Senator BEST. - By reason of the magnitude of the concern, that may be the ultimate result. But it was because of the relationship of this Department to other Departments that the Government felt it was desirable - as the first responsibility attaches to them - that they should accept full responsibility, instead of doing, as is too frequently done, shunting this work on to others. It must be within the recollection of honorable senators that when Select Committees or Royal Commissions have been proposed by Governments from time to time, they have been taunted that they did not possess the requisite courage to undertake the responsibility which properly belonged to them. That probably would have been the taunt levelled against us if -we had appointed a Royal Commission, as is now suggested. But we preferred to accept our full responsibility. Senator Neild also dealt with another aspect of this matter. It is true, as has been stated, that my colleague and I are at present overworked. The task which is about to be super-added to our other duties /is one of magnitude, if it is to be undertaken with anv degree of satisfaction. Of course, during the next few weeks - and I trust that it will be very few weeks before this session ends - we can only do what a Royal Commission would have been able to do if it had been appointed, namely, attend to the preliminary work of the inquirv by appointing a secretary, by formulating the charges which will have to be considered, and by laying down the general lines upon which the investigation shall- proceed. That is all that we can hope to do, and if a Commission had been appointed during the parliamentary session it could have done little more,
Senator Mulcahy. - Why ?
Senator BEST. - Because if a Commission were appointed, I venture to say that it would not give satisfaction to either House if it did -not contain representatives of either one Chamber or the other, or perhaps1 of both.
Senator Mulcahy. - If ought to be an inquiry by experts.
Senator BEST. - That is a matter upon which a very considerable difference of opinion exists. I do not think that is the general view of honorable senators, and certainly it is not that of members of another place. In the long run, Parliament is responsible for the administration of this State-owned Department, and Parliament would not be satisfied if it were not represented upon a Royal Commission if such were appointed. Thus, even if we had appointed a Commission constituted in the manner I have referred to, it could have done no more during the few remaining weeks of the session than a subCommittee appointed by the Cabinet can do. Under the circumstances, we preferred to grapple with the very difficult and important task ourselves. . The result of the labours of the sub-Committee will, in due time, be reported to the Cabinet, which will then have to accept responsibility for its subsequent action. I submit that, having regard to the fact that the matter involved is purely one of administration, which affects not one Department, but several Departments, the- proper course to take was that which we have adopted.
Senator Sir Josiah Symon. - Would vhf Vice-President of the Executive Council be good enough to mention the other Departments which are concerned?
Senator BEST. - Those Departments are the Department of Home Affairs, so far as works are concerned, and so far asthe Public Service is concerned. The other Department is that of the Treasurer, seeing that- finance is a most important element in this matter.
Senator Sir Josiah Symon. - Those Departments are not open to the suggestion that they are disorganized.
Senator BEST. - Not at all. But the disorganization of the Postmaster-General’s Department and its .relation to the other Departments are involved in the inquiry that is about to be instituted. The difficulties as to permanent employment, which form an important feature of the charges that have been made, naturally concern the Public Service Commissioner, and’ some of the main principles of the- Public Service Act. Under all the circumstances, honorable senators will, I think, on reflection, come to the conclusion that the Government have acted wisely in themselves undertaking responsibility in this matter rather than in shunting that responsibility on to a Select’ Committee or to a Royal Commission, as has been suggested.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) [11.25]. - Everybody will admit that there are two members of the sub-Committee appointed by the Cabinet, who - even if Parliament were not in session - have quite enough to do in attending to the routine work of their Departments. There are no two Federal Departments which have more routine’ work to perform than have those of the Postmaster- General and the Department of Home Affairs, and no two Departments command’ the constant personal supervision of Ministers more than they do. Yet it is now proposed that these Ministers shall devote their attention to an inquiry into matters of administration as well as into matters of- policy. It is obvious that they can only undertake such an inquiry at the expense of the .routine work of their Departments.
Senator Best.- Surely a closer investigation by the Postmaster-General info the affairs of his Department will add to his qualifications for his position ?
Senator PEARCE. - I am merely speaking of the ability of Ministers to undertake this inquiry whilst attending strictly to the routine work of their Departments. I maintain that, the latter will necessarily be interfered with while the Committee is engaged in its investigation. The VicePresident of the Executive Council lias seen fit to go out of his way to disavow responsibility oh the part of the PostmasterGeneral for the disorganization which exists in his Department. I am not prepared to say that he is not responsible, because it does seem to me that any- Minister who accepts that position, knowing that there is a large amount of dissatisfaction in the Department, would -be much better employed in re-organizing it than in Tuning round the country devoting himself to matters which are outside of it.
Senator de Largie. - He can not have been very busily engaged with the affairs of his Department.
Senator PEARCE. - The PostmasterGeneral found time to go to Sydney to make a most disturbing speech, when he would have been much better employed in dealing with the affairs of his Department’ There is another phase of this matter which I should not have mentioned had not the Vice-President of the Executive Council spoken- in the way that he did. The Postmaster-General - as anybody can see by reference to the public press - notwith- standing that his Department is disorganized, can find time to trot round the city in motor-cars for the purpose of inspecting sites for telephone exchanges.
Senator Mulcahy. - Only in one State.
Senator PEARCE.- Exactly. He cannot go to Perth or Brisbane and do the same thing. In undertaking this work, the Postmaster-General is doing something which we pay expert officers to do.
Senator Millen. - Much more competent officers than he is.
Senator PEARCE. - Certainly. In these respects alone the Postmaster-General has justified criticism of his administration. I think that the Government have appointed a Committee which will not have time to thoroughly investigate the position of affairs which obtains in the Post and Telegraph Department, and which’ must necessarily stand by the Postmaster-General no matter what may happen. On the other hand a Royal Commission, if it thought fit, might point out that some of the disorganization of that Department was due to lax administration. But does anybody in his wildest dreams imagine that the Chairman of the Committee appointed by the Cabinet will report that such disorganization is due to his own lax administration ? We certainly should have a body which would report to that effect if it were justified in doing so by evidence. In speaking upon the reduction in the number of telegraphists the other night, I pointed out that it was either due to the Treasurer, the Postmaster’General, or the Public Service Commissioner that the telegraphic branch of the Department was disorganized. Now, can we expect the Committee, which has been appointed by the Cabinet, to report that the Postmaster-General is responsible for the lack of telegraph operators in the Commonwealth? But I desire to secure the appointment either of a Select Committee or a Royal Commission which will determine, upon the evidence tendered to it, exactly who is responsible. By appointing a Committee of the Cabinet to inquire into this question of postal administration the Government are not acting wisely to themselves. The action which they have taken is certainly unfair to Parliament, and I trust that they will reconsider their determination and appoint a Royal Commission or Select Committee. I am prepared to accept a Committee consisting of members of either House. If such a tribunal be-appointed there will be members prepared to justify, on the floor of the
House, its report when it is presented to and is being criticised by Parliament. On the other hand, if a Committee consisting, of persons outside Parliament be appointed we shall probably hear only one side of the case. The Government proposal ought to be withdrawn.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) [11. 31]. - Some little time since, when a Supply Bill was before us, I expressed the hope that the Government would appoint a Royal Commission, upon which men of large business experience, outside Parliament, would find a place. I said then that if an inquiry was to be held it should be carried out by persons absolutely outside parliamentary circles, and entirely independent of political considerations. I still think that a Commission so composed would be the only one to solve the problem that confronts us. Having regard to the trouble which has occurred, it is impossible to assume - and I say this without any disrespect to the members of the Cabinet Committee - that they have, in the first instance, the qualifications necessary to enable them to inquire into all the complaints against the Department.” Even Senator Pearce, in speaking, dealt with the trouble from only one stand-point. That, perhaps, was due to the brevity of his speech, but the fact remains that he considered only the position of the employes of the Department.
Senator Pearce. - I only mentioned that point.
Senator MILLEN. - There is, on the part of the Department itself, a complaint that the disorganization and trouble is due to its being undermanned, whilst amongst the public generally there is a belief that it is due, not to any undermanning, but to the want of a business system.
Senator Gray. - That is the whole trouble.
Senator MILLEN. - I am not prepared to say whether or not it is.
Senator McGregor. - Senator Gray is.
Senator MILLEN. - And some honorable senators opposite are prepared to say that the reason is that the Department is undermanned and starved.
Senator Pearce. - The figures seem to show that it is.-
Senator MILLEN. - That statement shows that Senator Pearce has already formed an opinion, and I have also done so, clearly proving how absolutely unfit any member of Parliament would be to conduct an impartial inquiry. What I have said in regard to members generally applies particularly to members of the Ministry. Is it to be supposed that Ministers will sit in judgment on a colleague, or that Mr. Mauger is prepared to sit in judgment on himself? A man of that type has not been bom, or, if he has, the electors have failed to appreciate him to the extent of mating him a member of Parliament. The first consideration is whether any member of the Cabinet Committee has the necessary qualification, from a business stand-point, to inquire into the working of what the VicePresident of the Executive Council himself described as a vast business undertaking-. I think Senator Best will admit that if the Department were his own private property and he wished to know what was wrong with it, he would seek the guidance of men skilled in the organization of big business enterprises. The Government, however, have handed over the inquiry to gentlemen whose qualifications in their own particular line I will willingly recognise, but not one of them has had intimate connexion with ordinary commercial enterprises. That being so, in the course of the inquiry they are bound to become, consciously or unconsciously, mere channels for the stereotyped views of the Department.
Senator Findley. - What experience has an ordinary business man . in regard to postal administration ?
Senator MILLEN. - He has an experience of ordinary business methods and organization.
Senator Findley. - Distinct altogether from postal administration.
Senator MILLEN.- There may be a difference as to details, but a man who can organize, say, a big cotton factory, or is accustomed to the management of large bodies of men in one undertaking, can see that those engaged in another are properly handled.
Senator de Largie. - Where are there such men in Australia?
Senator MILLEN. - Are there no captains of industry in the Commonwealth? During the consideration of the Tariff the honorable senator has told us again and again that Australia has the brains’ and the muscle to enable her to make anything. We can find in Australian commercial circles men able to hold their own with those elsewhere in the organization of big business enterprises.
Senator de Largie. - We have not in Australia any business so large as that of the Post and Telegraph Department.
Senator MILLEN. - That is no reasonwhy we should go to the extreme of select-, ing the least qualified men in the community to do this work. Even if I admit the honorable senator’s imputation - which I do not - that our business men are of limi-‘ ted experience, their- experience is surely superior, from a business stand-point, tothat of the gentlemen appointed.
Senator Findley. - It is not superior tothe wisdom of Parliament.
Senator MILLEN. - Whilst honorablesenators may be experts in their various trades and professions, none of us will preK tend that we are competent to inquire intothe organization of this big business concern.
Senator Findley. - The honorable senator should speak for himself.
Senator MILLEN. - I am, and if there are other honorable senators with more assurance and less modesty, they may do the same.
Senator Findley. - Do not underestimate the capacity of a member of Parliament.
Senator MILLEN. - I do not; but I hold that Parliament is the worst possible machine to conduct an inquiry. When honorable members speak, as they have by way of interjection, about delegating the authority of Parliament, I feel disposed to ask them what happens when we provide for the appointment of a travelling inspector for each State to inquire into the working of the Department. In doing so, are we running’ away from our responsibilities ? All that I contend is that we should remit this work to those best qualified to tell Parliament in what respect the postal machine has gone wrong, and what is necessary to put it right. It is necessary that we should do so, because there is to some extent ‘a conflict of opinion as to whether the trouble is due to the undermanning of the Department, or to the fact that its employes, whilst working at their full strength, have their labours largely wasted by the want of organization and the overlapping of duties. What has been our own experience? Is it necessary for me to relate cases in which there have been bundles of correspondence over a proposal that the Department should spend a few shillings? That system has been going on under the Deputy Postmaster-General and the Postmaster-General himself. How can they be expected to see its faults, and tosee best how they can be corrected ? As they are responsible, they will find no fault in it. but will fall back on the very simple and disastrous expedient of asking for large and unnecessary grants ito carry oh _ the work. There is another reason why Ministers should have been barred from the inquiry. Senator Best affirmed that Mr. Mauger could not be held responsible for the position of ‘ affairs in the Department. There is some measure of justification’ for that statement, but the attempted justification loses force by reason of the fact that Mr. Mauger has never shown an aptitude or inclination to set to work to correct the abuses that have grown up.
Senator Pearce.- He has shown an aptitude to run the universe.
Senator MILLEN. - An aptitude to attempt to do so. Whilst the VicePresident of the Executive Council was right to some extent in his references to the PostmasterGeneral, I would point out that the 1?ost . and Telegraph Department, whatever it is, is the product of the Ministry now occupying the Treasury benches. Almost without interruption, the same Ministry has been controlling the Department since the establishment of Federation. The Post and Telegraph Department has been built up, developed, and demoralized under . it.
Senator Best. - When we remember the reforms which took place under the ReidMcLean Administration there seems to be 100m for slight exception to that statement.
Senator MILLEN .- The honorable senator’s remarks suggest that in his opinion, the Reid-McLean Administration ought to have reformed the Department. If he thinks that step should have been taken during the few weeks which that Administration held office, with how much greater force does his contention apply to a Ministry which has been in office for six years? Not only is the present Government responsible for the Department, but it has absolutely allowed it to drift into its present ppsition, and has done inothing- to improve it until public opinion has forced it to take action. An inquiry by a Cabinet Committee must be eminently unsatisfactory, for the reasons I have given, and also for the reason that it will not carry any measure of confidence on the part of sui expectant and indignant public.
Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) [11.40]. - The Minister, in dealing with the personnel of the Cabinet Committee, ignored one very important feature. He certainly dealt with the necessity of inqui.ring into the administration of the Department, but did not emphasize the fact that one of the most serious complaints against it relates not to its internal working or its relations with other Departments, but to its relations with the public generally. I admit that the Government have a perfect right to put their own house in order, ‘ and that if the Postmaster-General blames the Treasurer, and the Treasurer blames the Postmaster-General or the Minister of Home Affairs for the present situation, the matter is one that the Ministry should settle amongst themselves. We do not wish them to bring their Cabinet grievances before us. The proposed Committee is eminently suited to settle any. Cabinet difficulties that may exist ; but we did hot ask the Ministry to appoint a Committee to do that work, or to apportion the blame ^between the Postmaster-General, the Treasurer, arid the Minister of Home Affairs. What we did ask was that they should appoint a Select Committee to inquire into the relations between the Department and the public. ‘ We desire to find out where the fault lies, and what is necessary to’ place on a satisfactory footing the relations of the Department with the public. The Cabinet Committee which has been appointed might, and very properly could, deal with any internal differences in the Department, or with disagreements between it and other Departments, but the Government should have appointed men outside its own ranks to consider the numerous complaints from outside. We all know that when complaint is made as to the non-delivery of a letter, or delay in sending a telegram, weeks and weeks are occupied by the Department in writing stereotyped replies, and that in the end the person aggrieved is usually informed that there is no cause for complaint. That is what is going to happen in this case ; we are to have an official inquiry into complaints made by the public against the Department. However fitted the proposed Committee may be to deal with the internal administration of the Department, it is not one that should deal solely on its own responsibility . with the relations between the Department and the public generally.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) [11.44]. - I have listened with some degree of interest ‘ to the discussion, and have come to the conclusion- that the dissatisfaction which has been expressed may be grouped under four headings. ‘We have dissatisfaction with the Department; dissatisfaction in regard to the proposal of the Government to inquire into the defects of the Department by the appointment of a Cabinet Committee, dissatisfaction with the appointment of any one connected with Parliament to inquire into such a question as this, and, lastly, the view that men of great business capacity outside Parliament should alone be selected to do this work.I have often heard the same cry. Let us deal first of all with the dissatisfaction with the Department. There may be very grave grounds for it, but where are they? We must have definite cases ; because people continually grumble without knowing exactly what they are grumbling about. Difficulties have been presented to me as existing in the Post and Telegraph Department; but from my experience, not only in this Parliament, but in the Parliament of South Australia, I think the great difficulty is that the administration has not. advanced as rapidly as the requirements of the people. The Department, in its administration, is as good, if not better, than it was ten years ago - to my mind, it is infinitely better.
Senator Best.- Undoubtedly.
Senator McGREGOR. - But the desires arid requirements of the people are ten times greater than they were ten years ago; they expect more, and if they do not pet what they wish they are dissatisfied. And long life to that discontent, on which the progress of the world depends. I hope that something will be done to bring the Department up-to-date. I do not” mean that the Department should be brought up to the level of the best institutions of the kind in the world, or in accordance with absolutely the best business arrangements, but so advanced as to give the general satisfaction which there ought to be in a Commonwealth like ours. A Committee appointed by the Cabinet may be all very well as a preliminary canter; and if we have ‘patience until that Cbmmittee reports and recommends, we shall be able to judge whether it has or has not done good work. We cannot tell what ability those gentlemen may show in their investigations. And now I come to the suggested appointment on any Committee of Inquiry of “ great commercial authorities.” At election times I have known a loud cry raised by certain sections for commercial representation in the Parliament of the Commonwealth ; and men, who are said to pos sess the necessary knowledge and ability, are put forward as candidates. Well, we have thosegreat commercial authorities “ in this Chamber and another place; and, that being so, are they not the men to appoint to any Commission or Committee of Inquiry ?
Senator de Largie. - It is their modesty which keeps them back.
Senator McGREGOR.- Possibly. I am sure that Senator Gray, when he appealed to the people, did so on the ground that he possessed commercial knowledge; and so did almost every other honorable senator opposite. What brought Mr. Knox, Mr. Harper, and many others into the House of Representatives but their claim to possess “ great commercial knowledge.” In my opinion, any Committee of Inquiry should be selected from the members of this Parliament. We may select commercial men; but commercial men do not possess all the knowledge in the world. I have generally found that a soap manufacturer, when he is once outside of his soap works, is not much better than the man who carries the hod.
Senator Findley. - He may be very much worse.
Senator McGREGOR. - Probably. When a jam manufacturer is once outside his factory, I have generally found that he is not much better, if as good, as a carpenter ; and a linen draper, when taken away from his counter, and put into Parliament, is not of much more value as a representative than a blacksmith, an engineer, or a printer.
Senator Gray. - The argument of the honorable member would seem to be that the more a man is educated to commerce, the worse he is.
Senator McGREGOR.- The more intelligence a man has derived from a variety of occupations, the better he is as a man of action. A man who is absolutely confined to commerce is no better in experience and knowledge than a man who has been absolutely confined to any other walk of life. A man may be good behind his counter, but of absolutely no use anywhere else, unless, of course, he is of very superior calibre. I always maintain that, as representatives, we have no right to shirk the responsibility which rests on Parliament in connexion with postal, defence, or any other national question. The people elect members of Parliament for the very purpose of having those Departments properly administered; and it is our duty to show that ability which we may pretend to have when we are seeking election. I have never had any faith in the appointment of outsiders to such Commissions or Committees of Inquiry as that suggested. Senator Millen said that Senator Pearce showed that he had already made up his mind ; indeed, Senator Millen admitted that he himself had already rriade up his mind. But can Senator Millen find me a commercial man in Australia who, in reference to the administration of any Government Department, has not, long ago, made up his mind ? Such a man is either a Socialist or an antiSocialist; and, if the latter, he has no right to sit in judgment on a socialistic institution.
Senator Trenwith. - Or else he is a “Constant Sufferer” or “One Who Knows !”
Senator McGREGOR. - Yes, something of that description. Let Parliament bear its own responsibility. If the investigation, report, and recommendation of the Committee appointed by the Government are unsatisfactory, let us appoint the best men from both Houses to undertake an inquiry. If that is done, it will not be necessary to appeal to the “great commercial authorities” who, in Australia, as well as in every other part of the world, represent more immorality than can be found in any other section of the community.
Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) [11.54]. - Senator Nield has done a useful public service this morning, and has also, I think, done the Government a very good turn, in submitting this motion. Without this debate, we should never have discovered the Opposition plan to surmount the difficulty with which we are faced. It! must be admitted that if the Government proposal is defective, that of the Opposition is a great deal more so.
Senator Findley. - It is a reflection on the Opposition that they should admit they have no men of business amongst them.
Senator DE LARGIE.- I put that admission down to their modesty.
Senator Millen. - The honorable senator is a man of discernment.
Senator DE LARGIE. - I thank the honorable senator. The Opposition contend that a Committee composed of men of business would, owing to their experience, be able to investigate this matter much bet- ter than could members of Parliament. If it were only the business aspect of the postal administration that had to be inquired into, there might be something in that contention, always supposing, of course, that we could obtain the services of men with experience in this particular kind of business.
Senator Trenwith. - We should probably get the services of men who have not been able to get into Parliament after trying time after time.
Senator DE LARGIE.- Quite so. “Captains of industry,” to use the phrase of Senator Millen, may be, as Senator McGregor has pointed out, perfectly competent in their own particular line of business; indeed, unless men specialize, they seldom are successful. But can any outside business man be expected to know as much about the Post and Telegraph Department and its administration as do business men who are members of Parliament, and. are, therefore, more or less constantly concerned with the administration of the public departments? As a business concern, I hold that there is very little fault to be found with the Post and Telegraph Department; indeed, I regard it as a thorough business success. We know that since the passing of the Federal Postal Act, the departmental business has been conducted at a cost of 200 or 300 per cent, below that which prevailed previously.
Senator Best. - The public have never had anything approaching the facilities that, they at present enjoy.
Senator DE LARGIE. - That is generally admitted; we may take credit for the fact that the Post and Telegraph Department, as a business concern, is carried on at a smaller cost to the public than ever before.-
Senator Millen. - If so, why are there anv complaints?
Senator DE LARGIE. - I grant that there are complaints; and I hope there always will be, because it is only by means of complaints that we can expect reform and improvement. But the complaints are not what we might call of a business, character; they refer more to such questions as to whether sufficient or proper appointments have been made to various positions.
Senator Best. - A number of the allegations vanish - on investigation - absolutely vanish !
Senator DE LARGIE.- I dare say. We can only ascertain whether there is any ground for complaint when we have the particular cases before us. I am not satisfied with the idea of a Cabinet Committee. It would have been much better had the Committee been composed of members of Parliament representing all shades of opinion.
Senator Millen. - I thought the honorable senator said just now that the administration is so satisfactory that no inquiry is necessary ?
Senator DE LARGIE.-I said nothing of the kind.
Senator Gray. - It is what the honorable senator led us to believe.
Senator DE LARGIE. - I said nothing of the kind; and had Senator Gray been listening he could not have so twisted the meaning of my remarks. What I say is that complaints have not been directed against the Department as a business concern. I challenge any member of the Opposition-
Senator Millen. - What are the complaints ?
Senator DE LARGIE.- I am asking the honorable senator. I challenge any member of the Opposition to show that the complaints made indicate that the Department has not been successful from a business stand-point. There may have been faults on the part of those who may be described as not directly connected with the Department. There are those who have a great deal to do with the success of the Department, but who are not actually within it; and an investigation in this connexion may have to be made. What I desire to say is that we cannot expect a Cabinet Committee to condemn their own administration. I desire to know whether the Government intend to publish the evidence collected by this Committee, so that members of the Commonwealth Parliament may be placed in the position to form an opinion. Unless the evidence be published, a Committee might as well save themselves the trouble of taking it. I Hope that for the benefit of all concerned - the public as well as the Department - the Government will see that the evidence is published, so that members of Parliament may be placed in the position to form an independent opinion.
Senator MULCAHY (Tasmania) [12. 1]. - I think that if we talk until a quarter to one o’clock it will be shown to the satisf action of certain honorable senators th’atf this Department is the most mismanaged institution under the sun.
Senator Trenwith. - It would ?ake the honorable senator a long time to find one which is better managed.
Senator. MULCAHY.- I do not Know that it would. We have been told by Senator de Largie that; there is no fault to be found with the Department as a business institution. 1 never- heard such a statement made before. If it is said that a huge business which is catering for the: public, which is evoking universal condemnation, whose employes are universally grumbling and : growling, as is constantly made known to each House, and about which there are numerous complaints in the press, is properly managed, I wonder at any honorable senator having the temerity to make a statement of the kind. We all know that it is managed wretchedly.
Senator Findley. - We do not know anything of the kind. That is a mere assertion.
Senator MULCAHY.- Evidently some honorable senators do not like criticism. When this sacred Government is being attacked they are prepared to jump jim crow on their previous strong convictions in regard to the administration of this Department. For what reason do the Government propose to appoint a Cabinet Committee? Honorable senators may profess to think that the Department is well managed or otherwise, but what is the real state of public opinion? It is that we are appealing from Caesar to Caesar, and that all is futile.. I do not say whether, in my opinion, the inquiry should be conducted by members of Parliament or not. But it is very evident that when the Government! are appointing persons to inquire into al huge Department, they should select persons who have expert knowledge and systematic methods of dealing with business on a large scale.
Senator Findley. - Is not this a business on a large scale?
Senator MULCAHY. - Yes ; certainly the Department is not capable of handling routine matters on a large scale. There is. endless confusion in regard to the delivery of mails - causing, I am sorry to say, any amount of bad language to be used - and in connexion with the telephone exchanges, not merely in Melbourne, but everywhere. With regard to almost every branch of the Department there are loud complaints. We all admit that an inquiryis necessary, but it is to be carried out by those who are immediately concerned, and who are asked either to condemn or to commend themselves. The real fact is that incapacity is rife throughout the Department, and has been conspicuous since Federation. I was very much surprised recently to learn that the head, had been allowed to remain at his post after he had reached the retiring age, in order to administer a Department which he has never administered rightly or well.
Senator Turley. - Are not the postal facilities better now than they were prior to Federation?
Senator MULCAHY. - In some respects the Post and Telegraph Department is better.
Senator Millen. - Not in New South Wales.
Senator MULCAHY. - I am speaking of the Department as a whole. Some honorable senators seem to think that because a telegram can be sent more cheaply now than it could previously - that is one of the results of Federation - that is a great achievement.
Senator Trenwith. - And we can send letters to a thousand places to which we could not send them before.
Senator MULCAHY.- I do not think so. On the other hand, I know of places to which, since Federation, letters cannot be sent. No doubt new post-offices are being opened, but new post-offices in outside places were being opened prior to Federation. Each State was trying to give the best postal facilities at its command. I guarantee that an inquiry by a Cabinet Committee will not be satisfactory to the public, and that it will not produce that comprehensive report to which both branches of the Legislature are entitled.
Senator GRAY (New South Wales) [12.6]. - I regret exceedingly that the personality of any individual senator should have been dragged into this discussion by Senator McGregor. I do not know any one who can charge me with having arrogated to myself any qualifications other than those which are held by any member of the Senate, or any person outside. I tell the honorable senator - who, I have no doubt, is an encyclopaedia of knowledge, and who on every occasion belittles other persons, I presume for the purpose of advertising what a grand, well-informed man he is - that the older some of us grow the more we realize how little we do know, and we act accordingly. If he would take a leaf out of our book perhaps he would be a little less acidy towards his opponents,, who never assume to themselves the qualifications which he tries to put upon them. I, for one, thank Senator Neild for bringing forward this question. I venture to say that throughout the Commonwealth there will be loud dissatisfaction with the appointment of certain Ministers as a Committee to inquire into the administration of the
Post and Telegraph Department, because that is not what the public require. Sena? tor de Largie has stated that, so far as he knows, no lack of business capacity is shown in the Department. I venture to say that since Federation there has been a very great deal of criticism about its business management. Whether that is justified or not can only be ascertained by a Committee properly constituted and free from politicial bias. 1 realize that since Federation an extraordinary amount of accumulated work has had to be done, and that, apart from routing business, great developments have had to be taken in hand. But to tell any one who is acquainted with the details that a perfect system is carried on is simply absurd.
Senator Trenwith. - Does the honorable senator know where there is a perfect system which can be copied ?
Senator GRAY. - It is not fair, of course, to discuss the details which will have to be inquired into by Ministers; but since a challenge has been thrown out, I may mention that the heads of Departments have not had that proper control over their employes which prevails in all large business concerns. For instance, the head of this Department could not get rid of -a washerwoman, who for eight months had received her full pay of 25s. per week without doing any work for it. In another Department it took six years to get rid of a man who was known to be thoroughly incompetent, and who was under the influence of drink for a long time. Again, a man was charged with embezzlement in a post-office, and he had to go before a Board. The embezzlement took place in November or December, and his case has not yet been dealt with. In the meantime, he could have easily slipped away to South America. He could not be prosecuted before the Board had given its decision. These cases show that there is iri vogue an absolutely rotten system which has deteriorated and is deteriorating the qualities of the employes.
Senator Trenwith. - That is a matter of law and not of administration.
Senator GRAY. - The honorable senator cannot name one successful business institution in Australia where the details of administration are carried out in the same way as- in the Post and Telegraph Department, in fact, in the Public Service generally.
Senator McGregor. - I know business concerns where men have embezzled money and on returning it have been let off and not prosecuted.
Senator GRAY. - That may have been owing to other circumstances, and not to the calls of equity and justice. In New South Wales there has been one continuous outcry ‘of want of oversight in this Department, want of sufficient employes to do the work thoroughly, and want of management in regard to the telephone system. From almost every business stand-point, the Department has come in for a great amount of public criticism. It is simply absurd to suggest that the public are all wrong and that the Department is all right. Of course, no one can say a word personally against the Ministers who have been selected to hold an inquiry. I believe that they will make a thorough inquiry as far as they can. But we must all realize that it is absolutely impossible for any Ministers to overhaul a Department over which they have control without showing bias. The public will not have that confidence in the inquiry, or in the Ministers by whom it is conducted, however estimable they may be, that they would have if it were conducted by a number of commercial men of standing and experience, who would be able to state the result of their researches without exhibiting political bias. I do not suggest that in this Parliament there are not men who could conduct an inquiry of the kind with credit and thoroughness, but it is well known that, from a practical point of view, the value of inquiries by Royal Commissions and Select Committees, has been affected by political bias. I believe that f am voicing the feeling of the people when I say that they will not be satisfied with an inquiry when it is made by those who Have had political control over the Department. This Government bave been six years in power. The PostmasterGeneral is well aware of the public outcry against the manner in which his Department has been conducted. I assume that some inquiry has already been made as to whether the complaints were justified. If so, Ministers are surely not the men from whom we can expect a fair judgment. It would have been very much better if they had appointed a Committee from the two Houses of Parliament rather than a Committee which the public, from all we can glean, will not be satisfied is sufficient to cope with the serious nature of the charges made against the Department.
Senator SAYERS (Queensland) [12.16]. - I have .been very much surprised at interjections from honorable senators opposite to the effect that no serious charges have been made against the Post and Telegraph Department. On one occasion I was sitting in another place, when I heard Mr. Webster, of New South Wales, make the most damaging statements that it was possible for a man to make against the Department. Mr. Webster, as a member of the Labour Party, and a representative of New South Wales, surely did not make those statements without good grounds. They were so strong that they surprised me very much indeed. The general feeling is that the business of the Post and Telegraph Department is too much centralized. Not sufficient power is left in the hands of the Deputy Postmaster- Generals. They cannot do anything without referring to Melbourne. The smallest details have to filter through to the head office. If a new chair is wanted for a post-office in the bush, and if a contractor in Melbourne will make it for 13s. 6d., whilst a contractor in North Queensland charges 15s., the chair will be made in Melbourne, although the cost of sending it to the post-office where it is required may run up the total expense to more than the Queensland contractor’s price. That is the way the Department is managed. It will never be properly managed in the interest of the public until we have some Board in charge of it.
Senator Fraser. - Like the railways.
Senator Guthrie. -And there is as much dissatisfaction in the Railway Departments as there is in’ the Post Office.
Senator SAYERS. - I do not suppose that we shall ever devise a system with which some one will not be dissatisfied. But I am certainly of opinion that it would be better to take a great deal of the work connected with the Post Office out of the hands of political parties. I am not now referring to the political party in power. I refer equally to the Opposition Party.
Senator Needham. - It will be a long time before that party is irk power.
Senator SAYERS. - The honorable senator’s own party may be in power some time. I should not be afraid to see them occupying the Ministerial Benches. We might be able to get something from them which we have not succeeded iri getting from the present Government. I complain that everything is centralized in Melbourne. If the
Deputy Postmaster-General in any State is not competent to deal, with small matters of routine without reference to Melbourne, and if there are not men in the service who are capable of such work, it is time that we got them from outside.
Senator Fraser. - Every State should have a man in charge with absolute authority.
Senator SAYERS.- He should be responsible to the Postmaster-General, who is responsible to Parliament. Of course, the Cabinet Committee will hear its evidence in camera. Parliament . will know nothing about it. The evidence will be submitted to the Cabinet, which will take action. That is all that we shall know. Had a Committee of both Houses of Parliament been appointed, the evidence would have been given in public. We should have had the report to guide us. But in this instance we shall have no evidence to assist us in forming a judgment. Such an inquiry will not satisfy the people of the Commonwealth, who have been . complaining. I am satisfied that other steps will have to be taken. We shall have to obtain an independent report from a body whose proceedings will be open to the members of the Senate and of another place, and will be conducted in the open light of day. We are well aware that the coming recess will be .1 very short one. It may last a month or six weeks. It will, therefore, be impossible for the Ministers to take any evidence except such as they can obtain in Melbourne. They will be unable to ascertain where the root of the evil lies. Does Senator Best expect that he and his colleagues will be able to go to Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, and Tasmania to get evidence? I do not suppose that they will have time to do so. But that is what the people want. I am satisfied that the action of the Government will not meet with the approval of the people as a whole. Further than that, I hope the” Vice-President of the Executive Council will excuse me when I say that I do not think that the members of the Cabinet Committee have sufficient knowledge to grasp the situation. From his interjections it would appear that the Vice-President of the Executive Council has already made up his mind that a number of the complaints do not deserve to be inquired into. He interjected that there were many complaints that were all moonshine.
Senator Best. - That is the general experience, and I speak with a large amount of experience.
Senator SAYERS.- Is that the frame of mind in which to approach an inquiry of this kind ?
Senator Best. - I was not speaking about this Post Office inquiry at all.
Senator SAYERS. - I cannot say what was in the honorable senator’s mind. I can only infer.
Senator Best. - I was speaking generally.
Senator SAYERS. - I accept the honorable senator’s statement that such an idea was not in his mind. But I . wish to know from the representatives of the Government whether it is their intention, as a matter of fact, simply to take evidence in Melbourne, and on that to report to the Cabinet? If so, what good will it be? It certainly will not be what honorable senators have been asking for - a free and full inquiry into acknowledged defects in Post Office administration. The hands of the Government have been forced in the Senate and in another Chamber, but the Committee which they have appointed will not meet the public demand. Whether the Government are prepared to take any action at present or not I am sure that Parliament will insist on having an open inquiry into the whole subject.
Senator VARDON (South Australia) [12.26]. - I think that Senator Neild was perfectly justified in submitting a motion for the adjournment of the Senate. A very important principle is involved. . It must be admitted that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction on the part of the public with regard to the work of the Post and Telegraph Department. It is only right that some inquiry should be made. The question is, therefore, who should make the inquiry ? The members of the Government propose to make it themselves. But if, as a good many people believe, the head of the Department is lacking in administrative capacity, we shall not find that out as the result of an inquiry by Ministers. It was not a wise thing for them to appoint a Committee simply and solely from amongst themselves. Neither do I think that Parliament ought to shirk its responsibility in any way whatever when a subject of this kind has to be inquired into. It would have been very much better if the Government had made up their mind to appoint a Royal Commission, which could have been constituted of members of both Houses of
Parliament, with the addition of one or two prominent business men. I am well aware that there is a great deal of discontent, and I believe that there is a considerable amount of disorganization in the Department. There is some degree of sweating. I do not say that the Department has not command of some amount of business ability with regard to many of the functions ‘which it discharges. But take, for instance, the method of calling for tenders for Post Office work in some of our country towns. The present practice is simply an invitation for a number of small storekeepers to cut one against the other to get the Department’s business. I do not think that that is a business-like course to adopt. But I have no wish to enter into details respecting the complaints. I take it for granted that it is generally admitted that there is need for investigation. The only point is as tei who should make that investigation. It is not fair to the Ministry that they themselves should make it. It is fair Jo the public that they should know whether there has been any failure in administration, and whether the men at the head of the Department have been incapable of properly carrying it on. That could be ascertained if the Commission were appointed from members of both Houses, and perhaps strengthened a little by the inclusion of one or two prominent commercial men. If that course had been adopted inquiries would have been made, complaints investigated, and practical recommendations made to Parliament which might well have been adopted-, and which perhaps would have! led to a much better state of affairs than seems to prevail at present.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania) [12.31]. - I have not listened to a great part of this debate, because I think that the Tariff is far more important than any other matter which we can discuss at present, but I desire to say a few words in defence of the Post and Telegraph Department. I am not at all in accord with the general clamour against) and hostile criticism of, the Department. To use a common phrase, I think the newspapers have “got their knife into” the Department, and a number of honorable members of both Houses seem to be taking up very much the same attitude. The work the Department does, and the fewness of the mistakes it makes, are perfectly marvellous, in view of the difficulty of pleasing everybody, when every man and woman in the community, and sometimes children, are interested in the Department. I believe that half of the complaints that are made have no foundation in fact, that in a large proportion of the remainder the fault lies with those who complain, and that in an enormous Departs ment of that sort, with about 12,00c* officers, there may easily be a little neglect of duty, a little want of knowledge and intelligence, and possibly a little carelessness now and then. My advice to the Ministry is to have no inquiry whatever. I do not believe in the agitation which has been got up. I do not believe that the inquiry will do any good. There are two kinds of inquiries that might be made - one a departmental inquiry, and the other an outside inquiry by Royal Commission. I do not think that the departmental inquiry as proposed by the Government will do an atom of good in satisfying the public. It isa most extraordinary form of inquiry to adopt. It is in this instance like making a man a judge in his own case. I take it that an inquiry such as the Government propose is proceeding now. Are we to understand that, with all these’ complaints - half of which I do not believe are well founded - with all this agitation and hostile criticism, nothing ir» the shape of an inquiry is going on ? Has: not the Postmaster-General written to every deputy, calling his attention to the criticism, insisting that he shall satisfy himself that every officer in his Department is efficient and doing his duty, and that every man who is careless or responsible for any of these complaints shall be fined, reprimanded, or otherwise punished? I take it that that inquiry is going on, and therefore I do not see what good it will do for the Government to appoint a chosen three .of their number to go into the matter. The Postmaster-General ought to be going into it every hour he is in his office, because that is his duty. When I say that no body should be appointed to make an inquiry, I think that honorable senators are on this occasion, as they do on many others, greatly exaggerating the importance of Parliament, and of what an Act of Parliament, politicians, or Royal Commissions, can do. Responsibility should be put upon every head and every officer in that great Department. The Deputy Postmasters- General ought to be written to now, if it was not done months ago, to tell them that they will be held absolutely responsible for the efficient working of their branches of the
Department that every clerkin the Department will be held responsible for his share of the work, and that , when carelessness . “ and inefficiency ‘ are discovered, punishment will be awarded, although not unjustly, cruelly, or harshly. In the next place, we want more decentralization. It is a perfect shock to me to know that because the temporary capital’ of the Federation is in Melbourne everything has to be issued from Melbourne. Are not the great Post and Telegraph Departments in Brisbane and Sydney carried on as they were before? Has all authority and responsibility been taken away from them?
Senator Colonel Neild. - Practically.
Senator DOBSON.- Then it is a great mistake, and if the Vice-President of the Executive Council, instead of conducting an inquiry, would use his common sense, and urge that there should be more decentralization, more local authority and administration, and that the officers should be held responsible for their work, far more good would be done. If a Royal Commission is appointed, where is it to begin and where on earth is it to end? Its report would be a long one, and none of us would ever read a quarter of it, while nine-tenths of it would be taken up by little suggestions about trumpery matters that the head of the Department, if he is worth his salt, could attend to in twenty-four hours. Let me give one little personal experience. I do not quote it to show that the. criticisms of the Department are well founded. It is so simple that it does not require a Royal Commission or departmental inquiry to find the remedy. Senator Mulcahy has done good work in getting our parliamentary letters sent up here, when the Tasmanian mail arrives, some hours sooner than they used to get here. The Loorigana arrives at 8 o’clock or about a quarter to 8 a.m. Previously it was often just on luncheon time before we got our letters. We now get them at about 11 o’clock. But what happens at the lodging house across the way, where I live? I expected a letter on one occasion; The Loongana got in at a quarter to 8. I looked for the letter here at 12 o’clock, and again at 2, but it had not come. I slipped across to mv lodging house at twenty minutes to 3, but it was not there, so I wrote, catching the mail at 3 o’clock, to say that the letter had not arrived, and asking for a duplicate to be sent. I went across to my dinner at half-past 6, and the letter was there. I found the explanation when I asked the landlady how many deliveries there were daily. I knew therewas one at 8 o’clock in the morning, and a very prompt delivery it is, but I was told that there is none between then and 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I believe that that is a fact, because the letter was not there at twenty minutes to 3 when I went across. It appears to be a great blunder to have no delivery between 8 o’clock in the morning and 3 in the afternoon The deliveries in Tasmania are at 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning, 12 noon, and 4 -in the afternoon. Whilst (this debate has been going on, I have been dipping into the review of a little book called Sixty Years Protection’ in Canada, with a sub-title : - When Industries Lean on the Politician. Are we. coming to the ..time when Departments are to lean on’ the politician ? Are we to go back to try to manage the Public Service by Parliament and political influence? I . believe that some honorable senators would vote to get rid of the Public Service Commissioner and allow Parliament to manage the whole thing. A more atrocious blunder could not be committed. The administration of the Departments should be kept, away from Parliament. I cannot agree with Senator Gray’s suggestion to have an inquiry by a Board consisting of members of both Houses. That would be a most disastrous mistake. My view is that there should be no inquiry, but that the Government should see that every officer in the Department does his duty.
Senator Colonel NEILD. (New South Wales) [12.40]. - The Vice-President of the Executive Council spoke of the PostmasterGeneral’s irresponsibility, stating that he had been in office, relatively, “ only about five minutes, ‘ ‘ but I find that the present Postmaster-General will have been in a week’s time a solid eight months in office, that is, from the 30th July last. I do not sympathize with the remarks that have been made on this side of the Senate objecting to rr.embers of Parliament investigating matters of the kind. I recognise that there are, outside of Parliament, men of much administrative ability and experience, but I recognise also that there are in Parliament the men whom the people trust, and if they can be trusted in one respect they ought to be capable of being trusted in another. I shall not enlarge further- on that aspect- of the question. But one thing that strikes me about the proceedings for many a long month past is that the Department has been, spending its energies in fighting the public. There has been too much of an endeavour to prove the public wrong on every occasion, and not enough energy devoted to showing that the Department was in good working order. One important point, which has not so far been touched upon, is the fact that the Cabinet sub-Committee cannot take evidence upon oath, and. that’ its evidence will therefore be only departmental chatter, and statements that can never be proved to be right or wrong. There will be no obligation on the part of any one to be accurate, and, therefore, the evidence will be most unreliable. The Senate has already had experience of at least one Select Committee which did not take evidence on oath, and every one connected with it knows how intensely unsatisfactory that was. I am perfectly satisfied that the evfdence taken by the proposed ‘sub-Committee of the Cabinet will never come before Parliament. The evidence to be taken by it as to the disputation between the PostmasterGeneral and the Treasurer with regard to the spending of public money can never be a subject to be brought before Parliament. If we are to see any evidence at all, it will have to. be carefully edited ; and we shall only see a bit here and a bit there, and I. take it fhat what we shall see will be infinitesimal. In fact, I doubt if we shall ever see a word of it, for the very reason that Ministerial disputes cannot be made publicly the subject of an inquiry of this kind: There are two inquiries necessary, one ‘ into the position as between the Department and the publicthat is the one that a Select Committee could inquire into - while Ehe question of disputes between one Minister and another is a very fitting” matter for inquiry by Ministers themselves. Upon that phase of the matter I do not think that we want any Royal Commission or Select Committee. I believe that I did not mention that question when introducing the motion. My whole object is to arrive at some finality in the disputes between the Department and the public, and on behalf of the public I claim a more satisfactory . form of inquiry on that phase of the question than the inquiry promised. As the oBject with which I moved the motion has been fully achieved, I ask leave to withdraw it.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Queensland Telegraph Operators - Medicine Chests : Isolated Telegraph Stations - Obsolete Automatic Transmitters
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows -
Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice - 1.Were the officers in charge of isolated stations of the telegraphic system allowed medicine chests prior to Federation?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The reply to this question is the same as the previous one, put by the honorable senator, that inquiries are being made into the matter, and information will be furnished as soon as available.
Wireless Telegraph Stations
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Is he in a position to inform the Senate as to the exact locality on the Australian coast where the proposed wireless telegraph stations are to be erected, and for which tenders have been called ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows -
Not at present. Condition of Tender 23 (i) reads as follows : - .
It is left to the tenderers or contractors to suggest the exact location of the stations, but the final, decision must rest with the Government. The following conditions are, however, given as an indication of the principal requirements : -
The station at Cape York shall be distant not more than 5 miles from the telegraph office, Cape York.
The. station at Thursday Island shall be located . as near to the Barracks as possible.
The station at Goode Island shall be located as near to the Signal Station as possible.
The station at Port Moresby shall be distant not more than 5 miles from the Post Office, Port Moresby.
The station at Fremantle, Western Australia, shall be distant not more than 5 miles from thePost Office, Fremantle.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, ‘upon notice -
– Perhaps the best answer to this question will be to lay the papers on the table of the Senate as they speak for themselves. ‘ I propose to lay them on the table to-morrow or the following day.
asked the VicePresisident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow -
Senator BEST laid upon the table the following paper : -
Excise Act 1901 - Drawback ‘Regulations, repeal of Regulation No. 50, and substitution of new regulation in lieu thereof- Statutory Rules 1908, No. 33.
In Committee. (Consideration resumed from 24th March, vide page 9473) :
Divisionx. - Wood, Wicker, and Cane.
Item 303. Timber, viz. : -
Maplewood (General Tariff),. free. (bb) Spars, in the rough (General Tariff), free.
– I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 303, paragraph J, by inserting after the word “Laths” the letters “n.e.i.”
This amendment is necessary because, in the next paragraph, laths, for blinds, are particularized, and this paragraph is intended to cover all laths that are not specially referred to in other paragraphs or items.
Request agreed to.
– I move -
That the House of Representative’s be requested to amend item 303, paragraph n, by leaving, out the words “ (not of elm).”
My object is to encourage the use of a suitable class of timber grown in the Commonwealth for the manufacture of hubs, as a substitute for . elm, which has been so long used in the past for this particular purpose.
– What is the suitable class. of timber?
– I refer to York gum, which is grown in Western Australia.
– It is’ pretty heavy.
– It is not heavier than the best samples of elm which are used for this purpose. I produce a hub made from this wood for the inspection of honorable senators. Senator Millen may have some knowledge of things political, but he cannot give an expert opinion on the relative qualities of different timbers.
– I know something about buggy work, anyhow..
– I have consulted in this matter the manager, of one of the principal coach factories in Melbourne, and he is not ashamed to have his name associated with the opinion that York gum is quite as good as the best elm imported for the manufacture of hubs.’ The only objection to it is its price, . and that is all that has so far kept it out of the market. Senr ator Millen is concerned about the weight of . this timber, and I am able to inform him that Mr. Woods, the manager of the firm to which I refer has authorized me to state that the best elm is as heavy as the best York gum, and that an expert in the business, in order to be satisfied of the quality of his material, would, if using elm for this purpose, prefer the weightiest timber of the kind.
– Then the duty is required to raise the price.
– Primarily I admit that it is, but we hope that as the industryis developed in Australia there will be such a reduction in prices as will justify the increased price in the beginning. The Melbourne firm to which I have referred have had samples of York gum in stock which they have been able to dispose ‘of very gradually, because of the price of the timber. . The manager holds that that- is the only objection at present to its use, and the objection raised by Senator Millen on thescore of its weight does not hold good.
– Bunkum ! The honorable senator is speaking from the standpoint of theman who makes hubs from York gum, and I speak “ from the standpoint of the man who’ has had. to drive a buggy for years along country roads, and with him weight is an important factor.
– I am satisfiedthat a man who is making vehicles as a business will be . careful to make a selection of timbers which will give satisfaction to his customers.
– His patrons use the metalled roads of Victoria, and I speak of those who must use rough country roads in’ New South Wales.
– If Senator Millen desired advice about an engine he would go to an engineer for it, and if he desired advice about the building of a vehicle, I imagine he would do as I have done and consult! a man who builds vehicles and whose reputation much depends upon the quality of those he turns out. Since the question of the weight of York gum has been raised, I say that the objection on that score does not hold good, because on the authority of an expert it is not heavier than the best quality of elm used for the same purpose. In Western Australia we have one firm giving attention to hubs made from York gum, and I have lately received a letter from them on the subject in which they say -
I beg to inform you that I have posted to you as instructed by Mr. Phaw, Secretary of the Chamber of Manufacturers, one pair of York gum hubs as a sample to show what Western Australia can produce in this line, and as a protest against elm or any other hubs being admilted free into the Commonwealth. If the eastern States cannot produce hubs to take the place of the imported article, Western Australia can in the sizes which are mostly imported in Australia, namely, from the smaller size to about 7^ in. It has been said that there is no timber suitable for these sizes in the East to any quantity, but above these sizes they have a good supply. In the sizes mentioned we are overstocked with timber, and to get the larger sizes for our local demand we have to fell the trees and leave a lot of small timber to go to waste. It has been admitted in the East that they are a splendid article, but the difference of is. 6d. a pair prevents the sale of our goods - the imported being the cheapest. I have a plant here capable - if I could get the demand - of producing at least 120 pairs per day of 8 hours, but, unfortunately, it only runs a few days a month ; and there are others the same as myself. It has been recommended by; the Chamber that a duty of 2s. 6d. a pair be put on imported hubs.
– What is the value of this hub?
-The value that would give the manufacturer a return, and enable him to live, is gd. more than the the price of the imported elm hub.
– The honorable senator asks for a duty of is. per hub. What is the value of this hub?
– This manufacturer is asking for a duty of 9d. per hub.
– What is the value of the hub ?
– I cannot say.
– I can tell the honorable senator.
– Is it worth 6d.?
– I should think that its value is about 3s. 6d. The manufacturer continues -
I will not hesitate to say they will get a far superior wheel. If we could get the demands to keep our plants going, no doubt we could produce cheaper, but till we get a duty put on the imported article, so as to give us a market, we can never hope to produce cheaperI may say that there is no market here for the imported hubs. … I do not think that I need say any more about hubs at present, but will conclude by saying that the local articles have stood the test here for years. Wheels that were built twenty years ago are still as good as ever.
In a very small compass, that is the case for the colonial hub. On the authority of this firm, there is no market in Western Australia for the imported elm hub. The writer has a plant which is capable of producing 120 pairs a day, but it is only run for an hour or so. An increased duty is required in order to enable him to get his article into the market. Messrs. Keep Bros., of Melbourne, who are not interested in the timber of Western Australia, assert that, with the exception of a patented wheel, the York gum hub is quite as good, for all classes of work, as is the best imported hub. In the western State this firm holds the market, but it is not able to get a footing in the eastern States owing to the freights from Perth. In the interest of our native timbers, I ask honorable senators to agree to the deletion of these words from the item, especially in view of the fact that, in point of quality and durability, York gum hubs are equal to imported “elm hubs. The Western manufacturer is only asking for a chance to compete with the imported article until such time as he is in a position to work three shifts, when he expects to place a cheaper article on the market.
– In paragraph n of this item we are following the previous classification in regard to hubs. Under the old Tariff prepared hubs not made of elm were dutiable at 20 per cent., and it is now proposed to have a fixed duty of is. each, as recommended by the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission. It will be noticed that under paragraph y it is proposed to make “elm hubs, with or without metal bands,” free. That is the proposal which we submitted to another place. It was based on the previous Tariff, and also on. the recommendations of the A section of the Tariff Commission.
Under the circumstances, I can see no reason why it should be departed from.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [3.23]. - I agree with the Minister’s view. I do not wish for a moment to question what Senator Lynch has said as to the quality of the Western timber. He has a specimen which shows that the hubs are of excellent quality. But the real foundation of his desire to eliminate these words is that the rate of freight to the eastern States is so high that it increases the price of the hubs to such a degree that they are unable to compete with the imported elm hubs. If that is the case the remedy . is not by increasing the Customs duty, but by some method of breaking up the combination which results in the imposition - of exorbitant rates of freight from Western Australia.
– How does the honorable senator propose to do that?
– My honorable friend is, I think, quite as capable of suggesting a method as I am, and I shall be glad to assist him in breaking up the monopoly, which imposes upon the public high passenger fares and extortionate freights.
– Cheaper than in any other part of the world.
-I think that the combination which exists . amongst the coastal shipping companies is’ a monstrous burden upon the people of this country, and I shall be glad ,to assist at any time to break up that state of things.
– Is it not pretty well broken up in Sydney to-day ?
– I do not think that it is. I consider that the greatest burdens on Australia to-day are the freights which result from the combination amongst the coastal shipping firms, who are simply making enormous profits out of the people and trade of the Commonwealth. They are the greatest antagonists to our oversea trade at this moment. Certainly I shall assist my honorable friends opposite in every way possible to break up a combination which rests like a great shadow upon the carrying industry of the Commonwealth. From what Senator Lynch has said, I think that that is the mischief which he is trying to combat, and I shall be glad to assist him in getting rid of it, because he sees quite plainly that the great difficulty which oppresses this manufacturing firm in Western Australia is the enormous rate of freight. That is due, not to any unreasonable competition on the part of the imported hub, but to this combination, which is a system of organized extortion.
-^- This timber can be got all over Australia.
– Whereever it is obtainable, Senator Lynch has complained that a particular firm cannot compete in the eastern States because of the very high rates of freight. That ought to be stopped, but the proper way is not by imposing a heavy import duty on elm hubs, which are greatly desired, and are, perhaps, best fitted for the particular purpose in view, but by some other method. I protest, as I have done before, against the Tariff being made use of to adjust the rates of freight on coastal steamers and other difficulties of transit, which arise, not by reason of difficulties of importation, but by reason of a combination which admittedly exists throughout the Commonwealth. I intend to support the Government in resisting this request.
– I think that the argument on which Senator Lynch relied for securing the omission of these words was that, at the present time, the demand for the hubs in Western Australia was so small that the local manufacturer could not keep his machinery going. He also pointed out that the manufacturer intended to work three shifts, and that when he did he would be able to supply hubs at. a cheaper rate than the imported elm hubs.
– The argument upon which Senator Lynch relied was that, owing to the heavy rates of freight, the York gum hubs could not be obtained in the eastern States.
– -What are the rates of freight?
– They, are very extortionate.
– That is absolute nonsense, because every coastal ship is absolutely empty when it is returning to the east from Western Australia, and would be only too glad to pick up a freight of this sort as stiffening.
– But they will not do it.
– They do. I know that special rates are made from the west to the east for the purpose of getting cargo. We all know that there are cheap freights from Europe and England to Australia. Why ? Because men are engaged at one of the most precarious industries in the world at absolutely starvation wages.
– The shareholders are getting ten times the profit that they ought to get.
– And the men employed are receiving ten times the amount paid to men on the oversea ships.
– That does not apply all round. Some of the labour employed on the deep sea companies’ ships is paid better than similar labour employed on the coastal vessels.
– As a rule these goods are brought in German and Swedish ships. No oversea company trading in Australian waters under the British flag pays within 30 per cent, of the wages paid by the coastal companies.
– They’ pay 15 per cent, more for their wharf labourers.
– Only in one port in Australia.
– The honorable senator should not go into matters not lelevant to the item.
– The argument used by honorable senators who oppose Senator/ Lynch’ s request was that these goods cannot be manufactured in Australia, and supplied to the eastern States because of the freight. Freight has nothing to do with the case. I am sure that Senator Symon was mistaken as to the amount of freight from Western Australia to the eastern States. Of course, there are high freights in Australian waters. Our standards of living being higher than standards in other countries, wages are naturally higher, just as the fees paid to professional men . are higher.
– I do not find that !
– Our experience is that the honorable senator does. I shall support Senator Lynch’s request, and feel certain that if the matter is investigated it will not be found that it is the freight that is keeping hubs manufactu.-ed in Western Australia out of the eastern States.
– I am somewhat disappointed at the attitude of the Minister. I thought that he would have recognised that at present there is practically no protection on hubs. Whilst the item provides for a duty on imported hubs, it takes away the protection by providing that elm hubs shall be excepted. But elm hubs form practi cally the only competition in our markets. Therefore the item might just as well not appear in the Tariff at all, so far as the protection it- gives is concerned. Inasmuch as nearly every other kind of interest in the country is receiving some encouragement under the Tariff, we might very well extend the same principle to the manufacturers of hubs. Senator Turley says that the kind of timber from which these hubs are made can be produced in any of the Australian States. If that is so, all the States will get the benefit of the duty. If it were confined to Western Australia, this would be the only item with which we have dealt up to the present in regard to which Western Australia would receive any benefit whatever. But we find from the very wording of the item that it is of no protective value.
– Strike it all out, then.
– It might as well be struck out for all the benefit that it will give to the industry under consideration. Some evidence was taken by the Tariff Comission on this subject in South Australia and Victoria. I am somewhat disappointed that no evidence was obtained in Western Australia. A paragraph in the report of the protectionist section of the Commission reads as follows -
Prepared hubs - want of protection, according to the evidence of South Australian and Victorian witnesses, places the local manufacture of hubs at a disadvantage; they should be removed from the free list and made dutiable at is. each.
That recommendation is made on . the strength of evidence by Victorian and South Australian witnesses, whose names are given. If we are going to make no more than a pretence at giving a protective duty by making it operative with regard to all’ hubs except elm, the duty will be useless. This is really a nonsensical way of doing things. It is the most disappointing item in the schedule. I hope that the Minister of Home Affairs will look into the matter again, with a view of considering the advisableness of striking out the words indicated1 by Senator Lynch. If this is to be a protective Tariff, let it protect. But’ if it is framed in such a way as to exempt from duty the only real competitors with whom our manufacturers have to contend, we might as well not have such items at all. I trust that the words objected to by Senator Lynch will be struck out.
. -Ihopethat Senator Lynch’s request will be agreed to. The first objection that has bean raised against the use of Australian timber for the manufacture of hubs is in regard to weight. I hold in my hand a hub which any one who knows anything about vehicles will recognise as a hub such as is used for spring carts. I wonder whether any Honorable senator could tell me what the weight of itis.
– About 50 per cent’, heavier than it ought to be.
– It is not 50 per cent., nor even 10 per cent, over the weight of elm. It weighs only 6£ lbs. Could Senator Millen obtain for me a hub made of any other timber suitable for the manufacture of spring carts that would weigh less than 6 lbs. ?
– It is a very light sort of spring cart that that hub would do for.
– It would do for a very heavy spuing cart. That remark shows that the honorable senator, with all his great bush experience, knows very little after all.
– I repeat the statement.
– Even if we had to pay a little more for our vehicles to have our hubs made of Australian timber, it would not be a serious matter.
– Suppose we had to pay 6d. more for a hub, it would not break us. .
– But we should not have to pay ‘ that. If would only be for a short period that . we should have to pay anything more for hubs made of Australian timber. In Victoria, South Australia, and some of the other . States, elm is being grown. If we have not in this york gum a material that is not only equal to elm, but superior to it, it may mean that Ave shall have to pay a few pence more for a set of hubj for a vehicle until our own elm supplies are sufficient to meet the demand. But even so, it will be a very good thing for Australia. With respect to the’ weight of these hubs, the one which I hold in my hand weighs 6 lbs. 8 ozs. That is to say, the hubs for a two-wheeled vehicle would’ weigh 13 lbs. If Senator Millen were to buy elm hubs of a size suitable for’ a vehicle for which this hub would be suitable, they would not weigh less than 6 lbs. each.
So that he would only gain 1 lb. in weight. Really, the honorable senator ought to be ashamed of himself for objecting to the use of hubs made of Australian timber, when the difference in weight only amounts to 1 lb. in a two-wheeled vehicle. But, of course, we are not dealing with steel rails now. It would not matter what the weight was if we were.
– Will the honorable senator take a duty of 12½ per cent on hubs?
SenatorMcGREGOR.- We have timber in Australia suitable for making hubs of a superior quality, though it might be at a slightly increased cost for a short period. When I was in Western Australia, I saw hubs made, not only of York gum, but ofanother material, of which I challenge any One to find the equal in the world, but it is not adapted for the making of hubs so small as this. I refer to the tewart of Western Australia. I have seen, away in the timber districts of the “West, those immense j inkers ‘for the haulage of big logs with wheels composed of steel from the hubs to the rims, and I have seen them discarding those steel wheels altogether, and manufacturing the wheels of Western Australian timber, with tewart hubs. That shows the superiority of the timber for that purpose. Knowing these things, knowing that for heavier vehicles in Western Australia they have a timber that is superior even to steel itself, and that for the manufacture of small hubs they have the York gum, which I am convinced there is nothing in the world to equal, I am sure that in a short time, if the industry is encouraged in Australia, this timber will be employed with advantage to the manufacturers and users of even the lightest vehicles. Is it, therefore, . any wonder that I entirely agree with Senator Lynch’s proposition to leave the word “elm” out of this paragraph,, and thereby give encouragement to the ‘use of our own timber, although it might cost a little more at the beginning? We know that it is more durable, and in the near future we may be in the position to supply an elm which would give even the lightness that Senator Millen so much desires. What sort of horses- must the honorable senator, drive when a pound difference in the weight of a buggy is going to kill them?
– This request seems to be a penny sprat thrown out to catch a shilling whale. Senator McGregor tells us that the weight of the hub produced is 6½ lbs., I was prepared to reckon it at 10 lbs., but, taking the honorable senator’s figures, about seventeen of them would make a. cwt. I am sure that freight from Western Australia to the eastern States could be got at 28s. per- ton.
– Ten shillings per ton.
– That is all the better for my- argument, but even 28s. a ton would be only about id. per hub. On the ground that a id. freight has to be paid per hub from Western Australia to the eastern States, we are asked to impose a is. duty. Is it worth while doing so because a certain gentleman has to pay a id. freight?
SenatorMcGregor. - Eight shillings a day has to be paid to the men who cut the timber and work the machinery.
- Senator Lynch based his request almost solely on the statement that freight had to be paid from the West to the East, but I have shown that, even if a . freight nearly three times as high as Senator McGregor interjected -has to be paid, the charge per hub is only about id. Is it not ridiculous, for the sake of a single individual in the West - I have only heard one gentleman, spoken of, and so it seems to.be a one-horse industry - to penalize the whole of the people. of Australia who use vehicles ? I do not think it is good enough.
– This appears to be an absolutely unblushing and very greedy grab in the interests of one individual in one State. We have often heard conflicting statements as to whether a duty will increase or reduce prices, but in this case Senator Lynch has warned us that not only will the duty increase the price; but that is the reason why it isasked for.
-To a very insignificant extent.
– Senator Lynch did not qualify his statement. . Senator McGregor recognises the danger of the admission, and wishes to do so, but, in reading a letter from . the one individual on whose behalf Parliament is asked to alter this schedule, Senator Lynch stated that the industry could carry on but for the price, and when I interjected an inquiry, the honorable senator admitted that the object of the duty was to raise the price. . That simply means that we are asked, in order to give this one individual a better prospect of carrying on his industry, to put an intensely heavy duty on hubs - how heavy Senator Lynch would not state. Honorable senators can see at once that a duty of is. on a simple block of wood of that kind is as heavy a rate as is borne by nine out of ten articles under this Tariff. -I warn the Committee as to what they are asked to do in regard to the lighter vehicles. ‘By putting a duty on the imported wooden hubs, we shall encourage the use, not of the locallymade ones, but of the patent iron ones.
– That will be all the better for New SouthWales when she is manufacturing iron and steel.
– The honorable senator always has his eyes so cldsely glued to a particular individual’s industry in. a particular State that he cannot conceive of any one else regarding the matter in any other light.
– The honorable senator will admit that for the- final work the casting is coming, independent of wood or anything else.
– I. am not prepared to say that. There.. are1 advantages, in connexion with the wooden hub, but the dearer we make the wooden one, which has so far been used by the great bulk of our manufacturers of vehicles because of its quality, the more we shall force them to -use iron ones. Honorable senators opposite may put on the wooden hub as big a duty . as they like, but they will not help the solitary individual in the wilds of Western Australia whose champion Senator Lynch has seen fit to constitute himself.
– We are looking to the interest of the iron industry.
– I know the honorable senator’s sincere regard for those matters. What he does is to look out the growers -of dried herbs- and the isolated manufacturers of other articles in his State. Any one who takes hold of the wood produced will see at once that, whilst it may be an excellent material, as I believe it is, for hubs for heavier vehicles, its weight is altogether against it for the light vehicles which are so largely in use on the unformed roarls of a country like New South Wales. The constant struggle there of the manufacturer and of the man who has to make journeys day after day is to get lightness combined with strength. Whilst I admit the durability and strength of the sample, its very weight, to any practical man who has to use the vehicle and find the horses to drag it, is its strongest condemnation.
– Two lbs. per horse !
– That is the honorable senator’s jaunty way of disposing of it. He is not in a position to state that the difference in weight between that and another hub is only a lb. There are in this country, although evidently the honorable senator is not aware of it, such things as four-wheeled vehicles.
– When the honorable senator goes on a journey, does he take off his boots, and leave them behind to lighten his load?
– I arn not under ‘ the same necessity of lightening down my footwear as Senator McGregor is, as mine would be only about half the weight of his. If there is one thing I have reduced to a science it is the means of travelling light in the bush. If you want to get over a large space of country in a given time, the only way to do it is to put a light weight behind your horses. Every, man with country .travelling to do is of the same mind. Senator Lynch does not pretend that he is taking this step in the interests of a big industry. It is in the interests of one man who is carrying on a relatively small industry, and the honorable senator says that the duty is to enable that one individual to levy toll upon every user of a vehicle in Australia. I congratulate him on coming forward for once with unblushing audacity, and making no secret of the fact that he is asking Parliament to put that one individual in the position of a legalized tax gatherer,’ lo levy toll to the extent of is. upon an article which is worth hardly a trifle more. I am not prepared to support such a proposition.
– I must thank Senator Millen for recognising, that for once I have come forward in the interests of one individual, who, he says, wants to levy toll upon the rest of the community.. It is the first time that I have come forward to ask for some measure of protection on behalf of a manufacturer in the western State. I do not think that it can be said that I have been influenced in my votes in’ this Chamber by any consideration as to whether a manufacturer was in the east or the west, the north or the south.
– You did not mind voting for 12 J per cent, on steel rails.
– My only grievance in that regard Is against Senator McGregor, because, although he is held up as the paragon of protectionists, yet when it came to a question of a duty on steel rails he voted only for 12 J per cent., to be outdone afterwards by the leader of the FreeTrade Party in this Chamber, who voted for 15 per cent. My grievance against the leader of the Labour Party is that he was not as staunch a protectionist on that article as was the leader, of the Free-Trade Party. It is enough to make the bones of respected old Cobden rattle in his coffin, to think that the) man upon whom in this Chamber his mantle has fallen should outdo the representative of the protectionists to the extent of 2 per cent, upon steel rails !
– The honorable senator gave 15 per cent, to a New South Wales industry, and wants 75 per cent, for a Western Australian.
– My only regret is that I cannot assure the Committee that this industry is established in the other States. I know that iron-bark is used extensively in New South Wales and Queensland for the .larger naves, but this particular class of nave for lighter vehicles is produced by this one struggling manufacturer in the west. The York gum hub has the market exclusively in my own State. Elm does not have a look in there.
– Methinks I hear the voice of Western Australia !
– For the first time, and for a very tiny industry,. I am sure that Senator Findley will forgive me if I urge the claims of one case from my own State, for in so doing, I shall be doing no more than the representatives of the other States have done.- The stock argument of tha opponents of every form of protection in this Chamber is “ the burden on the taxpayer.” In this case the burden is not a heavy one. About the durability of this timber there is no question. I have here a sample, that has been twenty years in use in Western Australia. The proposal is to put 2s-. on an article that lasts for twenty years in active service. It would amount to a penny and a fraction per year; and. that is the burden of which Senator Pulsford speaks. I have moved my request in order that a Western Australian timber may be given a show, which it has not had up to the present time, and that it mav receive the same treatment which the Committee has already accorded to tim- bers grown in other States of the Common.wealth. Although the timber to which I have specially referred is grown in Western -Australia, there should be no discrimination made between it and timbers grown in. other parts of the Commonwealth that have already received consideration from honorable senators.
– I intend to support the request. I do noi believe that the timber referred to is confined to Western Australia. I have no doubt that similar timbers are to be found in each of the other States. From the sample produced, I judge that York gum is very much like the ordinary salmon gum which is found in different parts of Queensland. There are many timbers grown in Queensland which can be used for the same purpose as that for” which York gum is used in Western’ Australia. What is asked for is the imposition of a tax upon a few hubs used in the manufacture of- light vehicles. No heavy hubs are imported. The users. and builders of the heavy waggons used in the inside districts of Australia would never dream of importing their hubs. The waggon builder in the country goes “into the scrub, and cuts his own timber, coolibah principally, which he fashions into a hub for himself. We have evidence that hubs are being made from York gum in Western Australia, but we all know that there is very little difference between many varieties of gum to be found in the different States, and very often practically the same timber goes by a different name in each of the States. If,’ in the matter of ‘ weight, a hub made from the Australian timber should be J lb. Or I lb. heavier than the imported article, that should not be allowed to stand in the way, and in every case we should do what we can to encourage the use of Australian timbers. Reference has been, made to the hubs imported from America, but, like the Sarvern hub, the majority of them are patented, and it seems to me that people who must have a patented imported hub should be prepared to pay for it.
– Has not the question whether it is a better article to be considered ?
– It is not a better article.
– Is it riot better if it is lighter ?
– That the imported hub may be 2 lbs. lighter than a hub manufactured from Australian timber is no very strong reason in its favour, especially when it is quite possible that the heavier Australian hub might last five or six years longer than the imported article. It should not be forgotten that Australian timber has no natural protection so often referred to by honorable senators opposite, because I suppose that the freight on timber from one part of Australia to another is about as high as the freight on timber imported from America. Where we can give any advantage to our own people to encourage them in the use of Australian timbers, we should do so, and for that reason I support the request.
– I rise to support the request. It would seem that any excuse is good enough for honorable senators opposite to indulge a prejudice against Australian industries. During the discussion, I- got into touch, not with a manufacturer of hubs, who might .be considered personally interested, but with certain importers.’ I made inquiries as to the weights of timber used for this purpose. I was given the information that the lightest elm hub weighs about 5f lbs., and the average weight of elm hubs is 6 lbs. . A difference in weight of & lb. or 1 lb. in a hub for ari ordinary vehicle should not be allowed to keep the Australian hub out of. the market, though it would do so if some honorable senators had their way. The particular hub which has been produced for our inspection is not an ordinary light buggy hub, but is such as would be used in the manufacture of a spring cart. My inquiries show that the average weight of an American elm hub used for spring carts would be from 8 lbs. to 10 lbs. This proves that a hub made of York gum- is no heavier than ari imported elm hub used for the same class of vehicle. If that be so, the only point left to be considered is the relative durability of the two articles, and we have had produced . a sample of a hub made from Australian timber that had been in use for over twenty years. When it is proved that the Australian timber will stand wear and tear, and is not heavier than imported timber used for the same purpose, we have a right to give a preference to the Australian article.
– In speaking on this matter,
I am not open to Senator Milieu’s accusation that I support the request because it affects one man in Western Australia who is manufacturing hubs from York gum. ,
– There is only one man in New South Wales running! the iron industry.
– .That is’ so,, but there are a very great many men in New South Wales running the hub industry, and therefore the argument that this request is moved merely for the benefit of a single manufacturer in Western Australia is intensely silly, to say the least of it.
– It was Senator Lynch’s argument.
– Victorian box and messmate make good hubs.
– Senator Lynch may not know that timbers grown in all of the States are used for this purpose, but honorable senators from New South Wales must have heard of Mr. Cummins, who builds as fine a vehicle as was ever seen on a road. To my knowledge, he has been a manufacturer of hubs and of buggies and spring carts for many years. We are not dealing with a (question which affects only one manufacturer in Western Australia, .but with a matter which concerns manufacturers in each of the States. Why should we encourage the importation of elm hubs when we know that Australian timbers can be used with advantage for the same purpose? We have heard that a prophet has no virtue in his own country, and we know some people who are imbued with the idea that any article manufactured’ in Australia is not half as good as something which might be imported. These are the people who must have an imported elm hub despite the fact that equally good hubs are manufactured in Australia, not only from York- gum, but from a score of other Australian timbers. I do not think that Senator Lynch’s argument with respect to the eastern States was a very strong one, because I think it will be found that in each of the States the local industry has secured the local market, excepting the imported elm hub. But .the honorable senator’s argument is strong as applied- to the manufacturer of hubs from Australian timbers in all of the States. We might as well attempt to stem the tide with a broom as to prevent a lighter mechanism displacing a heavier, and I think it will be generally admitted that for the lighter class of vehicles wooden hubs are fast becoming .t thing of the past. It will’ not be long be fore they are entirely dispensed with; but for the heavier vehicles it is not too much to say that wooden hubs will be used for generations to come. .
– And the heavy hubs are not imported.
– That ‘ is so, In the interests of the Australian coachbuilding industry, Senator Lynch’s request should meet with the approval of the Committee;
– - I hope that this discussion has demonstrated ‘to the Government the advisability of agreeing to this request, because unless the words “.elm hubs “ are omitted from the item, practically no protection or encouragement will be given to the local manufacturers of hubs. Undoubtedly the elm hub is the only real or dangerous competitor with the native-made article. To grant in one item a protection of is. per hub to the local manufac*turer, and to exempt in another item elm hubs, from duty, is a sham kind of protection which should not be tolerated. ‘ Whatever may be said about our defective softwoods, it cannot be disputed that Australia grows every imaginable kind of hardwood which one can reasonably expect to find in a country. It is our duty to do what we can to promote the conversion of our hardwoods into -useful articles. To what uses is the greater proportion of our hardwood turned at the present time? A large quantity is used as firewood; and’ a -large quantity is also used as sleepers and for paving our streets. I am sorry to say that very little of it is applied to the more valuable purposes to which hardwood timber can be turned1. When we have a splendid kind of timber, such as this socalled York gum is, but which Senator Turley states is- common to many of the States, we ought to see that some encouragement is given to persons to apply if to a more useful purpose than that of making fires. I have a grievance against the Government in connexion with the weight of the hub which has been exhibited here. We have been told that it weighs more than the ordinary imported hub. One honorable senator stated that the exhibited hub weighed 6J lbs. I have taken the trouble to ascertain- its weight When it was received by the Post and Telegraph Department for transmission to the eastern States, it was declared to weigh 6 lbs. i£ ozs. From that stand-point, it will com-. pare favorably with” imported elm hubs. An expert witness assured the Tariff Commission that only the inferior kind of elm hub is lighter than the York gum hub. He added that if the better qualify of elm hub were compared with the York gum hub it would be found that the former is, if anything, heavier than the latter. I think that it will be admitted now that, as regards the relative weights, there is very little indeed to choose between the two articles. In view of the arguments which have been advanced I trust that the Government will recognise the advisableness of agreeing to the request, and that the Committee will give some reasonable encouragement to the local manufacture of this article.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 303, paragraph n, “Prepared Hubs,” by leaving out the words, “ (not of elm)” (Senator Lynch’s) request - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Request agreed to.
– I wish the Minister to explain the reason for the enormous increase in ‘the duty on three-ply veneer. Under the old Tariff it was 3s. per 100 superficial feet ; the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission recommendecl the adoption of that rate and the so-called free-traders on. thai body recommended a duty of 15 per cent. But instead of the.duty having been fixed at 3s. it has been raised to 5s. It seems to me that it calls for an explanation by the “Minister.
– Originally the Tariff provided for a duty of 3s. per 100 superficial feet on three-ply veneer. “When this paragraph was debated in another place it was pointed out that : a great quantity of three-ply . veneer was made in the Commonwealth and that a larger amount of work was involved in its production than is involved in the- making of ordinary veneer. In that place the Committee succeeded in raising^ the duty from 3s., which was not considered sufficiently high* to 5s., and that is the form in which the paragraph comes to this place.
– Under paragraph t an enormous increase is proposed in the duty on picture and room mouldings. I may mention that the duties embraced in this item were passed elsewhere during the middle of the. night, and it is very possible that they did not receive that consideration which they deserved. As the duty has been increased from 20 per cent, as recommended by the A section of the Tariff Commission, to 30 per cent., we are. entitled to know why the increase has been made. ‘
– This paragraph as it was introduced in another place provided for a duty of 20 per cent. ; but during the discussion there it was said that in consequence of “the increased duties on paragraphsc,d, and e, it was necessary to keep the duty on paragraph t at a higher rate than 20 per cent - the duty under the old Tariff. With regard to paragraphs c, d, and e, the duties passed, in another place were higher than those which prevailed under the old Tariff and the duty on this paragraph was raised proportionately from 20 per cent, to 30 per cent.
– I do not care merely to call attention to a thing. I think that the duty under this paragraph is a great deal too high. Senator Keating’s explanation does not make the position much better. He has said that because the duties on paragraphsc, d, and e were made so much it became necessary to increase theduty on paragraph t. The assumption underlying such an argument is of course that the wood which, is going to be used for picture and room mouldings is to be imported and to pay this duty. There is no room left for the possibility of the high timber duties imposed under paragraphsc, d, and e bringing into ‘the market a sufficient quantity of our own timbers.
There is no reason to increase the protection on picture and room mouldings that are made out of our own local timber. If the argument with regard to paragraphs c, d, and e was good, that the duties created a demand for Australian timber, the other argument that we must increase the duty on picture mouldings falls to the ground. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 303, paragraph t (imports under General Tariff), ad val., 20 per cent.
– I understand that the timber available in the Commonwealth under present conditions for picture and room mouldings is being rapidly used, and that extensive orders have been placed for other timber for the purposes of ‘ conversion into picture and room mouldings. I believe that in Queensland alone orders up to 500,000 feet for timber suitable to be converted into picture and room mouldings, have been placed. Those orders cannot be satisfied for a considerable time. In the meantime, mouldings are being made out of timber imported under paragraphs c, d, and e. It is because this Tariff in respect of those items is higher than it was under the 1902 Act, that it was thought that the duty on picture and room mouldings should also be increased from 20 per cent., as it was in the 1902 Tariff, to 30 per cent., as it is now.
– I point out, in addition to the reason urged for an increased duty, that there is the fact that we have in our midst industries producing genuine, reliable enduring mouldings, in contradistinction to the trumpery plaster of Paris compositions that are . being imported. I have had placed at my disposal a large number of patterns, typical of some 400 altogether, being picture and room mouldings of various kinds and sizes, made of solid Australian wood, so that when the housewife takes them dowm to dust them she will not find that pieces come out in her hand ‘as we are accustomed to in regard to cheap imported mouldings. This industry has not reached the degree of . development to which it ought to have, attained.
– The Ministers say that orders cannot be executed.
– The honorable senator can buy a million feet of moulding to-day in Melbourne if he wants it.
I had an interview yesterday with a framemaker who is also an importer. He was urging, as a framemaker, that these mouldings should be duty free, or nearly so. I elicited from him, however, that he was also an importer, and he showed me a moulding - a very trumpery thing indeed, with a gilded plaster of Paris figure moulded upon it - that he can import for us. per 100 feet. I said to him, “ Suppose you were not in so large a way of business as you are, and you had to buy this material from an importer, what would it cost you?” He said, “About 16s.” So that what he, importing directly, gets for us., would cost 16s. if he had ‘to buy it from an importer. I had brought under- my notice a picture moulding which, before the manufacture of mouldings commenced in this country, fetched 50s. per 100 feet. It is now, in consequence of the local competition, selling at 17s. I have no hesitation in saying that.it is a desirable thing to develop that competition which gives to our people cheaper commodities, and those of a more enduring character. I ask honorable senators to look at these things for themselves - to put the putty patterns to which we have beenaccustomed, in comparison with these finely carved and embossed woods. Those of us who wish to see the homes of our people decorated with something that is reajlly tasteful and artistic - not cheap and nasty - something that is enduring and made by Australian labour out of Australian timber, will, I think, find pleasure in inspecting these specimens of workmanship. Surely they affofd a reason why we should maintain this duty at the standard proposed. It is not a very high duty. Probably it will not entirely kill importations. But it will encourage some other lines that . are not being made, and1 will maintain that local competition which has brought down the . price of an article from 50s. per 100 feet to 17s.
– What is the natural protection ?
– Practically nil. This is timber; and to carry timber from one part of Australia to another costs as much as to bring timber from New York to Melbourne, or Sydney.
– More, in many cases.
– I know, from inquiries that I have made, that if costs as much to manufacture these goods at a point in Australia, and to send them to other points in Australia, as to bring out similar goods from foreign countries by ship. We ought, therefore, to give anxious thought to the using of our own material, and to encouraging the manufacture of genuine articles of workmanship made by our own people, instead of to the importation of pinchbeck. This work will furnish opportunities for developing the artistic taste of our people. We cannot make all our boys miners, and all our girls domestic servants. We ought to be . proud to have developing in’ our midst opportunities for artistic employment. The manufacture of things of this character furnish an opening for creating a demand for excellent things of this description.
– The honorable senator is not showing that a duty of 20 per cent, is not enough.
– It is not enough, as shown by the fact that one establishment which I had the honour of visiting, and where I was pleased to see business carried on under conditions that are a credit to Australia-
– Under a 20 per cent, duty.
– When these manufacturers first started, they found that the dust and chips were injuring the health of their workmen. They went to an expense of nearly £20 to provide exhaust pipes to draw the dust and chips away. “They have been carrying on business for six years, and they now have on hand a million feet of stock, that, up to the present, they have not been able -to sell. They get an order for, say, 100 feet. It does not pay to make 100 feet only ; they must make 1,000 feet. Consequently, 900 feet accumulate in stock. This business, although it has been conducted for six years, has not yet paid a dividend to the enterprising people who are carrying it on. We ought to do something to create such an assurance against the operations of the dumper, as will give these people, not only the satisfaction of being able to make a good article, but, at the same time, of receiving a reasonable profit on their capital.
– I really think that Senator Trenwith cannot expect honorable senators to swallow all that he has been saying.
– I have not said anything that is not a fact.
– The honorable senator’s policy is one which is calculated to bring about a reign, not of cheap and nasty things, but of dear and nasty ones. He would make everything so dear that people would have to buy things that aremore or less nasty, and have to pay more or less long prices at the same time. Surely 20 per cent, is a substantial duty. If the manufacturers of the commodities exhibited by Senator Trenwith cannot hold’ their own with such a help as that, it is time thev retired altogether.
– I believe that Senator Trenwith was sincere in the statements which he has made. But I wish to offer a word of comment upon one statement which I am sure no individual who understands the A B C of business could accept. I cannot believe that a business firm can- import direct goods at 11s. per 100 feet, whereas if they went to an importer they would have to pay 16s. for the same goods. I have never known an importer who would not be only too delighted if he could get a profit of 10 per cent, upon his goods. 1 am sure that Senator Trenwith stated what he believed, but I am afraid that he hap “ had his leg pulled,” or he would not. have told such an extraordinary story.
– The question is -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 303, paragraph t (imports under General Tariff), ad val. 20 per cent.
The “Ayes “ have it.
– What is that?
– Perhaps the Chairman will put the question again.
– I shall object.” The request has been declared carried.
– It was an error on my part.
– The Temporary Chairman put the question quite plainly, invited the “Ayes” and the “Noes” to declare themselves, and said, “ The ‘ Ayes ‘ have it.” There is no possibility, without breaking our Standing Orders, of going back upon that decision.
– I point out that in regard to a recent division, where there was some doubt as to the way the voices had been declared, in fairness to both sides, because the Chairman was in doubt, he put the question again. I think there should be no disagreement about a question of this kind. It is quite clear that the Minister sitting at the table would not have allowed the question to go in the affirmative had he heard the Temporary Chairman put it. Senator Clemons ought to see that it is not to the credit of honorable senators on either side of the Chamber to take advantage of an incident of this kind.
– It is not taking an advantage.
– I may point out that I had nothing to distract my attention when the question was put. I heard von, sir, when declaring “ The ‘ Ayes ‘ have it,” and I immediately said, “ What is that “ ? - not being sure. If you intended to declare that the “ Ayes “ had it - for the reduction - I proposed to challenge it, but I heard nothing further than that you were putting the question and declared that somebody had it - whether the “ Ayes “ or “ Noes “ I did not for certain know. It has never been the practice of the Chairman, when there is a misunderstanding
– There was no misunderstanding.
– A number of honorable senators were in the same position as I was in the previous division, when a question arose as to whether there was more than one “ No.”
– That is not the question here.
– That may be, but as we have not gone on to the next item, your decision is subject to challenge by any member of the Committee. I take it that the object we have in view is to arrive at the true sense of the Committee, and in the circumstances 1 ask that the question should be put again.
– I do not want to carry anything on a snap vote, and even if I wanted to I could not. This is not the final determination of the Committee on this question. I suggest to you, sir, that we should respect our Standing Orders. It will be easy to recommit the item and then there will be no chance of a snap division. Other items have to be recommitted. If you gave it for the “Ayes” when there happened to bea majority for the “ Noes.” let us correct it at the proper time and in the proper manner, and so respect our Standing Orders. When you put the question there v;is a response on the side of the “Aves,” and not even one voice on the side of the “ Noes.” You then declared the request carried, and proceeded to the second column. You were half-way through your sentence - “ Are there any requests on the second column ?” - before anything was said. There is no way of going back if we are to observe our Standing Orders, except by a recommittal.
– I was in the Chamber, and did not know the question had been put. I was in conversation with Senator Dobson.
– If there is a dispute, let the question be put again.
– That is frequently done, when it is claimed that there has been only one “ No “ or one “ Aye.” ‘
– I will move that you put the question again.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I put the question as follows -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 303, paragraph t, ad val. 20 per cent.
I called for “Ayes,” and there were a number of ‘ ‘Ayes. ‘ ‘ I called for ‘ * Noes, ‘ ‘ and there was not one “No.” I was amazed myself, but I had no option but to declare that the “Ayes “ had it. If there is any dispute, we do not want to quarrel over small matters, and it has always been customary when a decision of that kind is disputed’ for the Chairman to put the question again. I will therefore now put it again.
– By what Standing Order do you put it again, because 1 shall have to dispute your ruling?
– I will put it again, following the practicewhich has obtained throughout the whole of the debate on this schedule where there has been any dispute. In those cases the Chairman has allowed a good deal of latitude, and has put the question again in order to arrive at a clear understanding.
– On paragraph n you put a question, and there was a certain amount of doubt. I asked you to put it again, and you did so, with the result that a division was called for and taken. The same doubt exists in this case. If you committed a breach of the Standing Orders in putting the question again on paragraph n-
– There is no breach of the Standing Orders.
– That is my opinion. Following out your own precedent, and the practice of other Chairmen, you are right to put the question again, in order to allow the Committee to express its ^ real opinion.
-Is it not a fact that after you gave the decision in favour of the “ Ayes,” you proceeded to the second column?
-»I was just beginning to do so.
– You had got a certain distance in the sentence, ‘ ‘ Are there any requests on the second column “–
– I rise to a point of order. You stated just now that, as a doubt existed,, you would again put the question in order to avoid misapprehension. I submit that no honorable senator is in order in discussing the matter after your announcement, unless he moves that your ruling be dissented from.
– Senator Findley, in his zeal to secure, the maintenance df the duty at 30 per cent, instead of 20 per cent., puts it that there is some doubt.
– Is that fair?
– I think so. I wish to support the position that you, sir, have taken up. It was perfectly plain that there was a strong expression on the part of the “ Ayes “ in support of the request.
– Is a general discussion in order’ after your statement that you intended to put the question again?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.There is no point of order involved. Senator Symon is in order.
– When an honorable senator with the emphasis and eloquence of Senator Findley raises a point of order, surely it is competent for other honorable senators to discuss it. There was not a single “No” against the re-‘ quest, and you, in accordance with your duty, declared that the “ Ayes “ had it. The request was agreed to, and that settled the question. You then proceeded part of the way with the second column, and asked if there were any requests in respect of it.
– No. The Chairman said he was about to go to the second column.
– Once the Chairman declared that the “Ayes” or “Noes” had it, it was not necessary for him to go any further.
– ‘But you, sir, went a step further, although you did not complete your sentence. Still, once you declared that the “Ayes “ had it, there was an end of the request.
– It must be declared that the “ Ayes “ 01 “ Noes “ have it before a division can be called for.
– You, sir. could not have allowed a division in this case, because there were no “ Noes.” Those who were against the . request were apparently too interested in examining those mouldings - whether they are the shoddy or the genuine, I do not know.
– Is the honorable senator sure that there was not one “ No “?
– I am positive. When you, sir, declared that the “ Aves “ had it, there was no call for a division.
– We did not get a chance. I asked, “What is that”? and. before the Chairman could answer, honorable senators opposite said that the question had been given with the “Ayes.”
– It is a matter of indifference to me, but I know of no standing order or practice of Parliament which enables a Chairman, after he has declared that the “ Ayes “ or the “ Noes “ have it, to put the question again.
– It has been done here dozens of times.
– It has been done once to twice where there has been confusion, and the Chairman- himself has -been unable to say which way the voices went. In this case, you, sir, admit that there is no doubt that the “ Ayes “ had it. If any one objects to your putting the question again, it cannot be done. Therefore I say that the only remedy under our Standing Orders, if it is desired to deal with the question again, is to deal with it on a recommital
– I should like briefly to recall the circumstances under which the present discussion arose. When the request moved by Senator Clemons had been discussed at some length, you, sir, put the question to the Committee. I did not notice the exact form in which it was put. You afterwards called for the “ Ayes “ and “ Noes,” and you gave a decision. T did not know whether the decision was for the “ Ayes “ or for the “ Noes,” but immediately I heard you say that one ov the other had it I called out, as you will probably remember, “What is- that”? and before you- had time to -reply several honorable senators opposite replied for you, arid said, “ He has given it to the “ Ayes.’:
That is the point at which the discussion originated. If you, sir, had said in reply to my question that the “ Ayes “ had it-
– The honorable senator would have been too late.
– Not at all ; because the invariable practice in Committee on all measures ‘has been for the Chairman as fully and carefully as possible to ascertain the sense of the Committee, and where there has been any dispute or misunderstanding as to the actual voting, it is settled there and then, and honorable senators have not been asked to . go through the cumbrous process of a recommittal. I hope that the practice which has prevailed in the past will be followed in this instance, and I am certain that not even the most strenuous supporter of the request will be prejudiced in any way if it is.
– I wish, sir, to direct your attention to standing order 122.
– No; standing order 127.
– Standing order 161 is the one which governs this matter.
– I am glad to know that there are so many standing orders dealing with the matter, but standing order 122 is sufficient for me. It provides that -
So soon as the debate upon a question shall be concluded, the President shall put the question to the Senate, and if the same should not be heard he shall again- state it to the Senate.
I hold that when this question was put to the Committee it was not heard.
– It was heard very plainly by half-a-dozen honorable senators, who called “Aye.”
– It was because the question was not heard that we have arrived at the present position, and in accordance with standing order 122 the Temporary Chairman is perfectly justified in putting the question again. I remind you, sir, that you did that when putting the request moved on paragraph n to the Committee. You said at’ that time that you heard only one “-No,” and’ on division when the question was put again it was found that there was more than one. If we have a division on this question it will be demonstrated that there is more than one “ No.”
– I have not the slightest desire to snatch a vote, but I do say that if should be obligatory on honorable senators to attend to the Chair when a question is being put. In this case, when the question was put, honorable senators who were opposed to the request were so indifferent to the whole thing that they allowed it to go without dissent. It would be a good lesson to honorable senators on both sides if the decision which has been given were adhered to. In order that we may not commit a breach of our Standing Orders,’ and that we may . at the same time overcome the present difficulty, I suggest that you, sir, should put the question again, by leave of the Committee. If that is done, I promise that I shall raise no objection.
– I cannot fall in with the suggestion that thequestion should be put again only by leave of the Committee, unless Senator Clemons can guarantee that there will beno objection to the adoption of that course.
– I said that I would not object.
– But suppose some other honorable senator does. I do not wish it to be taken for granted that the question can only be put again by leave, because I have no hesitation in saying that that is not so. Whenever any confusion exists in regard to a question, or whenever the Chairman’s decision is challenged, there is no practice more well-defined than for the Chairman to put the question again. I am sure that in this case honorable senators opposite do not desire to take advantage of a snatch vote.
– All that the Temporary Chairman has to say is : “ If it is the desire of the Committee, I shall put the question again.”
– That is a proposition which I, for one, cannot acquiesce in. I urge you, sir, to carry out what you well know to be the practice, and to do what you have already indicated you desire to do, so that the true wishes of the Committee may be ascertained.
– I do not know why Senator Best, should adopt this attitude. What harm would be done if the Temporary Chairman said, as we have constantly heard trie President and the Chairman of Committees say: “If it is the desire of honorable senators, I shall put the question again “ ? I ask you, sir, to do that, and stop this waste of time.
– If it will calm the mind of the Vice-President of the Execu-. tive Council, I give him my assurance, on behalf of every honorable senator on this side, that ho objection will be raised to the adoption of the reasonable course suggested by Senator Clemons.
– I should like to repeat what took place. The question was put quite plainly, and- a number of honorable senators called “ Aye,” but when I asked for the “ Noes “ there was not a single call of “ No.” There was then no other course open to me but to declare the. question carried. Then, in accordance with the practice invariably adopted throughout, the discussion upon the Tariff where there has been any dispute concerning a vote, I said I would put the question again. That was objected to. In the face of that objection, and there having been no “ Noes “ called when the question was first put, I can only put it again if there is no objection on the part of any honorable senator. I therefore propose now to put the question again.
– If the Committee so desire?
– If it is the desire of the Committee.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 303, paragraph t, “Picture and Room Mouldings “ (imports under General Tariff), ad val., 20 per cent. (Senator Clemon’s request) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … …11
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 303, paragraph u, ad val. 30 per cent.
If this request is carried, I shall move a request to make the duty on imports from the United Kingdom 25. per cent. My object in moving this request is to give to the broom-manufacturing industry the measure of protection which I think it deserves, and also to secure uniformity in the Tariff. If honorable senators will look at item 308 they will find that duties of 30 per cent, and 25 per cent, are imposed on brushmakers’ woodware, and, as honorable senators must see from the articles I produce, brushmakers’ woodware and broomstocks should be placed on the same footing. The reason which I give to the Committee for making this request is that whereas there is a duty of 30 per cent, on brushware, there is a duty of only 20 per cent, on broomware or broom stocks. Why is that’ invidious distinctionmade? The man who makes the kind of ware which I hold in my hand is entitled to as much protection as is the man who makes brushware, and very frequently it happens that a man is engaged in both lines of business. In respect of this industry, evidence was given before the Tariff Commission by Tnen who have been engaged therein for many years, and they proved conclusively, at any rate to the protectionist section, that not only in Victoria, but in almost every other State, their business is very seriously threatened by the excessive importations of these articles.
– But it would meet the honorable senator’s view just as well if we reduced the duty on the other item to 20 per cent.
– No, because that protection is not high enough. Thirty per cent, is a fair measure of protection.
– Does the honorable senator know what broom stocks are?
– I think that the article I hand to the honorable senator is a broom stock.
– That is a broom head.
– The article is dutiable at 30 per cent., and is called a broom stock by the maker.
– It’ is so called by the maker, who has been engaged in the industry for a considerable period.
– It is woodwork for brushware.
– It as dutiable at 20 per cent., whereas the brushwork is dutiable at 30 per cent. Many witnesses pointed out to the Tariff Commission that they had to pay high duties on some of their raw material, and that it was a slight handicap to them. They said that when they were insufficiently protected they found it very difficult indeed to carry on their business. One of the largest employers and makers of this kind of work informed me the other day that, owing to the excessive importations and the inadequate protection he was getting under the present Tariff, he was employing only about onehalf of the hands whom he had previously engaged. I am sure that his lot is not different from that of other men in his line. I trust that the Government, who have always expressed a desire to secure uniformity in the schedule, will support this request, because it will convenience the Customs officials, and also give that measure of protection to the local manufacturer, to which I think he! is entitled.
– I think that there is a very grave misunderstanding on the part of Senator Findley. There is a very great difference between broom stocks and brushmakers woodware. The article I hold in my hand is brushmakers’ woodware, which is dutiable! at 30 per cent. I think that Senator Pearce and other honorable senators who know a little about woodwork will agree with me that a broom stock is a square, rough -sawn piece of wood, cut to a definite length, of which a broom handle is made. I would be very foolish indeed if, after having been on the Tariff Commission for so long a period, I did not understand the difference between broom stocks and brushmakers’ woodware. Now broom stocks occupy exactly the same position in respect of brushmakers’ woodware as door stocks occupy with respect to the manufacture of doors. I am sure that Senator Findley does not want a duty of 30 per cent, placed on the square pieces of wood out of which broom handles are made. The reason why broom stocks are not admitted free is to induce the use of Australian timber in the manufacture of broom handles.
– Senator. Clemons suggested to Senator McColl, as Temporary Chairman, the desirableness of waiting until honorable senators had returned to their places after a division be fore putting a question to the Committee, and’ it came somewhat as a surprise to me when I returned to my place to find that Senator Findley was moving this request,1 inasmuch as some time back the Government had given notice of their intention tqpropose a duty of 30 and 25 per cent, under paragraph u of item 303. That notice was given .because under item 308’ brushmakers’ woodware and turnery is dutiable at 30 and 25 per cent., and we wished to make the duty under paragraph tj of this item uniform with the duty on the latter item. Since the duties have appeared in the schedule as they are, importers have repeatedly alleged that certain importations which the Department have regarded as brushmakers’ woodware and turnery were broom stocks, and- should come in at the lower rate .of duty. A considerable amount of confusion has arisen, and many articles which are obviously brushmakers’ woodwareand turnery, which are dutiable at 30 and 25 per cent., have been claimed by the importers to be broom stocks, and dutiable at only 20 per cent. I was under the impression that the article which Senator Findley was showing to the Committee, and which he is now holding in his hand, was a” broom stock, and, according to his statement, it is marked as a broom stock. Whether that is the usual practice or not I do not know. Whether it is done for the purpose of making its identification more complete at the Customs House I cannot say. But I’ know that it is eminently desirable that theconfusion which exists should be terminated. After what I have heard in thisdiscussion, I shall be prepared not to proceed with the request of which we gave notice, but to have the words “ broom stocks “ amplified by the addition of some words which will clearly identify what is intended to be made dutiable at 20 percent., and so prevent other articles which are brushmakers’ woodware and turnerybeing confused with broom stocks, and” being claimed by importers as coming in at the lower rate of 20 per cent. I believe that Senator Findley’s object would be met, and the departmental objections to the present system of classification overcome without an injustice being done to anybody, if we made a request for the insertion after “broom stocks”1 of the words “being squared timber, rough sawn into sizes, for the manufacture of -broom handles.”
– The words “ in the rough “ would meet the case,
– We want some words to show what the articles are really imported for, and to prevent articles which are properly dutiable under a later item coming in under this item at a lower rate.
– If the Minister wants to move a request for an alteration 5n the body of the item, it will first be necessary for Senator Findley to withdraw “his request.
– Having the assurance of the Minister that the ground I desire to cover will be covered in another direction, I ask leave to withdraw my request for the moment.
Request, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 303, paragraph u, by inserting after the word “Stocks” the words “ being square timber, rough sawn into sizes, suitable for the manufacture of broom handles.”
– Does the honorable senator propose to leave the duty as it is?
– Yes. My first object was to remove an anomaly. The effect of this request will be to simplify the item and make it more convenient to the Customs officers to administer it.
– I cannot see why we should have a duty on this item at all. It alludes to wood that is imported in the rough to be made into handles. If Senator Findley is so much interested in giving employment to men in Victoria who convert rough wood into handles, I cannot see why he does not propose to find employment for them by getting the wood in free. The wood is the raw material of their industry.
– Is there not material suitable in Australia to make a broom handle?
- Senator Findley should either say, “Let us make broom handles out of Australian wood “. and impose a duty which will keep out foreign wood, or he should propose to have no duty at all, so as to let the foreign wood come in. He is trying to do two things by means of one duty. A duty of 20 per cent, is iniquitous as a revenue duty, but it is of no use as a protective duty. From Senator Findley’s point of view, its protective incidence is inadequate.
Request agreed to.
Request (by Senator Clemons) put -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make item 303, paragraph u, free.
The Committee divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Request . negatived .
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 303, paragraph y, each is.
The Committee have already decided to request the House of Representatives ro amend paragraph n by leaving out the words “ not of elm.” I respectfully submit that, that having been done, we should stultify ourselves if we permitted elm hubs with metal bands to be imported free. In order to bring paragraph y into line with paragraph n, we should impose a duty of is. each on them.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Request agreed to.
– Paragraph cc as worded is somewhat difficult of interpretation, and gives rise to no little confusion. It is very hard to say what is a hickory spoke or felloe or rim in. the rough. A great many are imported partly prepared or dressed. In the case of rims there is a considerable amount of dispute, because rims appear elsewhere in the schedule. I propose to alter the wording . so that, the paragraph may read as follows -
Hickory Strips in the rough for spokes, rims, and felloes.
It will then be clear as intended by Parliament, that hickory in the rough, suitable for conversion in the Commonwealth into spokes, rims, and felloes, is to be free. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 303, paragraph cc, by inserting before the word “ Spokes “ the words “ Hickory Strips in the rough for,” and by leaving out the words “ of Hickory in the rough.”
– This paragraph was free under the old Tariff. The protectionist section of the Tariff Commission recommended that it should still be free, but I want to know from Senator Clemons, one of the principal representatives of the free-trade section of the Commission, why they recommended 15 per cent.
– First of all, I say that I did not recommend it. Secondly, I ask why the honorable senator should assert that I did recommend it?
– I presume that Senator Clemons concurred in that recommendation, for if he had not done so the Commission might have been sitting yet, as he would not give way. This is one of the mysteries that I want to understand. When I see the honorable senator taking up the attitude that he does from time to time, and being so inconsistent, even coming down to the level of others, I want this action of his explained: I am sure that Senator Symon would not have taken that course. I cannot understand how Senator Clemons, our fighting friend for freetrade principles, could so far forget himself as to allow that recommendation topass without recording a protest in writing.
– I have answered this sort of thing dozens of times. Can I make any more effective protest than by a vote recorded- in this Chamber to make items free, no matter what the honorable senator may. read in that printed paper? I am perfectly willing to admit that- ninety-nine times out of a hundred I do not get my own way. If the honorable senator expects me to do wonders, he expects more than I have been able to perform. He knows how I vote. I am prepared to give an effective answer to his . question by voting to make free everything that I can.
Request agreed to.
– For the purpose of having a clear definition of some of the terms used in the item, I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 303 by adding the following foot-note : - “ Note. - For the purposes of this division a superficial foot shall mean an area of one square foot on one surface and being one inch or less in thickness. The term “super, face” shall mean the superficial measurement of that part of the timber actually planed or dressed.”
That definition was in the Tariff as originally introduced, though it was not in the old Tariff, and was recommended by the Tariff Commission. It is accepted in the trade from one end of Australia to the other, and I believe from one end of the world to the other. It is understood and has been acted upon by the Department up to the present. Any man in the timber trade in Australia understands by a superficial foot a superficial foot of one inch or less in thickness. I fail to see why that definition should not be inserted here. If it is not inserted, all sorts of disputes will be caused, and timber, on which all the work has been done outside Australia, will be allowed to come in here at a considerably lower rate than this Parliament anticipated.
– Why make it “ an inch or less “ ?
– Because that has been the trade definition all over Australia.
– It is not so in my own State. The practice there differs from that of the other States in that particular.
– Accepting the honorable senator’s assurance as correct, is it not wise to have a uniform standard in Australia? Why should importers be allowed to bring in two half -inch boards for the same duty as an inch board ? You cannot make two half-inch Boards out of an inch board, as the thickness of the saw cut has to be taken into consideration. Without this definition, all the work of cutting with the saw will be done outside, when it could be’ done here, and our object in allowing timber of certain sizes to be admitted at a certain rate will be defeated, because it will pay better to get the timber cut into smaller sizes and then import it, than to bring it here in larger sizes. I ask that this almost universally accepted definition should be embodied in the Tariff.
– This definition did appear in the schedule as first introduced, but before any discussion took place on the item in another place the Government had decided to adopt as the definition of superficial foot what is recognised throughout the trade as a superficial foot.
– Only in some of the States.
– The honorable senator is very eager to point out that in some of the States there is a definition in accord with that proposed by Senator Givens, but the Treasurer took the earliest opportunity of announcing in another place that he did not propose to ask them to adopt the definition first submitted. Having abandoned that definition under the schedule as it stands a superficial foot would be regarded as one foot square one inch thick. I believe that that is generally recognised as a standard superficial foot. I have heard it said by way of interjection that that is not the standard of measurement adopted in some of the States, but I ask any member of the Committee to say whether, if the question were put as to the number of superficial feet contained in a log 27 feet long with a girth of 7ft. 4in., the answer would be diffeTent in the different States.
– No, but that is a different thing altogether.
-The formula adopted for arriving at an answer to the question would be the same in every State, and it would be based on the assumption that a superficial foot is 12 inches by 12 inches by 1 inch thick. I think I am therefore warranted in saying that a superficial foot has a standard meaning and a recognised acceptation.
– As applied to the measurement of timber in the log.
– With regard to cut timber, if it is decided that some other meaning should be given to a superficial foot, then in justice and fairness the duties imposed under this item should be proportioned according to the thickness of the cut timber imported. We should have some limit of thickness, whether it be i-i6th, i-8th, i-4th, or, as in the schedule, 1 inch.
– Let the honorable senator read paragraph s and tell the Committee what he has to say about that.
– I am not now dealing with paragraph s. If the definition sought to be introduced be not adopted in the case of timber half an inch thick, a board would have to be 12 inches by 24 inches to make a superficial foot.
– That is’ to say, under the present Tariff duty is charged on the actual quantity of timber.
– Yes. Assuming that 1 inch is the standard thickness, the measurement of 12 x 12 would remain the same, and then, in so far as the board was above or below an inch in thickness, it would, in the same proportion, be above or below one superficial foot. I think that we have proposed the fairest standard of measurement.
– It is the best way to get all the work done outside Australia.
– No, because, after all, if honorable . senators will, reflect, it is not likely that inch boards would be imported to be cut up into quarter inch boards here.
– No, but timber in the larger sizes might be imported in½ inch and i inch boards to avoid the cost of cutting here and also freight on waste.
– If the standard be as we propose, 12 x 12 x 1 inch thick, 12 inches x 12 inches of a piece 4 inches thick would represent 4 superficial feet. If Senator Dobson desires to increase the protection to be afforded, he should propose to do so by dealing with the ‘actual duties proposed. If 12 inches x 12 inches by inch is to be regarded as a superficial foot, four times the protection now proposed would be extended in such a- case.
– That is proposed now, if the honorable senator wilT look at paragraph s, dealing with the superficial face.
– That is another matter altogether. The accepted recognition of the super, face measure is best illustrated by supposing the case of a board imported planed on both sides.
– Suppose it is only £-inch thick and planed on both sides and two edges.
– In such a case the superficial measurement would be taken in respect of the number of sides on which the board is planed, and despite the thickness of J-inch would in such a case give each 12 x j2 inches x J-inch as a super, face foot.
– : The honorable senator is altogether wrong. If the board were planed on both sides, 12 x 12 inches x i-inch would represent 2 superficial feet.
– Apart .from the fact that Senator Givens by his request proposes to increase very seriously the duties already agreed upon, I point out that the request would operate inequitably. The honorable senator is proposing that the duties to which we have agreed should be doubled where the timber is dressed on both sides-.
– We have agreed to that already.
– I am dealing now with Senator Givens’ request. As the schedule now stands the duty is chargeable by measurement calculated in the ordinary way on timber 1 inch thick. The effect of Senator Givens’ request, first of all”, would be to double that duty, but as we should not at the same time double the quantity of timber imported, it is clear that the additional duty would be imposed as a protection for the little extra labour involved in the preparation of the timber.
– I want all the work of preparation to be done here.
– The honorable senator is nominally doubling the duty chargeable on the timber, but he is really doing a good deal more than that. The duty on timber dressed on one side is. 3s/ per 100 superficial feet, and Senator Givens wants to charge 3s. more per 100 superficial feel on timber dressed on both sides.
– That is what would _ happen under paragraph s.
– The point I wish to make clear is that the honorable sena tor, by introducing the words “ superface “ in his request intends that the measurement shall be calculated on both sides if the timber is dressed on both sides.
– The honorable senator has not put in the words “ super, face.”
– Senator Turley is under a misapprehension. Senator Givens has put -in the words “super, face,’.’” and I am satisfied that he would put in more if he could by that means impose a higher duty. Timber imported dressed on> one side under this schedule would pay a duty of 3s. per 100 superficial feet, and” under Senator Givens’ request if dressed on both sides it would pay a duty of 6s. per 100 superficial feet. I say that the-‘ extra 3s. would be the duty charged for the extra labour involved in dressing thetimber on one side. So that Senator Givens asks the Committee to affirm that as much duty shall be imposed for theplaning of timber on one side as we havedecided shall apply . to the timber with one planing. That is surely inequitable.
– My request would not. affect the duty on the timber in the slightest degree, but it would have the effect of compelling the dressing of the timber to be done here.
– The honorable senator wants to provide protection for the timber, and for the dressing as well, and’ the protection sought to be” provided for the dressing is out of all proportion to that provided for the timber. We have decided’ that the duty on timber dressed on one side shall be 3s. per 100 superficial feet. Assuming that the Committee is of opinion that of that 2s. should be imposed’ for protection on the timber and is. for protection of the labour involved in dressing it on one side, I point out that Senator Givens does not ask the Committee to impose an additional is. because of the extra work involved in dressing the timber on the other side, as we might expect, but hedesires to impose in respect of the simpleoperation of planing the timber on thesecond side as much duty as we have decided shall be charged in respect of thefirst planing and of the timber as well. That is out of all proportion, and I agreewith Senator Keating that if the Committeeis disposed to agree to Senator Givens’ request, there should be a readjustment of the duties to which we have already agreed. The Minister of Home Affairs will confirm my statement that in New South Wales timber is sold according to the actual quantity.
– If .that is done in Sydney, I do not think it is done outside that city. .
– I have not purchased timber in every remote hamlet in New South Wales, but I have purchased it In Sydney, and in at least three fairly large country towns, and in each case I have found that the practice which prevails is to charge for J-inch stuff as j-inch stuff, though, of course, the saw-millers cover the extra labour involved by charging a somewhat higher price for the cut stuff’. One hundred superficial feet of weatherboarding £-inch thick would be charged for as J-inch stuff, but of course the price would be relatively a little higher than for the same measurement of inch timber. That was recognised by Sir William Lyne when he withdrew the definition originally appearing in the Tariff. The honorable gentleman stated that he introduced the definition because he understood that it was in accordance with the usual practice, but when he subsequently found that it . was not he withdrew it and reverted to the practice under the old Tariff. We have already decided to increase the duty on timber from 6d. to is. per 100 superficial feet, but under Senator Givens’ request the duty would be increased to 2s. or 4s.
– The only effect of mv request would be to have work done here that is now done abroad. It would not make imported timber any dearer.
– The honorable senator might just as well say that the same effect would be brought about if we imposed a duty of £1 per 106 superficial feet on all of these timbers. I am not suggesting that there is any unfairness in submitting the request, but I’ certainly think it would have been more open and above-board if honorable senators who support the request had, when we were deciding the duty to be imposed, moved a request that it .should be 4s. per 1 00 superficial feet.
– I tried to move this request before, but was blocked.
– I admit that in this case Senator Chataway out-Herods even the Herods on the other side. I am aware that the honorable senator indicated some days ago his intention to move in this direction.
– The honorable senator suggested that it was not fair that the request should not have been mentioned before.
– That is not what I meant to say. Of course, the Committee knew what was in the minds of certain honorable senators, but the outside world would have been given a clearer indication of what was intended if a request had been submitted to make the duty 4s. per 100 superficial feet, or, as Senator Givens really proposes, 12s., and even , more, on dressed timber.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) [6.15). - I am very sorry that any delay 111 the consideration of the Tariff should be caused by an item of this kind, because, like every one else, I desire to complete the work as rapidly as possible. It does not seem to me that a number of honorable senators thoroughly understand the position in which they are. I wish that there was a more practical man than myself to explain it to them. It could be well explained by Senator Pearce or Senator Story, who have had some experience in connexion with not only the timber trade but also the working of wood. The first portion of the request deals with undressed timber, and the second portion with dressed timber. On undressed timber we have different rates of duty. Senator Keating has said that we should have considered those rates if we wanted to define anything. But we have considered different rates. For instance, on undressed timber measuring 1: inches x 6 inches and over we have requested a duty of is. per 100 superficial feet, and a superficial foot in that case undoubtedly means a piece of timber 12 inches square on the surface and an inch thick. On the next grade - that is, timber measuring 7 inches x 2 J inches and up to 12 inches x 6 inches - the duty is 2s. ‘per 100 superficial feet. On this undressed timber, measuring 7 inches x 7. inches or 9 inches x 3 inches, or 4 inches x 9 inches, in fact, up to 12 inches x 6 inches, the duty is 2s. per 100 superficial feet, and a superficial foot in that connexion means a piece of timber 12 inches square on the surface and an inch thick. We next come to the grade below 7 inches x z inches, and going, down to t inch x 1 inch or 1 inch x J inch. Honorable senators will observe that, just as labour has been employed on the timber in foreign countries, so the duty will be increased. In the different States there has been confusion in connexion with the meaning of a superficial foot of timberwhen it measured less than 7 inches x 2J inches.
– Not in the import trade.
– Yes, in every trade in the different States. In some States it was all right so long as the timber was imported in the rough, but V l leil the size fell below 7 inches x z inches and came to 3 inches x 2 inches or 3 inches x 1 inch or 2 inches x 1 inch or 1 inch x 1 inch, the cutting gave a certain amount of increased labour to our workers. In New South Wales, in fact, in any one of the States, if a man saw a piece of timber measuring 9 inches x 3 inches x 12 feet, and wanted it cut up, probably that would amount to one farthing per foot. He would have two cuts put in the- width and one cut in the depth, and would be’ charged a farthing a foot for the cut each way. That would increase the cost of the timber. What we want to prevent is the excessive cutting up of the timber before it is imported. We desire the timber to be imported in the larger sizes, so that labour may be employed upon it here. We have to a certain extent done that until we come down to timber measuring 7 inches x 2^ inches, or, I might say, until we come down to what would be 12 inches x 1 inch, or what might be 2 inches x 6 inches or 3 inches x 4 inches. All these are. equivalent to a foot in the lineal measurement of timber. We say to a man that if he goes below the superficial measurement to the lineal measurement, he is going much too low to suit the interests of our workers. If, for instance, a board measuring 12 inches wide by an inch thick, and cut into four thicknesses of £-inch, bs imported, we say that each thickness of inch shall be measured as an inch superficial, or, if not, let it be imported as 12 inches x 1 inch or in the larger sizes. It. is. for the purpose of preventing the lineal measurement that will give a superficial foot of timber- being imported in a lesser size than that, that we want this definition in connexion with timber in the rough. That has been urged not only here but in other places in connexion with the measurement of timber. . I think I have said enough in connexion with rough timber to show what is our object in seeking to insert this, definition regarding the smaller, measurements. As regards dressed timber there is a. duty of .3s. per 100 superficial feet. Suppose that we. take a board measuring 12 inches wide and 12 inches long and planed on one side. We say by this definition that the duty on that board shall be 3s., no matter whether it is 12 feet or 20 feet long.
– That is 3s. for the timber and one dressing?
– Yes. The whole object of this Tariff is to promote the employment of Australian workmen. If foreign timber is allowed to come in at all, it should be imported in the rough, and when it is so imported employment is found for Australian workmen in the dressing of it.. That was the reason why we have gradually raised the duty from is. per 100 superficial feet to 3s. when it is dressed on one side. Then, if an inch plank is cut into two or three boards and the latter are dressed on both sides, we say that that is a detriment to our workmen, and we shall do all we can to stop the importation of such boards. Take a board which is 12 inches wide and 1 inch thick - a lineal foot will be a superficial foot - and dressed on one side. The duty on the board will be 3s. If a carpenter in Norway, Sweden, or America turns a board over and dresses the other side the duty will be 3s. more. We go further and say that if it is dressed on two edges as well as two faces it shall be regarded as measuring 2 inches more - that is, 2ft. 2in. We also say that if that board is sawn into two pieces and the inside faces are dressed the duty will be 12s. That is why the expression “ per .100 feet super, face “ is used in paragraph s of this item, and the object of this request is only to give a clear definition of what it means.
– What would it cost here to dress that on which the honorable senator proposes to charge a duty of 12s. ?
– It does not matter what it would cost to dress the article here. We say that the timber should be imported in the rough. Surely we have men, machinery and tools good enough to dress timber in any way ? We do not want timber to be imported in a dressed state at all, and Senator Givens is seeking to introduce this definition so that our desire may be clearly understood.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I only wish to say a word or two more in regard to “my request . before the division is taken. I should not have said anything more except for the misconception in the mind of Senator Millen and other honorable senators opposite, as fo the effect of the request. Senator Millen worked himself into a terrible state of fear as to the alleged awful results which would flow from it. I wish to point out that’ there is no occasion for that fear, and that the honorable senator was labouring under an entire misapprehension. I hope that he will keep an open mind until he hears what I have to say. His great fear wilh regard to the interpretation of the term “super, face” was that if this definition were adopted, it would apply to. all dressed timbers coming in under this item. It would do nothing of the sort. It would not apply to anything whatever, except’ to the few classes of timber imported under paragraph s. This is the only paragraph in which the term “super, face” is used, and if my interpretation were adopted, this is ‘the only paragraph that would be affected by it. . What does paragraph ‘s say -
Timber for making boxes or doors being cut into shape and dressed or partly dressed.
Such timber comes in not only dressed, but cut into shape, and ready for putting together. All the work done in Australia would be to put together the pieces, already rut into shape.
– Would the honorable senator agree to add to his request words giving a period of four months for shipments that are already on voyage, to be made dutiable according to the schedule as it stands?
– I should have no objection to embodying a provision to that effect. We might provide that the definition shall come into force on and after a date four months hence. What 1 desire to emphasize is that the definition of “ super, face,” if adopted, would only apply to the few matters covered by paragraph s, and that, therefore, Senator Millen’s fears were entirely exaggerated.
– Why only to that paragraph ?
– Because my request in that regard merely contains a definition of “super, face” and. paragraph s is the only one in which that word is used. I think it is desirable, in the interests of an Australian . industry, to discourage as far as possible these timbers being imported in an almost manufactured state; and if my definition were adopted, it would accomplish- tha-, good end. It would not increase Mie duty in any way. whatever. It only means that instead of timbers being imported in the state in which they would come in as defined in. paragraph s, they would be imported in the rough, and the process of” manufacture would be completed in Australia.’ That is an object .which nearly every honorable senator has at heart. It is= exactly the same with regard to the definition of the term “ superficial foot.” It. would no’: increase the price of timber, -or have any other effect than to prevent woodwork of a lesser thickness than t inch coming into Australia ; and would thereby give a large amount of work to Australian timber workers without increasing the price to the consumer one iota. What has been the result’ of the departure made in a former Tariff with regard to this definition? Queensland has one of the largest timber industries in Austrafia, largest of all with the exception, perhaps, of that of Western Australia, which nas ah enormous timber trade on account of its jarrah forests. Prior to the adoption of the interim Tariff after the accomplishment “ of Federation, and while the old Queensland Tariff was in force, trie definition that I now ask to be inserted was in operation in that State. The result was that our Queensland saw-millers- were kept far more fully employed than they have been at any period since”. They put up and placed upon the market many millions more feet ot timber under that system than they did under the. Federal Tariff, because the protection afforded to the Australian industry under the old Queensland Tariff was removed by dropping theold definition. It is true that the Queensland saw-millers during the last two yearshave perhaps regained to some extent their former prosperity, and have risen almost, if not quite, to the level of the amount of timber they formerly cut up and put upon the market. But that has been because of the demand for timber in Queensland, and not for any other reason - certainly not because the Tariff was less injurious than it was in previous years. I trust that the Committee will agree to my request. It simply means the adoption of an universal standard in the Commonwealth - a standard which is almost universal now, which I believe no one will cavil at, and which will have no adverse results. I desire to amend my request by inserting after the word “ Note” the words - “ to come into force on and after ist September, 90S.”
Request amended accordingly.
– I should like to point out that statistics show that the total quantity of timber imported in one year reached 248,000,000 feet. Of this total, no less than 200,000,000 feet or 8o per cent., was undressed. Of the balance, only 19½ per cent, was dressed timber. So that the proportion of dressed timber coming, in now is less than one-fifth. I see no occasion for this great set against it, nor an need for an outcry about Australian labour being attacked by this small importation. I should be very glad if the request were withdrawn.
– - Senator Givens has included two different definitions in this request - one of “ superficial foot ‘ ‘ and one of “ super, face.” With regard to the definition of “ superficial,” I may say that the Government introduced a similar definition elsewhere, but before the matter came up for discussion, for several reasons then given by the Treasurer, the other practice was reverted to, namely’, that of taking i inch as the standard thickness of a superficial foot. Regarding the term “ super, face,” I pointed out that the practice that has been followed’ b” the Department in estimating the Super, face measurement of imports coming in under paragraph s of item 303 has been to take, irrespective of the thickness of the material, the superficial area of the two surfaces that have been planed. If the two sides have also been planed, the superficial contents of the sides have not been calculated at all. As far as that practice differs from the proposition of my honorable friend Senator Givens, the difference is very slight in regard to matters like timber cut into shape and dressed or partly dressed for making boxes or doors ; because the thickness of that timber would preclude the superficial contents of the sides being of any great dimensions. Thev would- indeed, be a negligible quantity.” I should not object to the honorable senator including the surfaces of the planed edges in addition to the surfaces of the planed sides, except that it would involve a considerable amount of difficulty in administration, because it would be necessary in every instance to check the actual thickness of every importation of timber, say, for the manufacture of doors and planed on the sides. Suppose that a given piece of timber was 1¼ inch in thickness and 9 feet in length. The superficial contents of the two sides would be very small. It was thought bv the Department that it was hardly worth including- in the measurement.
– How much trouble would there be with regard to this one small paragraph s?
– A good deal, because so much timber would come in under paragraph s.
– I hope that none would come in.
– It would come here in small quantities, comparatively speaking, and would be cut into sizes. If you take box wood, and calculate the superficial contents of a piece 2 feet long bv 8 inches wide and j inch thick, the calculation must mean a lot of work for a very small result.
– If we have a proper . protective policy, all that work will be done in Australia.
– My honorable friend’s definition would achieve, in amount, very little difference from what the present practice of the Department is - that is, taking the two surfaces ; but for that little difference a great amount of trouble would have to be incurred on the part of the Customs officers to carry out the administration. In any case, with regard to “ super, face,” I point out that it would be better, instead of the words used by my honorable friend - “ of that part of the timber dressed “ - to use the words “ the superficial measurement of the surfaces of the timber dressed.”
– What difference would it make?
– I do not know what is meant by “ that part of the timber.”
– There may be only one portion of a piece of timber that is dressed. My definition does not include the part that is not dressed.
– If the timber was dressed on both sides and also on each of (he edges, all those would be regarded by the honorable senator as surfaces. The honorable senator seems to think that the Government are causing difficulties-, but if his definition of “ super, face “ is carried a considerable amount of difficulty will be caused to the officers in administering the Act, while the result achieved will be proportionately small. The honorable senator wants to add to the superficial area of the two sides the area of any edges which are planed.
– In the case of stiles for doors 2 inches thick, the honorable senator would allow 4 inches of surface for the full length to come in absolutely without duty.
– I admit that in cases of that sort, where the width is not much greater than the thickness, there might be some justification for including all the planed surfaces, but whichever way is adopted there will be very little difference in the actual ‘measurement. I do not object to the proposed super, face definition so much as I do to the proposed superficial foot definition. The contents of the planed edges of the great bulk of the importations under paragraph s are, as I understand from the Department, practically negligible, although it is quite possible that in the case quoted by the honorable senator the planed edge would have almost the same measurement as the planed face. As there are two distinct propositions involved in the request, I ask that it may be divided. If the Committee decide to adopt the request regarding super, foot, it is only reasonable that it should come into operation at some future date, so that due notice may be given to persons interested in the importation of timber. I am glad that the honorable senator has recognised that.
– Any honorable senator has a right to ask that a question be divided. I will therefore put the request in two parts.
.- I am willing to agree to the Minister’s suggestion with regard to the definition of super, face, but I want some definition included in the schedule, so that there shall be no disputes. Personally, I would prefer to include the area of the edges, because in some cases that is almost as great as the area of the width.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 303 by adding the following footnote : - “ Note. - To come into force on and after 1st September, 1908 - For the purposes of this division a superficial foot shall mean an area of one square foot on one surface and being 1 inch or less in thickness “ (Senator Givens’ request) - put.
The Committee divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Request agreed to.
.- In accordance with my promise to the Minister, I beg to withdraw my further request regarding the definition of super, face, and substitute another.
Request, by leave, withdrawn.
Request (by Senator Givens) proposed -
That the House of Representatives be requested to further amend item 303 by adding the following paragraph at the end of the item : - “ Note. - The term ‘ super, face means the superficial measurement of those surfaces (except edges) of the timber, actually dressed or partly dressed.”
– As the definition now proposed simply expresses the present practice, it will not be necessary to apply to it the limitation that it shall not come into operation before the 1st September next.
– In that case, may I move it as a separate footnote?
– The word “ Note “ will be used in each case, so as to differentiate the two.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Request agreed to.
Item 304. Wicker, Bamboo, and Cane, all articles n.e.i., made of, whether partly or wholly finished, ad val. (General Tariff), 45 per cent., and on and after 6th December, 1907, 35 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), 40 per cent., and on and after 6th December, 1907, 25 per cent.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 304 (imports under General Tariff), ad val. 45 per cent.
I propose a return to the duty originally submitted. The articles included in this item are imported solely from China, Japan, and the Straits Settlement. We have already recognised the wisdom of imposing duties of 45 and 40 per cent, on furniture imported from those countries, and I ask the Committee to agree to a request for the imposition of similar duties in respect of item 304, which deals practically with the same class of goods. Should the request be agreed to, I shall propose an increase in the duty on irnports from the United Kingdom from 25 to 40 per cent.
– It is true that as the Tariff was first introduced the duties proposed on this “item were 45 per cent, under the general Tariff, and 40 per cent, on imports from the United Kingdom. The’ duty under the old Tariff was 20 per cent, in the case of item 299 covering general furniture, duties representing a . corresponding increase on the previously existing duty were also” submitted, but that item was recast, and put into a different form on the 5th December, 1907. The duties were then made 35 and 25 par cent., and subsequently, in dealing with item 306, to. which duties of 40 and 30 per cent, were originally attached, honorable members in another place agreed that the articles covered bv that ‘ item should be dutiable also at 35 and 30 per cent. It will be remembered that on Friday last in order to bring the item covering “ Wood, all articles made of, n.e.i.,” and general furniture, on the same plane, we agreed to a request raising the duties on general furniture to 35 and 30 per cent. When these matters were being discussed in another place, it was stated that the Government considered that wicker, bamboo, and cane articles, included in item 304, should be dutiable at the rates attaching to general furniture, and consequently the duties on this item were reduced from 45 and 40 per cent, as the Tariff was originallv submitted, to 35 and 25 per cent. Since then, on Friday last, as I have said, we agreed to request the House of Representatives to make the preferential duty on general furniture the same as that on item 306, “ Wood, all articles made of, n.e.i.,” viz., 35 and 30 per cent. I am, in the circumstances, prepared to go with Senator Lynch to the length of imposing a duty of 30 per cent, instead of 25 per cent, on imports, under this item from the United Kingdom. If that course were adopted, we should have duties of 35 and 30 per cent imposed on item 299, general furniture, item 306, “Wood, all articles-made of, n.e.i.,” and on this item, 304. That would provide for something like uniformity, and I do not know of any reason why the duties imposed on the articles included in this item should be higher than those we have decided to impose on the articles included in the other items to which I have referred. I know that there is a certain amount of competition from the East in respect of articles included in item 300, lounges and settees, and 301, chairs, made of bamboo and cane, and we dealt “with those items on Friday. I ask Senator Lynch to be satisfied with an increase in the duty on imports from the United Kingdom, under this item, from 25 to 30 per cent,, and so equalize the duties oh this item with those on items 299 and 306.
.- The Minister says that he does not see any reason why there should be any difference between the duties on general furniture. under item 299, and the duties on articles of wicker, bamboo, and cane, included under item 304. But surely the honorable senator must recognise that the competition of . the East is more acute than that of any other country that one could cite. Labour in the East is paid at poorer rates than in any other part of the world, whilst the labourers have to work longer hours and under worse conditions than those in any other part of the world. We have declared definitely, and I hope for all time, in favour of a white Australia. We keep out Japanese, Chinese, and natives of the Straits Settlement, and surely to be consistent we should shut out the goods made by these people when they come into serious competition with articles made by Australian workmen under Australian conditions? It is impossible for Australian workmen to engage in this industry successfully unless they receive the highest measure of protection. Referring to some of this class of work which finds its way into Australia, I mentioned on Friday last that, when in the East, I bought for 9s. 2d. articles which I might have purchased for 8s. - if I had tried to 1beat down the Chinaman from whom I got them: - and which are retailed here at 3 7s. 6d. The rates of pay obtaining in the East run from 4d. to is: a day, and is. per day is considered a very high wage in Japan and China. It should be remembered that the persons engaged in this industry in Victoria and possibly in all of the States do not work for more than eight hours per day, and they receive a wage which in many of the States is fixed by statute.
– There are many Chinese making furniture in Melbourne.
– It is perfectly true, as Senator W. Russell says, that a number of Chinese are engaged in making furniture in Melbourne, and I think that they should be protected against their own countrymen abroad.
– Protection for the Chinese !
– Yes, because in Victoria the Chinese workers in this trade must comply with the conditions of Victorian legislation, and their hours and wages are fixed. They are chiefly engaged in manufacturing the furniture which is included under item 299. I have not seen any wicker-work furniture made by Chinese in Victoria, but if they are making it here they are doing so under conditions totally dissimilar to those which apply to their countrymen in China. T hope that the highest measure of protection will be given to all engaged in this industry in Australia. No analogy can be drawn between the furniture included in item 299 and that included in item 304. The general furniture included in item 299 is made in different parts of the world, But in no part of the world under such conditions as prevail in China, Japan, and the Straits Settlements. For the reasons I have given, I cannot understand why the Government cannot see their way to make an exception in the case of the articles included in this item.
.- This item affects an industry which we should encourage as much as possible. It is one that is peculiarly adapted to the country, as this class of furniture is more suitable to our hot climate than is the ordinary furniture included in item 299. It is an excellent industry for the employment of our young people, and a large number are at present employed in it. The competition in the industry locally is quite sufficient to insure reasonable prices, even though the higher duty suggested should be imposed. The raw material required is abundant in. Australia. Willows grow along our streams, and, like weeds, along our irrigation channels, and they may be looked to for an addition to the income from other sources of settlers on irrigated lands. I am prepared to support the proposed increase of duty, and though the bulk of these articles are imported from the East, there should be a reasonable preference in respect of baskets and similar small articles imported from the United Kingdom.
– If I were to judge from the speeches 1 have heard, I should conclude that Australia is . overwhelmed by imports of these goods from the East. As a matter of fact, I find that the total value of the imports of articles included in items 304 and 305 does not amount to more than £4,896 for the whole of Australia.
– How are they invoiced ?
– I have no doubt that they are very carefully invoiced, as we have a number of lynx-eyed Customs officers who know the value of these goods. No one would imagine from the speeches that have been made that our imports of these articles are really so insignificant as they are. The figures show that a duty of even 20 per cent, under the old Tariff was sufficient to keep the importations within bounds. I should like honorable senators to bear in mind that the duty of 35 per cent, proposed in the schedule is really a duty of 38½ per cent. The 20 per cent, duty collected under the old Tariff really represented 22 per cent., because whatever be the rate one-tenth is added under the Customs Act. One-tenth of 35 would be’ 3½, and therefore the duty proposed under item 304 on imports under the general Tariff really represents a duty of 38½ per cent. I daresay that Senator Lynch was not aware of the fact.
– Yes, we have known that for some time.
– Am I to understand that Senator Lynch desires the imposition of a duty of 45 per cent, plus 4½ per cent., or 49 per cent. ? The thing is protection run mad. Why have not honorable senators the manliness to propose straight away the prohibition of the importation of these goods? I could admire a protectionist who stood to his guns and made such a proposal. But to propose a duty of this extravagant character, which is practically prohibition, does not seem- to me to be an honest way of dealing with the matter.
– If the honorable senator adds one-tenth in the first instance he cannot afterwards add it to the value of the goods.
– Of course not. I was not attempting any such feat. I was pointing out that the honorable senator’s proposal is to impose a duty of 45 per cent, which, plus one-tenth, would make the real duty 491 per cent. The duty, as it is submitted to us, is 38! per cent., and if that is not enough, especially in face of these trifling importations, what can be? T am certain that if a duty of 60 per cent, had been proposed, very much the same speeches would have been delivered. We should have had Senator Lynch declaring that in order to protect our workmen we must have a duty of 70 per cent., and so on. There is no satisfying honorable senators when they get thoroughly inoculated with this protectionist theory. The imports are almost invisible - only , £4,800 - when - spread over the whole Commonwealth, and . yet we have an outcry as if it were being deluged with these articles from outside countries. Surely there can be some little Teason even in our madness !
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South. Australia) [8.31]. - Whatastonishes me isthe variety of reasons given for increasing, this duty. At one time one would think that it was done on account of the WhiteAustralia policy. It is a new idea tomake use of the Tariff in order to assist a. policy of that kind, good though it may be. Another ground, urged by Senator Trenwith I think, is that . some of these articlescome from what he calls plague-infectedi countries.
– They all do.
– That, is another element in the consideration of a. Tariff, and in relation to articles on which duties are sought to be imposed in order to encourage local industries. We are alsotold by Senator McColl that one reason why we should have encouraging duties on these articles is that, as they are suitable to the climate, they are greatly used here. He has stated- that wicker chairs are very comfortable and. airy to sit upon, . and that for that reason we ought if possible to impose this higher duty. If that is the ca.se, surely we ought to reduce the duty? I quite admit that wicker and cane furnituit - whether it be chairs or sofas or anything else - is very suitable to our climate, particularly in summer, and very much better and healthier, than the furniture which is stuffed and upholstered. But if that is the case, why should we penalize its use by raising the duty from 38 or 40 to 45 per cent., with all the added percentages bringing it up to really 50 per cent, on the value of the article? My protectionist friends admit that their object is, up to a certain point,- to add to the cost of the articles, because otherwise there is no protection to the local manufacturer. I do not say that they go’ quite to the length of affirming that proposition, but they go to a sufficient length for my purpose. If that is the case, is it not very much fairer and better for the consumer that we should keep the duty down- I am putting now the view as it may present itself to a protectionist - to a sufficient level not to be an extreme burden upon the consumer, whilst at the same time preserving that encouragement tothe manufacturer which they wish to give to him? The total importation of these articles from all countries during 1906 was £4,896 worth. I do not know what the local production is, or what the extent of the purchase of these things in this country may be, but I do know that, under a duty of 20 per cent., the lighter kinds of furniture have been made to -an infinite degree more largely in Australia than they used to be. Why should we more than double that duty ? Senator McColl takes credit for supporting this increase, because he says that in the next column there will “be a fine opportunity for giving a British preference. It is a very small unction that he is laying to his soul in this instance, because the total importation of these articles from the United Kingdom ih 1906 was £238 worth. Yet he hopes to console himself ‘in voting for an enormous duty by the reflection that he is going to give a preference ‘ to the United Kingdom. Is it not ludicrous? I am sure that, on reflection, he will not feel that British trade is likely to benefit very much from the enormous increase which is proposed. I hope that he will reconsider his position, and say that he will not support such a huge increase in the duty. 1 trust that the request will not be seriously pressed.
– It will.
– I hope not. I feel sometimes great sympathy with my honorable friend; but when the argument ‘ is put to the Committee that these articles are greatly used, and that we ought to encourage the use of them in this country, I point out that they are used much more in poor houses than in rich ones.
– We ought to encourage the local manufacture of them.
– Yes, but we ought to think a little of the people in whose cottages this furniture ought to be introduced as early as possible.
– It is too dangerous.
– From his trip, to the East, my honorable friend has not reaped the advantage which I expected that he would derive, because the more we encourage the use of this furniture, from the sanitary point of view, in the humblest households, the better it will be for us. If we did trade with a 20 per cent, duty, why should we double the cost of these cheap articles to every poor woman ? I hope that honorable senators will take a reasonable view and will not allow their minds to be diverted from the real question by considerations of a White Australia policy, great as that may be, or by considerations of the possibility of introducing diseases from the countries in which this furniture is made.
– In those countries they always have plague.
– That is a very good reason why we should adopt some kind of quarantine provision, but it is no reason why we should double the import duty
– Honorable senators who first supported this request seem to me to have fallen into an error. When they urged this request as a means of protecting Australian labour from the cheap labour of the Straits Settlements they could not possibly have ascertained the countries from which wickerware has been imported, otherwise they could not have made such statements as they did. On page 637 of their report the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission give the imports of these articles and the countries from which they came. It must be remembered that we are not now dealing with the item of loungechairs and settees, which I believe do largely come from the Straits Settlements. We have fixed a duty of 45 per cent, on those articles, and I voted for its imposition because I recognise that they came largely from the Straits Settlements. We are now dealing with “ Wickerware n.e.i.” In 1904 - the last year for which any figures are given in this report - we imported wickerware to the value of £120,527, and one significant fact is that £101,000 worth, of this amount came from Great Britain, Germany, and the United States. The detailed figures are as follow: - The United Kingdom, £30,312 ; Canada, £584; Hong Kong, £3,184; India, £2,649; New Zealand, £384; Straits Settlements, £7,198; other British Possessions, £319 ; China, £469 ; Germany, £6,658 ; Japan, £3,047 ; Norway, £593 ; and the United States, £64,190. Out of a total importation of £120,527 worth, over £100,000 worth came from whitelabour countries, and the greatest exporter to Australia was the United States, with £64,190 worth, as compared with japan,, which sent £3,047 worth, and China-, which sent only £469 worth. This shows that our chief competitor is not the cheap labour of the East, but the high-paid labour of the United States.
– The articles with which we are now dealing come- largely from Japan and China.
– If the honorable senator will read the report of the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission he will find that they do not say so. They do say that lounges, settees, and chairs come largely from the Straits Settlements. But that is not an argument that ought to be used in connexion with a totally different item. We have already fixed the duty on those goods at 45 per cent. But that is no reason for imposing a duty of 45 per cent.on a totally different article.
– Are not these goods used as a substitute for the other article ?
– No; the item with which we are dealing is included in the figures which I have quoted, and the large imports which come from the Straits Settlements are, as I have already said, included in a totally different item, upon which we have alreadv fixed a duty of 45 per cent. Not onlv is it a fact that our chief competitors are white labour and high- wage countries, but it is also a fact that Victoria was not only able to compete in this State itself under a 25 per cent, duty, but was able to export. On page 36 of the report of the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission I find this statement -
In addition, wicker work of Victorian origin was exported to Cape Colony, Natal, and other places. The value of the total exports was £30,570, of which , £5,552 worth was sent to Oversea places.
So that, to the extent of£5,552,an amount greater than the figures quoted with reference to imports from the Straits Settlements, Victoria was able to compete in the world’s markets against the cheap-labour countries.
– There must be something wrong with those figures. I do not believe them.
– I take them from the report of the Tariff Commission, which shows that they are founded upon the evidence of Mr. Baker, who, I believe, is known to SenatorFindley. Under these circumstances, 1 say that the. protection proposed by the Government is ample. It is more than existed when Victoria was able to export; and, moreover, the competition that we have to fear is not an unfair competition, inasmuch as it comes from the United States, where. wages approximate to our own.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [8.50]. - I am greatly indebted to Senator Pearce for what he has said, and find that the figures quoted by him are confirmed in detail in the statistical returns to which reference has been made. The imports for 1906 correspond very nearly with the figures given by Senator Pearce for the year 1904.
– That return includes woodwork.
– The figures whichI quoted did not include woodwork.
– The figures show that from the United Kingdom come£57,000 worth; from the United States,£30,616 from other foreign countries,£1,480; and that the proportion, which includes wicker, from the Straits Settlements, was only onetwelfth, or£10,000. Therefore there can be no doubt thatthe figures quoted by Senator Pearce were . correct.
.- Senator Pearce would make the Committee believe that the bulk of the imports came from countries’ . where the conditions of labour are better than those observed in the East. It is perfectly true that he quoted correctly from the report of the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission, page 36. But I am informed bv the Customs officials that the figures which he quoted referred to wickerware and woodware.
– They are differentiated lower down, and I quoted the figures as to wickerware only.
– The omission of the reference to woodware makes all the difference.
– No, it does not.
– There is not the slightest doubt that the bulk of these imports come, not from the United States and Germany, but from the Straits Settlements, Japan, and China.
– No proof.
– The East is the home of the cane and bamboo . industry. The statement made before the Tariff Commission that those engaged in this industry in Victoria were able to export in successful competition with goods made in the East is one that I cannot accept.
– If the honorable senator reads on he will find that the total imports of wood and cane from the Straits Settlements are given, and they do not come to any’thing like one-twelfth of the total.
– I do challenge Senator Pearce’s statement that the bulk of these imports come from countries where the conditions are better than those which obtain where the workers are employed long hours under sweated circumstances. I hope that Senator Lynch will push bis request to a vote, and I trust thatthe majority of the Committee will favour the increased duty. There is not the slightest. doubt that this industry cannot be carried on successfully in any of the States unless the highest form of protection is given to it.
– I feel that a mistake has been made somewhere, because, although Senator Pearce gave ‘the Committee to understand that £30,000 worth of wickerwork was exported from Victoria, the Customs returns for the five years ending 1906 do not show anything near that quantity of exports. The exports of wickerwork, &c, were £14,000 in 190.2, £[13,000 in 1903, £9,000 in 1904, £13,000 in 1905, and £1.1,000 in 1906.
– The value of the exports was , £30,000 altogether, of which £5,000 worth went oversea.
– That is rather more . ‘than ‘we imported’ under the n.e.i. class.
-Still, the fact remains that, this item includes wood manufactures, which makes all the difference, and renders Senator Pearce’s argument quite valueless-. Returning to the imports, I find that in 1906 £[4,800 worth were imported ; in 1907 the imports were £.6,800 - a clear increase in wickerwork alone of £2,000 in one year. The fact that there was an increase of £[2,000 worth of imports in wickerwork alone is sufficient warrant’ for an increased duty.
– That increase is for the whole Commonwealth.
– It cannot fill us with any great degree of delight to see an increase in one year of £[2,000 worth of wickerware from the Straits Settlements, Japan, and China - work which our own people caini do here. That increase of importation clearly indicates that the 20 per cent, duty was ineffective. I ask the Committee to place these articles on the same plane with chairs, lounges, and settees at a reasonable duty that will give our workmen a chance to supply our own requirements, and, if possible, to compete in foreign markets.
.- I hope the Committee will not be carried away by any special pleading with regard to this item, because if there is any item in the whole schedule which should appeal to every man who understands the facts and is animated by any humanitarian feelings at all, it is this. It deserves and should get the highest protection which Parliament can give it, because the industry covered by it provides the bulk of the employment for the unfortunate blind, deaf, and dumb people of Australia. Honorable senators may sneer and laugh, but that is a fact which there is no gainsaying. It is no laughing matter for the people who depend almost entirely on this industry to get ai living, not only in one, but in several of the States. It may seem extraordinary to people not acquainted with the facts that blind people should excel in making wickerware, but they make excellent frames for perambulators, and many other articles. This is one of the industries on which the blind mainly depend for profitable employment. Just outside Brisbane there is an institution largely subsidized by the Government for blind, deaf, and dumb people. They are taught a trade there. The two trades chiefly carried on are basket making and brush making. Mat making and one or two other occupations are also taken up.
– Does the honorable senator think that local competition is good for those people?
– If they are to be subjected to any competition, I should prefer it to be local competition rather than that of the Malay States or any parts of Asia. There are similar institutions in various parts of Australia. I understand that there is one in Victoria.
– To carry out his argument, the honorable senator should give higher protection to the blind than to people outside engaged in this industry.
– The honorable senator must think I am blind to be caught with any of his cheap chaff. He would go into the High Court to-morrow and argue that we cannot discriminate. Perhaps he would like another vagary in the Tariff to provide more costs for the profession of which he is so distinguished an ornament.
– On this occasion I shall not be able to vote with those with whom I usually vote.
– Who are thev?
– Occasionally with the honorable senator, except on corsets. I regard 45 per’ cent, as altogether too high. I have come to the conclusion that
I must vote on this request, for conscience sake, on the other side. From this out, the attitude which I intend to adopt, although I may be bounced and abused by Senator Findley, is to regard the schedule as it now stands as about the right thing, and as high as we can expect. If we want to get it through before Christmas “we ought to stand by it as closely as possible. With but few exceptions, I intend to adhere to that decision.
– For six years this industry has been working under a 20 per cent. duty. Another place has nearly doubled that rate in the first column, and increased it by 5 per cent, in the second. That ought to be sufficient . protection for any industry that is worth carrying on in Australia. There must be added to it the immense cost of freight, so that it becomes practically a prohibitive duty. It is perfectly true that this work is carried on by blind people. There is in my own State a fairly large establishment where work of this sort is done and which is able to dispose of the whole of its product without any difficulty. It is really beautiful work which any one might be proud to have in his house. I have purchased a good deal of it myself. Those people do not require any higher duty, and therefore there” is no necessity to impose the prohibitive rate now advocated.
– I should not have risen but for Senator Givens’ humanitarian appeal . in regard to the sufferings of the blind. I protest against statements of that sort being levelled against this side of the Chamber to influence us in our votes. We are all proud to know that there is a means by which the blind can put the senses which they have to so useful a purpose, but if honorable senators opposite will go to the blind establishments and purchase the goods that are made there, they will be doing them far more benefit than by attempting here to teach us how we should conduct the affairs of the Commonwealth in regard to those institutions. It is outrageous that such a prohibitive duty should be proposed, without the tiniest evidence in support of it. The whole argument for it centres round the fact that in one year there was an increase of £2,000 in the imports for the whole of Australia. But so far as we know the industry has been healthy for six years under a 20 per cent, duty, and the blind institutions have been carried on profitably. Not a single request has been made by those institutions for an increase of . duty, and there has been no statement from them that any such increase would assist them. If they did make such., an appeal to Parliament, I am sure that it would meet with a sympathetic reception, but to ask the Committee to increase the duty from 20 to 45 per cent, on the strength of such statements as we have just heard is almost a reflection on the sanity of members, who were not sent here to vote for such absurd and prohibitive rates.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 304, “ Wicker, Bamboo, and Cane “ (imports under General Tariff) ad val. 45 per cent. (Senator Lynch’s request) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
– As I intimated when speaking to a previous request, I . propose to ask the Committee . to agree to a request to increase the duty under this item on imports from the United Kingdom from 25 per- cent, to 30 per cent. These duties were moved in another place to bring them into conformity with the duties attached to item 299, general furniture, and item 304, “ Wood, articles made of, n.e.i.” We have carried a request increasing the duty on imports from the United Kingdom of general furniture from 25 per cent, to 30 per cent., and I ask the Committee to bring the duty on this item into conformity with that. In the circumstances I need not burden the Committee with arguments in support of the request. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 304 (imports under General Tariff), ad val. 45 per cent.
– I am reminded, by the action now being taken by the Government and the reasons assigned for it, of the old couplet.
O, what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive.
Of course I am not accusing the Government of any attempt to deceive. The reason given for the increase of this duty is in order to bring it into conformity with item 299, covering the bulk of our imports of furniture. When dealing with that item the Government asked us to agree to an increase of the duty on imports from the United Kingdom in order to bring it into conformity with item 306. . In another place Sir William Lyne moved to reduce the duties on the item we are now discussing in order to bring it into conformity with item 299, but the Government themselves broke away from their proposal under item 299 and increased the duties attached to that item, because they said they wished to bring it into conformity with item 306. Now that we have reached item 304, we are asked to increase the duties on imports from the United Kingdom in order to bring the item into conformity with item 299, which the Government themselves endeavoured to raise. I have not the slightest doubt that before we go very much further we shall be told we should increase the duties on some other item in order to bring it into conformity with the increased duties now proposed on this item. .
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Request agreed to.
Item 305. Basketware, n.e.i., ad val. (General Tariff), 45 per cent., and on and after 6th December, 1907, 35 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), 40 per cent., and on and after 6th December, 1907, 25 per cent.
– Although I am aware that I enter upon a somewhat hopeless task in the endeavour to secure the imposition of a reasonable duty upon this item, I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 305 (imports under General Tariff), ad val. 45 per cent.
The moving of this request, if it serves no other purpose, will give the Government an opportunity to return to the path of consistency. Last Friday the representatives of the Government in the Senate thought fit to vote for a duty of 45 per cent, on chairs, lounges and settees. Why they have abandoned their attitude on that occasion is for them to say. It is not clear to me why they should to-day abandon a position they took up on Friday last.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That theHouse of Representatives be requested to make the duty on item 305 (imports from the United Kingdom), ad val. 30 per cent.’
– This Tequest is moved to secure uniformity ?
– My object is’ to secure uniformity in the schedule and efficient protection. The Government, I understand, are not disposed to support my proposal. Any one claiming to be an efficient protectionist cannot do other than give it his support. I have paid a visit to the East, and know at what prices these baskets are made, and invoiced there, and introduced here. When I was in Yokohama, out of curiosity, I bought three baskets of ordinary size for 56’. Such baskets are retailed in Victoria at from is. 3d. to is. 6d. each, and in some States at is. od.
– Was not the honorable senator afraid of the plague ?
– At that particular time there was no plague in Japan. We know that the dress baskets, which a few years ago were rather extensively made by Australian workmen in the different States, are not being made to-day in any number. If my honorable friends want to give protection to an Australian industry, this is a fair request, which I trust will receive the support of a majority.
– I certainly moved a request to increase the duty on wicker, bamboo, and cane articles when imported from the United ‘Kingdom from 25 to 30 per cent., in order that it should come under the same rate of duty as furniture. But we did not consider that it was necessary to subject “ Basketware n.e.i.” to the same rate as furniture. I remind Senator Findley that, although he has referred to the difference in the conditions of labour in the East and Australia, the column with which we are now dealing refers to imports from the United Kingdom. So far as I know, no one has suggested that “ Basketware n.e.i.” should be taxed at the same rate as furniture.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Item 306. Wood, all articles made of, n.e.i., whether partly or wholly finished; including Bellows; Sashes, and Frames; Wire-doors; Window Screens; Walking Sticks; Hods; Mallets; Rakes j Grain Shovels; Saw Frames; Mitre Boxes ; Wood Bungs ; Wood Type ; Wood Rules ; Washboards ; ‘ and Knifeboards, ad val. 40 per cent. ; and on and after 6th December, 1907 (General Tariff), 35 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), 30 per cent.
– In accordance with the notice I have given, I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 306 by leaving out the wprds “Wood Rules” apd inserting the following new paragraph : - “ b. Wood Rules for school use, free.”
I hold in my hand a sample of a school rule, which is dutiable at 35 or 30 per cent., according to the country of origin. Under item 168 Ave have allowed the tools of trade of artisan’s to come- in free, but under this item it is proposed to tax the little wood rule which a child uses both in and out of school at 35 or 30 per cent., according to the country of origin. I am not going to say . that it cannot be made in Australia, because I know that it can; but I point out that within the space of fourteen days a sufficient number of wood rules of this description could be made to supply the local demand for the next eighteen months. No carpenter, joiner, of other mechanic would use a bevelled wood rule of this description for any trade purpose; but his child does.
– Looking at the sample from a distance, I think that thousands of such rules are used by advertisers. Why should they get them free?
– The wood rules to which my honorable friend refers bear upon them the names of the firms by whom they are used for advertising purposes. But the wood rule which I hold in my hand advertises no firm. It is used throughout the Commonwealth by school children both in school and at home. I appeal to even the most extreme protectionist to assist me in carrying this request.
– Senator Needham would best attain his object if he would move a request to amend this item by inserting the letters “n.e.i.” after the words “ Wood Rules,” and afterwards, if he succeeded in getting a majority, a request to make this particular kind of rule free. The Tariff would then stand in regard to other rules just as it is. He must bear in mind that wood rules of greater length than the sample he has shown are imported. I presume that he would only want his request to apply to wood rules 1 foot long.
– To wood rules for school use, like the sample which I have shown.
– Wood rules of greater length, as long as a yard I think, are imported, and many of them are used for advertising all kinds of articles. It would be unwise to allow such rules to come in duty free. I . observe that the sample rule which the honorable senator has handed to me was made in Germany. I do not know that we cannot make these articles satisfactorily in the Commonwealth.
– I did not say that we could not.
– The best way for the honorable senator to achieve his object would be to move for the insertion after the words “ Wood Rules,” the letters “ n.e.i.,” and subsequently to move for the insertion of a new paragraph to the effect “ Wood Rules, not exceeding one foot in length, for school purposes, free.” I am not saying that it is a desirable request, but that, I think, is the form in which it should be moved.
– Can the Minister tell us why printers’ wood type and wood rules were free in the former Tariff, and are now on the 35 per cent, list?
– Surely it would be. more convenient if “the wood rules referred to by Senator Needham were dealt with under item 364, paragraph b, which relates to stationery articles.
– Can the Minister inform the Committee whether the wood rules _ referred to by Senator Needham are being made in Australia, and whether their manufacture necessitates an extensive plant ?
– In reply to Senator Vardon, I may explain that printers’ wood type. and wood rules are included in this item because of a recommendation of the A section of the Tariff Commission. I understand that these goods can be produced within the Commonwealth, and that it has been considered that a measure of protection should be afforded. As to Sena- tor Chataway’s remarks, the rulers dealt with in item 364b are round rulers, and are different in character from the flat rules used for measurement purposes referred to by Senator Needham. I do hot know whether these rules are being- manufactured in the Commonwealth at present.
– There is evidently some confusion as to my object. I simply want to make free such rules as are used in schools. I have no objection to adopting the method suggested by Senator Keating.
– How would the honorable senator distinguish between rules used for school purposes and those used for other purposes?
– I am not aware that these flat rules are used elsewhere than in schools.
– They are used in surveyors’ offices.
– I ask Senator Needham to withdraw his request temporarily, to enable me to .move one with regard to printers’ wood type and rules.
Request, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 306 by leaving out the words “ Wood Type,” and inserting new paragraph : - “ b. Wood Type and Printers’ Wood Rules, free.”
This is a subject about which I know something. If there” were any possibility of an industry for the making of these goods being established and profitably conducted I should not be -averse from giving it some protection. But,- as a matter of fact, practically the English-speaking world is supplied with wood type by Day and ‘Collins, of London, and the Hamilton Wood Manufacturing Company, of America.. It would be an utter impossibility, for any man to establish a profitable business in this line in Australia. I have been in business for a great many years, and no one has ever called upon me to say that he was making wood type in Australia. But, of course, I have seen a . quantity of wood types made.
– I have seen them chopped out with a tomahawk.
– But they are not made in Australia for general use. I may explain that the matter does not affect me personally, because in my business I use wood type to an infinitesimal extent. But it is not right to penalize the whole printing trade ulnless it can be shown that the work is actually being done in Australia.
.- I hope that the Committee will not agree to Senator Vardon’s request. He gives as a reason forit that there are in America and in England certain manufacturers of wood type who supply the whole of the printers of the Commonwealth. The same argument might have been used when we were dealing with metal type.
– It could not be said that! there are only two firms that supply ihe whole of our metal type.
– But there are certain large firms that have practically the command of the Australian market. I doubt whether ‘there is anything easier in connexion with the printing trade than making wood type.
– Why do they not do it? .
- Senator Chataway said a few minutes ago that’ he had seen letters chopped out with a tomahawk. I have seen excellent wood letters cut by apprentices employed by a well-known firm of printers in Melbourne. Some of the best artistic work seen on our hoardings is ‘the result of printing done from wood type artistically drawn and cut in Victoria.
– The honorable senator is speaking of wood blocks.’
– I am speaking of wood letters. I myself have worked for a firm of theatrical printers in whose office I saw letters excellently cut.”
– That is not making wood type.
– I am pointing out how easy it is for suchan industry to be established. If this measure of protection be given, it is probable that somebody will embark in the industry, because there is an ever increasing demand for large wooden letters. Just as good a result is obtained from wooden type as from metal. I do not see how printers can be seriously handicapped, because, as Senator Vardon knows, in the very big establishments they can make their own large wood letters.
– They do not make a business of it.
– There is no reason why a business should not be created under a duty of this kind. A person embarking in it could take up other lines.
– The honorable senator admits that there is no business at present.
– I will not admit that. At any rate, there is room for the creation of an industry. There are no difficulties in the way of this wdrk Being done in Australia by Australian workmen. There is always a demand for big posters and show printing.
– The use of wooden type in other directions is decreasing.
– I have not found it so in the larger cities. The bigger the city the bigger the form of advertising, and the bigger the letters required, which must be of wood. Nothing could be easier than to make in Australia the’ wood rules required in printing offices for poster work. There would be nothing hard in making one for oneself without running to the printer’s broker for it.
– The honorable senator would be a pretty shoddy printer.
– A man in a small way has to be resourceful. The successful printer generally begins in a small way, arid his resourcefulness stands him in good stead as he gets on. I %’enture to say that immediately after the imposition of this duty the industry will be established in Australia. There is a foundry in New South Wales for making metal types, and the probabilities are that those people will undertake the manufacture of wood types also.
– The duty will penalize the printing trade for forty years.
– If I believed that for the next forty vears there would be no establishment in Australia for the making of wood types and wood rules, I should not vote for this duty.
– It is admitted that this is a purely. speculative duty, as there is no person carrying on the business in the Commonwealth, and the duty is to be imposed to encourage somebody to undertake it if possible. I appeal to the Committee not to impose a duty of that character. As I said previously, if there were a manufacturer here doing the work, I should lse willing to give him some protection. The demand1 will be too small in Australia for many years to come for a man to lay down the necessary plant and produce these articles profitably. If that were not so, I would not oppose the duty. It is to be imposed in the hope that somebody by-and-by will take up the industry, but in the meantime the printer is to be unjustly penalized by being made to pay J55per cent, on some of his tools of trade.
– I am not prepared to say that I altogether disagree with Senator Findley’s remarks about wooden rules. I am under the impression that they are made in Australia. It not, they ought to be. If there is any difficulty in the matter, if is oniy a question of the timber of which they are made. It has to be wood of a particular varietv, but there should be nothing to prevent the obtaining of that, and then it would be a very small matter to manufacture wooden rules in the form in which printers use them. But the small and decreasing amount being used in the world makes it highly improbable that the industry of manufacturing wood type will ever be established in Australia in a form worth dignifying with the name of an industry. Many of us have had at different times to make shifts of one sort and another, but that is no reason why we should impose a heavy duty with the idea that it will compel a lot of those people who make shifts to join hands in the endeavour to establish the work as a permanent business. The printing trade is developing along lines which clearly show that the wood type is doomed almost to extinction. A lot of display anH fancy type which, ; i short time ago was set by hand, is now set up by the machines.
– That is onlv small stuff.
– I know it, but it will be onlv a matter of time before it is done on a large scale. If there is to lie a duty on wood type, why should printers have to pay 35 per cent, on it, and only 15 per cent, on metal type? .
– Twenty per cent.
– I ‘ think the Committee eventually passed metal type at
T5 per cent. If wood type is not made free, it should be included with other printers’ material at the same rate. It is not reasonable to impose a duty of 35 per cent, in the case of an industry which is not established in Australia, and not likely to be except in the dim and distant future, when politicians sprout angels’ wings, while a duty of onlv 20 per cent., to accept Senator Findley’s figures, is agreed to in the case of the metal-type industry already established in Sydney, which has every prospect of increasing, and of extending to other parts of Australia. To be logical, we should give the higher duty to the industry which is not only necessary, but established here, instead of to an industry which even Senator Findley, who has the greatest faith in the early establishment of trades so long as a duty is put upon imports, admits is not in existence in Australia yet, nor likely to be for a considerable time.
– Cannot Queensland wood be used?
– We have excellent wood in Queensland, which we are quite prepared to supply to anybody who manufactures this type, but that does not mean that some one will start at once to manufacture it. Senator Vardon should at least ask the Committee not to make the duty on wood type higher than on metal type.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to amend . item 306, “Wood, Articles of, n.e.i.,” by leaving out the words “ Wood Type,” and inserting the following new paragraph : - “ b. Wood Type and Printers’ Wood Rules, free ‘ ‘ (Senator Vardon’ s request) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority… … 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I havebeen asked by some honorable senators to confine my request to wood type, and I now move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 306 by leaving out the words “ Wood type “ and adding the following new paragraph b. Wood type, ad val. 15 per cent.”
– I hope that Senator Vardon will not persist with his request. I point out to honorable senators who argue that the duty on wood type should be the same as that on metal type, that whilst we have imposed a duty of 15 per cent, on steel rails we have imposed duties as high as 35 per cent, on manufactures of wood. To be consisteint we should- impose a duty on wood type proportionate to the duties imposed on other manufactures of wood.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Request (by Senator Needham) agreed to -
That the House of Representatives be requested to insert after the word “Rules” the letters “n.e.i.”
– We have heard so much during this evening about the claims - of humanity that I propose to test the claims of humanity as they appeal to honorable senators. I do not know why we should insist . upop taxing the washerwoman of Australia, and I therefore move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to further amend item 306 by leaving out the word “Washboards,” and by adding the following new paragraph : - “ b. Washboards, free.”
.- I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to further amend item 306 by inserting after the word “ Knif eboards “ a semicolon and the words “also Boxes containing Cigars.”
For the information of the Committee I may point out that under paragraph s of item 303, timber for making boxes or doors which covers the timber from which cigarboxes are made in the Commonwealth is dutiable at 2s. 6d. per 100 feet super, face. There are persons in the Commonwealth who import cigar-boxes in parts and assemble the parts here. . These parts also bear a duty, but the importer of cigars pays no duty on the boxes in which they are packed.
– Because they are only packing.
– Year in and year out no ‘less than 500,000 boxes containing cigars are imported, and these boxes ought to be made in the Commonwealth. There are a few persons at present engaged in this industry, and they are being rapidlydriven out.
– The honorable senator should not make us a laughing-stock for the world.
– Some honorable senators make a laughing-stock of themselves, not only in this Chamber, but outside of it, . because whenever a request is proposed in the interests of Australian workmen, they are consumed with laughter at the expense of Australia and Australian industries.
– The effect of the honorable senators request would be to add to the price of cigars.
– It would not add to the price of cigars. If my request were accepted, the duty on cigar boxes containing cigars, would be 35 per cent., which would probably amount to 2d. or 2¼d. per box, and how is that duty to be passed on and added to the price of the cigar? How could any one spread the extra cost of 2d. over 100 cigars?
– By charging 2d. per 100 more for the cigars.
– No : the importers would have to pay the duty on the boxes. My request is in accordance with a recommendation of the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission, and is in the interests of an Australian industry. I confidently ask honorable senators, who have so far extended assistance to Australian industries, to support this reasonable request.
– Does the honorable senator think that the ribbon with which the cigars are tied should also be taxed ?
– When, later on, we come to deal with the duties on paper, does the honorable senator intend to propose a duty cm the paper with which cigar-boxes are lined?
– I think that the ribbon and paper referred to are already taken into consideration in weighing the cigars, which pay duty according to weight.
– When a box containing 100 cigars is weighed for the purpose of fixing the duty, are the cigars taken out of the box?
– The box, not being dutiable, is not weighed. For the reasons I have given, I ask honorable senators to support my request.
– This is a most extraordinary request. I have never previously heard it suggested that an outer packing should be subject to duty when the contents are liable to the highest duty, to be imposed under this Tariff. We are asked to sanction this proposal on the ground that the local manufacturer of cigar-boxes has to pay duty on .the timber he uses, but Senator Findley knows very well that the local manufacturer is given about the highest protection enjoyed by any industry in Australia.
– What protection has he?
– The difference between the Excise duty and the Customs duty on cigars which he puts into the box.
– What has that to do with his box? .
– I am dealing with the honorable senator’s argument that his boxes have to be made out of taxed material. I wish to point out to honorable senators that the local manufacturers have an enormous protection,’ and can easily afford to pay a trifling duty on the timber which they require for making their boxes. To upset all trade usages by adding to the enormous duty on cigars a small duty on the box is really carrying the idea of protection to such ultra lengths that we shall become more than a laughingstock to the universe.
– -The circumstances referred to by Senator Findley do constitute an anomaly, but as the item stands it is more than open to question whether the boxes are not already dutiable as articles made of wood n.e.i. Senator’ Pulsford has spoken of the extraordinary character of this proposal, because it means taxing ‘the outer package or cover or case of goods which in themselves are dutiable. As a matter of fact, it is provided in the Tariff that where bottles containing goods which are the subject of an ad valorem duty are imported, the value of the Dottles shall be added to the value of the contents, and the ad valorem duty assessed on the total sum. Where bottles contain goods which are the subject of a specific duty or duty free, or which contain nothing, a specific duty of so much per dozen, according to their she, is levied on the bottles. The same applies to other containers in the forms of demijohns and vessels of larger capacity, so that in relation to other provisions in the Tariff there is nothing extraordinary about this proposition.
– The duty on cigars runs up to 200 or 300 per cent.
– The honorable senator is confusing two different things. This request has nothing to do which the duty on cigars. It- simply proposes that the box containing cigars should be dutiable as an article made of wood. What Senator Findley has pointed out .is that the manufacturer of cigar-boxes imports certain classes of woods for that purpose, and that on such imports he has to pay a certain duty. Again, he may have the parts cut abroad and faced, and import them just ready for assembling. In that case he has to pay at the rate of 2s. 6d. “ per 100 feet super, face.” On the other hand, as was represented to the Tariff Commission, quite a large number of boxes come annually into each State, and pay r.o duty, and in very many instances are used afterwards.
– Empty ?
– If they come in empty they have to pay duty. If they are imported in parts to be assembled here, they are dutiable. But if they come in filled with cigars they do not pay duty, although the cigars do. Many cigar-boxes after they have been emptied have been turned to other uses here, to the great detriment of the local makers of cigarboxes. In these circumstances, and seeing that it is more than probable that already they are covered by the provision for articles made of wood n.e.i., there is no reason why the Committee should not make the matter absolutely certain by agreeing to this request.
– A great principle is involved in the statement made bv the Minister, and T want to know whether boxes containing jewellery or other articles on which duties are levied are to be taxed a’t the same rates as their contents?
– The Minister has raised a very great question, and I want to know whether if cigar-boxes are to pay duty all other boxes are to be made dutiable. The number of cigar-boxes which come in are but as a drop in the bucket compared with the multitude of other boxes imported. Cocoa, chocolate and all sorts of goods are imported in small boxes. If the principle ‘ enunciated by the Minister is to take effect Senator Findley, having succeeded in securing a duty on cigar-boxes, may seek to impose a duty on every other small box used in our commerce. I hope that the Committee will not dream of supporting his request. Let us understand how far Senator Findley wants to” go, and whether he wishes all boxes to pay duty according to the rates levied on their contents.
.- It seems to me that Senator Findley is seeking to carry the policy of protection to a rather absurd extreme. I think that his request will fail to achieve his object. On the one hand we are taxing smokers very heavily, and, although the honorable senator says that a duty on the cigar-box cannot be passed on, I believe that it. will be passed on to the smoker. On the other hand, if a duty is imposed upon the box cigars will be imported in bundles.
– That will provide work for our box-makers and those who handle the boxes.
– If the honorable senator desires to prevent boxes from coming into use after they have been emptied, he should ask the Parliament to enact a provision compelling every importer to burn his boxes after they have been emptied. I think that the request is pushing protection to the extreme, and therefore I shall vote against it.
– The principle of this request has prevailed in the Victorian Tariff since Senator McColl has had any knowledge of protection. There are packages and packages. Those which are simply packages and are of no use when they have fulfilled their first purpose, are usually duty free. But there are packages which, after having served their purpose, have a commercial value for future use for a similar purpose, and for that reason they are made dutiable.
– It is a recent innovation, I think.
– No, my honorable friend has assisted with me to impose a duty on liquor in bottles and also a duty on the. bottles. That was a principle of the Victorian’ Tariff which he and 1 helped to enact, and of which” I think both of us had many reasons to be proud.
– We know that it is absolutely necessary to impose a duty on some packages which come in, but I cannot see that Senator Findley has put forward any sound reason for levying a duty on cigarboxes. He would have just as strong reasons for taxing the boxes in which pills are imported as he has for taxing boxes in which cigars are introduced. I sincerely trust that the Committee will not reduce itself to a mere laughing-stock by supporting any proposition of this kind.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 306, “ Wood, articles of, n.e.i.,” by inserting after the word “ Knifeboards “ the words “ also Boxes containing Cigars “ (Senator Findley’s request) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Request (by Senator Needham) prorcred -
Thai the House of Representatives be reguested to further amend item 3c6 by adding -the following new paragraph : - “ B. Wood Rules for school use, free.”
– I was just about to ask Senator Needham to agree to . add after the word “ use,” the words suggested by Senator Chataway,” as prescribed by departmental by-law.”. Otherwise there would be a likelihood of the wood rules being imported and used for other than school purposes. They might be used for advertising purposes.
– I can see a reason for adopting Senator Keating’s suggestion, and ask that the request be amended accordingly.
Request amended accordingly, and agreed to.
– There is an anomaly with ‘ regard to saddle-trees which I desire to correct. Saddles themselves are admitted at a duty of 25 per cent. It seems a very unreasonable thing to put a higher duty upon saddle-trees, without, which saddles cannot be made. I -understand that all cart and spring cart saddle-trees are. made in Australia, and there is no occasion to touch the duty on them. But I am informed that buggy, gig, cab and riding saddle-trees were’ admitted free under the. old Tariff, and ought to be admitted free under this Tariff; or, if not free, at a duty of, say, 15 per cent., with a 10 per cent, preference duty. I understand that a particular kind of ‘wood is required to make them. Beech is the favorite wood, and it is often imported specially- to make the finer class of saddles. I have a letter from a firm of saddle makers dealing with this subject. They say -
The old Tariff of 20 per cent, on imported saddlery, with the saddle-tree free, has proved itself all that was . necessary, seeing that all riding saddles are now manufactured in the Commonwealth. It was felt that the present proposals, ‘ putting at least 33 per cent, duty on the cost of the saddle-trees coming in a: manufactures of wood (item 306) was a direct impost on the . manufacturer, and that there is no prospect’ of the requirements of the trade being satisfied for years to come by local production, and even then, the quality, equal te British patents, is quite impossible.
It would not matter very much what the duty; was on the heavier kind of saddletrees. Would it be better to move a request with regard to riding and driving saddletrees or to specify ‘the particular kinds?
Senator KEATING (TasmaniaMinister of Home Affairs) [10.55J. - The Government would like to retain the hern as it stands, that saddle-trees be made dutiable at the rate specified. Evidence was submitted to. the Tariff Commission on the subject, and one witness pointed out that onefourth of the saddle-trees used in Australia were made locally, and that with adequate protection the whole of them could be made in the country.. The interests of Australia from a defence point of view also require that we should manufacture these things for ourselves. As to the form, of the request, if it is to be persisted in, I do not think that it is necessary to specify any saddletrees in particular, but I hope that the Committee will adhere, to the item as it stands.
Request (by Senator Dobson) proposed -
That the House of Representatives be requested to further amend item 306 bv adding the following new paragraph : - “ o. Saddle-trees, riding or driving, ad val. (General Tariff)! 15 per cent. ; (United Kingdom), 10 per cent.
– I hope that Senator Dobson will not persist in his request. Prior to the introduction of the 1902 Tariff,, when saddletrees were made free, there were four or five firms manufacturing saddle-trees in Adelaide. But since that Tariff was passed those firms have disappeared. They are prepared to. commence again if we give them a duty. As the Minister has pointed out, from the point of view of defence it is important that we should manufacture everything of that description.
– Iwas asked to take this matter up, but I see a difficulty in differentiating between the various kinds of saddle-trees. I am aware that the lighter kinds are sometimes made of iron. ‘We have a great variety of woods, some of which are suitable for making saddle-trees, though we have not the lighter kinds in Australia except in small, quantities. In one sense a saddle-tree is a tool of the trade of a saddler. But whether that is a sufficient argument for making the goods free I should not like to say.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives, with, amendments.
Senate adjourned at 11.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 March 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1908/19080325_senate_3_44/>.