8th Parliament · 2nd Session
ThePresident (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Electoral Act and Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act - Regulations amended -Statutory Rules 1922, No. 136.
Railways Act - Report, with Appendices, on Commonwealth Railways, for year ended 30th June, 1922.
River Murray Waters Act - River Murray Commission - Report for year ended 30th June, 1922.
War Precautions Act Repeal Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1922, No. 135.
Use of Line from Queanbeyan tofed- eralterritoryforpassengers.
– Has the Minister for Home and Territories been able to get any information with reference to a suggestion I made in this Chamber some time ago, that trains from Queanbeyan to the Federal Territory might be used for passenger services on certain days of the week ?
– I have not yet been able to get a report on the subject. I will ask that it be expedited.
– For the convenience of members of the Senate who are anxious to visit their States at the present critical time, can the Leader of the Government in the Senate give any information as to what is likely to be the course of business until the close of the session, which is said to be very near at hand ?
– If the honorable senator will look at the business-paper, he will see the order in which the business at present before the Senate is set out. It is liable to certain alteration. In addition, there are measures before another place which the Government announced their intention to submit, and itis necessary that the Senate also should deal with those measures. I am anxious that the’ discussion on the motion for the printing of the Estimates and Budgetpapers shall be resumed to give honorable senators the opportunity, for which they have so frequently expressed a desire, to discuss public finance. I shall endeavour to provide such an opportunity this week, but I am at present unable to say on what day.
Senator NEWLAND brought up reports from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed construction of Automatic Telephone Exchanges at East Sydney, Randwick, Waverley, and Gordon, in New South Wales, and at South Melbourne, in Victoria.
– Has the Minister representing the Prime Minister seen a statement in the press that a young aviator of Geelong, named Pratt, built an aeroplane of entirely Australian manufacture, and flew 8,000 miles in it?
– Order! The honorable senator knows that he is not in order in making a statement in asking a question. Statements quoted from newspapers particularly are not in order, because the press cannot be accorded a right in the Senate which senators themselves do not possess.
– I am sorry I transgressed the rule. Is the Minister aware that a man named Pratt, living at Geelong, recently constructed an aeroplane, in which he flew over 8,000 miles? If so, is he aware that in the course of an interview, Mr. Pratt said that he had received no encouragement from the Federal Government in the construction of his aeroplane? Will the Government consider the advisability of offeringa bonus for an all-Australian machine, and for a flight in such a machine?
– I have not seen the paragraph mentioned, nor have I any knowledge of the case referred to, but I direct the attention of honorable senators to the fact that the Government have made provision to the extent, if my memory serves me right, of £200,000 for the encouragementof civil aviation. That vote will be spent in accordance with the recommendations of the Civil Aviation Board.
– The time has expired when the report of the AuditorGeneral was promised by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I should like to ask whether the report is nearly ready for presentation ?
– I shall endeavour to obtain information on the subject during the course of the afternoon.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs supplies the following answers: -
Debate resumed from 29th September (vide page 2906), on motion by Senator E. D. Millen-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
. - It is needless for me to say that I heartily support the general principle of this measure. It is one upon which no honorable senator would care to submit an amendment for an increase of the rates of pensions proposed, because an unfavorable construction might be placed upon his action. The measure seems to have been prepared in a reasonable spirit, as the maximum pension proposed in cases of total disablement approximates to the basic wage, or to the living wage at the present time. It can be claimed that in that regard the Bill is a just one. However, it cannot be overlooked that the men whom the measure is intended to assist have lost far more than security of livelihood. They have lost the joy of life in many respects, and no pension could compensate them for what they have suffered in the service of the country. I should like to ask the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) whether a soldier who has lost a limb or limbs, and is also blind, as the result of war service, will receive under this measure a pension for his loss of limbs as well as a pension received on account of his blindness?
– In such a case the man would receive the higher pension to which he was entitled. He would not receive two pensions.
– I am to understand that a blind soldier, who has been granted a pension at the full rate for blindness, will notreceive a pension in addition because of the loss of a limb ?
– Unless he comes under the amputation list, under which he would receive the higher pension.
– He will receive the higher pension whatever it may be? In this connexion, I refer the Minister to the reply given to a question submitted by Senator Gardiner on the 29th September to the following effect: -
War pensions are paid purely on medical assessment of the applicant’s disabilities due to or arising cut of war service. No information is sought from pensioners as to their place of employment or the amount of earnings received by them, as these are not factors in assessing the rate of pension to be paid, and therefore no record is kept of the same.
– That refers to the pensioner’s earnings, which are not taken into account in assessing his pension, which is fixed irrespective of his earnings.
– Then the maximum pension provided for covers all forms of disablement?
– It seemed to me that there was an apparent contradiction of that in the reply to Senator Gardiner which I have quoted. I heartily support the Bill. I trust that it will speedily be passed into law, and feel sure that it will have the sympathy of the Senate.
.- I had hoped that Senator MacDonald would have been a little more enthusiastic about this measure, and would have accorded the Government the commendation they deserve upon its introduction. I desire to express my appreciation of the Bill. It shows clearly that the Government have recognised, after having facts brought under their notice, the need for a greater measure of help to disabled soldiers than was provided for under the principal Act. It is gratifying to know that with one exception all the requestssubmitted by the Limbless Soldiers Association with regard to the measure of assistancethey should receive have been acceded to. I think the Government are to be commended for that. In my view, the Government of the day, no matter on what side of the political fence they sit, should be given by members of all parties the measure of commendatian to which they are entitled.
– They have.
– The honorable senator was very lukewarm in his commendation.
– The Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) suggested, in his second-reading speech, that we should not move for any increases in the pensions, or attempt in any way to make political capital out of the measure.
– I did not hear one word of commendation from the honorable senator. If I had been in opposition, and a measure of this kind had been brought down by the Government, I would have felt it my duty, in view of the magnificent proposal, to congratulate the Government.
– I do not think the honorable senator heard me.
– I listened very carefully.
– I heard quite a lot of commendation from Senator MacDonald.
– Well, I accept the honorable senator’s assurance.
– But you think that die damned it with faint praise?
– I think he did. However, we will let that matter pass now. I am sure the people of Australia will commend the Government for this proposal, and for their attitude towards these men who have suffered such terrible disablement. I hope the Bill will have a speedy passage.
– I wish briefly to thank the Government’ for the liberal provisions in this measure, and for the careful attention which the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) has given to the requests made by the Limbless Soldiers Association. Prior to the introduction of this measure, the Australian soldiers generally had been repatriated in a more liberal manner by the Nationalist Government than had the soldiers in any other country, but I have always contended that our limbless soldiers were not receiving adequate pensions, and I am glad that the Government have now realized the strength of their requests. This Bill is very welcome. I think the Limbless Soldiers Association deserves the highest praise for the good work it (has done on behalf of its members, and it is to be commended for the moderation in its re quests to the Government., The men have been silent and long suffering as well as very brave in their trouble. I think it is probable that the very moderation of their requests, and the absence of all threats, induced the Minister to provide for them so liberally that in one case the pension scheme provided in this Bell gives more than the Limbless Soldiers Association asked. All along, the men have only asked for justice - never for charity. They want work. In this connexion the Association has done splendid work for its members, as quite a number of men have been placed in suitable employment. But, unfortunately, some employers do not play the game. They employed men who went away to fight for this country, and did so nobly; but some of them failed to fulfil their obligations upon the return of their soldier employees, many unhappily suffering terrible disabilities through less of limbs. The attitude of certain employers, to my way of thinking, was shocking. Therefore, it is very comforting now to know that the Government have come forward with thi9 just pension scheme. I take strong exception to some of the newspaper articles that have been published recently, and some of the films that have been shown, making light of the awful sufferings of our limbless men. Very few people realize the tremendous disabilities under which a man who has been deprived of a limb or limbs has to face the world ; and very few people know how brave these men are in their trouble. The amounts set out in the schedule to this Bill are to be fortnightly payments, and by courtesy of the Minister we are enabled to make a comparison of similar payments in Canada, New Zealand, Africa., England, and some other countries of the world. A study of these figures shows that the Nationalist Government of Australia have far eclipsed all other Governments in their treatment of limbless and other returned soldiers. These men should be encouraged by every means possible to earn as much as they can over and above their pension payments. I know that the Government have -.in their employ a considerable number of limbless men, and I appeal to the general public also to give them work wherever possible. These men should not be penalized because they are so terribly handicapped and unfitted for certain occupations; there are duties for which they are just as competent as an able-bodied man, and I think the latter should, if necessary, step aside to make way for a limbless man when it is a question of taking employment. I wish to thank the Government very heartily on behalf of the Limbless Soldiers Association, and to express my appreciation of the kind and sympathetic manner in which the Bill has been received by all sections in Parliament.
.- I desire to add a few words of congratulation to the Government for having brought down this measure to provide a more adequate scale of pensions for our limbless soldiers. I would also congratulate the Limbless Soldiers Association upon its achievements, on behalf of its members. At the same time I should like to give a word of advice to the returned soldiers of this country. This Bill, as well as other legislation which has been passed by this Parliament and the State Legislatures, is the outcome of requests made by returned soldiers organizations, speaking with one voice, and so I urge our returned men to get back into the organizations, whether it is the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, the Limbless Soldiers Association, or any other organization with which they have been identified. It will, in my opinion, be a great mistake if men drop out of these organizations for the sake of 10s. or £1 a year, which they are required to pay by way of contributions, because just as the trade unions movement was responsible for so very many industrial reforms in the Commonwealth, so will the returned soldiers’ organizations, speaking with one voice, be able to exert an effective influence on legislation on their behalf.
– The honorable senator does not want the returned soldiers to follow entirely the example of all unionists, I presume?
– No; not that I think the returned men are ever likely to run amok, as some of the extremist Labour agitators have done in recent years. We all recognise, however, that trade unionism has done a great deal for the workers of Australia, and there is no doubt that the propaganda work of the Limbless Soldiers Association was responsible for securing the liberal scale of pensions provided for in this measure. I hope we shall never hear those people outside who are continually shrieking at Government expenditure, criticising this measure from that point of view, although I suppose we shall be told shortly that the Government have been extravagant, by certain organizations who are continually endeavouring to bludgeon the Parliament into doing something it should not do. But if there is any such criticism I am sure that the people will recognise it was right for the Government to do the fair thing by those men who fought and suffered so much for Australia.
– Like Senator MacDonald I am anxious that this’ Bill should have a speedy passage. It must be very gratifying to the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) to receive in connexion with this Bill the congratulations of honorable senators and the organizations that are interested in our limbless soldiers. Senator Foll has just said that some people outside may criticise the scheme and regard the expenditure under it as extravagant. I am quite satisfied that the people of Australia fully realize their obligations towards these men, and I, for one, will never believe that the public press will take up this attitude. 1 am pleased to know that the Minister has the approval of the Limbless Soldiers Association, which has done so much for these men. Although among us there may be many who are termed economy stunters on certain occasions, I am sure that even the most determined economy stunter will commend the Government for” this measure, and regard it as a step in the right direction.
– I desire to say a word or two of congratulation to the Government for having brought down this measure to provide increased pensions for members of the Limbless Soldiers Association. I congratulate also the Association itself upon its very reasonable request andthe manner in which it was put forward. It has been my experience, since I have been in this Parliament, that many organizations desiring to influence members come down with most extravagant requests at times. This particular organization may have started out with a somewhat similar idea as to what its members should receive, but under the guidance of various presidents - I have in mind one particular gentleman - and after . consultation with the soldier members of Parliament they brought down the very reasonable requests referred to by the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) in his second-reading speech. The fact that the Government could accept in its entirety the scale suggested, and in one particular even provided for an increase, shows that the Limbless Soldiers Association has been very reasonable. I desire to associate myself with all parties in the House in congratulating the Government upon bringing down the measure. I listened to the speech of Senator MacDonald, and I agree with everything he said. One honorable senator appears to have misunderstood Senator MacDonald, and to have thought that he was endeavouring to make some political capital at the expense of the Government.
– No; 1 was looking for his word of commendation.
– The honorable senator remarked that he agreed, with the rest of us, that the Bill made a well-deserved provision for men who deserved well of Australia.
– I congratulate the Limbless Soldiers Association on the success that has crowned its efforts, but I shall not congratulate the Government in any way whatever. They have only done what I expected of them - that is, the fair thing. The Government have always shown a readiness to help the returned soldiers’ organizations. I agree that the Government have done what is just, and that is what I believe we shall always find them doing. A point worthy of mention is the fact that the Bill deals almost entirely with mein who hs.ve been unfortunate enough to become maimed through having lost one or more limbs during the late war. To my mind, there is a class of returned soldier that is deserving of even greater consideration. I refer to those who have contracted tuberculosis. A man with a leg or an arm off is infinitely better off than one who has fallen a victim to the dread disease of tuberculosis, and has it in an advanced form, with no prospect of getting better. Such a man cannot work. He has to spend most of his time resting.
He needs special food, and special consideration in every way. I regret that there has been no expression of a desire on the part of the Government to make increased provision for such men.
– An increase was provided for them in the Act passed last year. They are brought up to £4 per week, the same as in the extreme cases dealt with under this Bill.
– I am glad to have that assurance, but I do not think they are being treated as liberally as the limbless men. The pension may be the same, but there is a provision under the present Bill for an attendant for the limbless man who needs one. It is impossible for soldiers who are badly affected by tuberculosis to get about by themselves. There is no provision, however, for an attendant for these men. I know that it is possible for them to enter institutions, but very often they do not care to do that. The Bill stipulates that the amount mentioned in the schedule shall not be payable to any ex -member of the Forces who is maintained in an institution, except for a short period, during which he is an inmate for the purpose of being treated.
– That clause is not a prohibition ; it is a removal of one. The main Act says the extra pension shall not be paid to an inmate of an institution. This Bill allows a man to go. into an institution without his pension being reduced at all.
– Yes, but if he goes into an institution for a long period, as a man suffering from tuberculosis would, he loses a great proportion of the pension.
– He loses the special pension.
– That is a very large proportion of the total pension paid. These men have to spend ‘ most of their time in an institution, or else receive special care in their homes. It would have been wise to have incorporated in this measure some special provision for soldiers of this class, because I think they are more deserving of special consideration than any others. I have no fault to find with the treatment accorded to the limbless men, and I congratulate the> Association on having secured justice for its members. I am glad to know that in future, at any rate, there will be no need for any limbless man to adopt a method of earning his livelihood that reflects discredit either upon himself or upon his country.
Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) [3.361. - I very much appreciate the action of the Government in bringing down this Bill, although the last speaker was not inclined to give any credit to the Government for what they had done. I realize that they have gone very much further than other Governments that are just as much dependent on the plaudits and votes of the people as they are. Therefore I say that the Government are undoubtedly entitled to congratulation.
– They are a National Government, with good National supporters, and they have done what we expected them to do.
– The Governments of Canada and New Zealand rely on the votes of their respective Democracies to keep them in power, but up to date they have not done what this Government propose to do in a very tangible form. To do one’s duty nowadays is no small matter, and very often when a man discharges his duty he does not receive the recognition that is due to him. I have pleasure in adding my little flower to -the many bouquets deservedly flung at the Government.
We know well enough that almost every time we make an effort to remove a given set of anomalies, in the very fact of doing so we run the risk of creating fresh ones. In the present case that may happen, but to a very limited extent. The Repatriation Act, as it stands at present, means in its real essence the establishment of a given line of consideration that extends from the man who is least incapacitated to the individual who is most in need of assistance. But up to the present that line has not accommodated itself as it should do in the case of the least fortunate of these men. Instead of yielding them as much consideration as they are entitled to, the legislation has borne rather heavily upon them. An effort is therefore being made to’ alter the general line of consideration that has been laid down in the past, and elevating it in certain points to the very highest level where the pinnacle -of consideration is given to the maimed returned soldier. While the Bill appears to give general satisfaction, there is a possibility that at the point of con tact where the new line starts the men in certain classes of cases will consider that by comparison with their fellow sufferers they have genuine grievances. I have not looked through the Bill yet, but I hope that there is provision sufficiently elastic to enable the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) to deal with border-line cases in a manner that at least will leave no cause for complaint. I have received a letter from a friend in Western Australia on what I conceive to be that very class of case. His action in writing to me has been entirely dictated by the appearance of this Bill. He pointed out that he v/as 80 per cent, incapacitated and was a vocational trainee in the clerical school. He passed the Commonwealth examination two years ago. He thought that a permanently incapacitated man could have been placed in some position, but he said in his letter that the Department absolutely refused to give him a chance of any description “ All I want,” he said, “ is a chance to work, as it is no good for a man to be hanging about on a so-called living pension of 33s. 6d. a week.” That is a clear case where a young fellow is judged to be incapacitated to the extent of three-fourths of his total capacity. If he had been fortunate enough - paradoxical as that term is - to be more incapacitated, he would have been better off. Had he been totally incapacitated, he would have received about lis. more per week. This man belongs to a class of case that deserves some special consideration. I hope such cases will come under the present Bill. I have mentioned this matter for the benefit of the Minister (Senator Millen), and I hope that something will be done to meet such cases. Although this person is receiving only 33s. 6d. per week he is virtually out of action, and although the Department has been unable to give him anything to do after passing an examination, he has declared that he doe9 not wish to be “ hanging about “ - t”hat is the gem of the letter - but is anxious to fill the place of a worthy citizen, although 80 per cent, inefficient. In adding my testimony to the action of the Government in this matter, I feel it my duty to say that in all cases I have brought before the Minister he has done his utmost to meet me, and has even strained the regulations in order to do what he considered just. I hope this Bill will pro- vide for such cases as that mentioned, and if it does not, that a further measure will be submitted, so that those men who eight years ago left Australia to fight for their country will receive the just consideration that was promised them. The Government, as the executive mouthpiece of the people, are now . anxious to see this measure become law, and they are not only performing a duty which is theirs, but are discharging what is perhaps a slightly belated obligation to these men. I trust the measure will not be the means of creating anomalies, as one might expect from the letter I have quoted, which I believe is correct, and that the men concerned will soon experience the benefit which this measure is intended to confer upon them.
– We should not allow such a Bill aa this to pass without expressing our appreciation of its provisions, although it is quite possible the press will not record the fact that every honorable senator who has spoken has given it his most cordial support.
– The representatives of the press never take any notice of what is said here, and should be “ kicked “ out of the chamber.
– The only remarks which they do record are those of a sensational character, or when the language used may be somewhat unparliamentary.
– Perhaps that is why so little is reported.
– Every one is in perfect sympathy with the Bill, and the discussion on the second reading has been merely an expression of our appreciation of the spirit which has moved the Government to bring it forward. I do not intend to condemn it by faint praise or withhold that praise which is due, because I realize that the Government have submitted the measure because they feel sure it will meet with not only the approval of both Chambers, but with the support of the whole community. It is our duty to do our utmost for those men who have made sacrifices and have suffered, and as one who was unable to go on active service in consequence of age, I always feel when I meet an injured returned soldier that he has suffered in serving on my behalf. Some may say that sym pathy is unnecessary, but it would be a sad state of affairs if we were to be unmoved by the suffering of those in our midst. Australia pledged the last man and the last shilling, and if any one has a right to the last shilling it is those who have lost their limbs or those whose health has been impaired in the service of their country. There are always some who are willing to refer to cases of neglect, but in this instance, I trust, those persons will at least admit that every offort has been made to assist those who have been severely incapacitated. I have no wish to retard the passage of this Bill, the liberality of which may be gauged by the fact mentioned by Senator Guthrie, that in one direction it grants even more than was asked for, which indicates that the members of the Association submitted requests which they thought were only just. Senator Guthrie suggested that some of the men seeking employment had been refused work by private employers, and if such is the case it should be possible for some organization to distribute placards in factories, workshops, or warehouses bearing these words - “ Is there room for one maimed or limbless soldier in this place?” If that were done, limbless men would not be in need of employment for any time, and we would not hear the cry that some of the men were really in. need of work. Their life is sad enough as it is, and when they are without employment, which very often means happiness, and are cast upon the scrap heap, they begin to feel that they are not human beings. We must- extend our efforts and sympathy in order to brighten their lives, and make them feel that, although incapacitated, they are still capable of rendering service in the interests of their country. We can do much to make their pathway smooth, and I trust that the advice given by Senator Guthrie will be followed, and that every man will do what he can in the manner suggested.
– I am naturally very gratified at the cordial reception which the Senate has given to this Bill, and in view of that cordiality I think I can confidently rely upon honorable senators assisting to pass it without any undue delay. In moving the second reading of the measure I made one omission which I would like to rectify. I omitted to inform the Senate that the estimated COS - it is necessarily an estimate - of the increased rates in the new schedule is £53,000 per annum, and that the beneficiaries under this proposal will be about 2,800 or 2,900. Although it was my intention to quote those figures’, I did not regard the cost as of vital importance, and to that extent I did not have it as much in my mind as the other matters which I placed before the Senate.
Senator Guthrie said that some private employers have not played the game in this matter, and necessarily in every community there is a percentage which does not do its duty. But I would not like the idea to go abroad that those who have neglected their responsibilities are typical of Australian employers,, because, although there are some bad cases, there are, on the other hand, many who have done their utmost to help incapacitated men. The experience of the Repatriation Department has been that the employers generally have played their part in the great work of repatriation, and employers generally should not be pilloried because of the attitude adopted by a few individuals. Some have shown startling liberality, and we can safely say that the employing class has endeavoured to do its duty to our returned soldiers.
Senator Duncan suggested that the tuberculosis cases should participate in -the extra benefits provided in’ this measure, and, by interjection, I stated that, in a previous Bill, we had provided special benefits for those men, as under the second schedule they are entitled to receive up to £4 per’ week, which is the highest now proposed in this schedule for limbless men. I find it utterly impossible to arrive at a definite degree of proportion in the matter of disabilities experienced by limbless men and others who are incapacitated, and it is difficult to cay, for instance, whether a limbless man is more incapacitated than one with a valvular heart’. Moreover, the same form of incapacity in two individuals may vary according to the temperament of the man. T am sure we all have a full measure of sympathy for the men to whom Senator Duncan referred, and have not only provided for the payment of extra pensions in a previous measure, but we do with them what is not necessary in these cases - that is, provide institutions for their reception where all their requirements as to diet, attendance, &c, are met, in addition to which they receive the full ordinary pension. It is only when they leave these institutions that they receive the extra pension which is supposed to supply extra comfort. We do not, however, provide these institutions for limbless men, and to that extent they receive additional benefits which must be taken into account. I am not going to say that any pension is too high, but bearing in mind the natural desire of all to secure equality, and having regard to the incapacity of the men, ‘ I feel that this measure, instead of creating anomalies, as Senator Lynch suggests, will remove them. The pensions paid to limbless men hitherto have been inadequate, and we have endeavoured to remove anomalies, bearing in mind their incapacity as compared with the pensions paid to other ex-soldiers. It is proposed to increase them. Senator Lynch has contended that the raisin? of their pensions will be used as an argument for raising the pensions of other ex-soldiers. This Bill is for the purpose of removing what- we regard as an anomaly, the anomaly being that the pension hitherto paid to a limbless soldier was not a fair payment in view of his incapacity by comparison with the payments’ to other men for other forms of incapacity. The removal of that anomaly, I submit, cannot be used as an argument for increasing the other men’s pensions, because if we did that, we should have to increase the limbless men’s pensions again so as to maintain the true balance. The purpose of the Bill has been generally approved by honorable senators, and in view of that, I trust it will be found in practice to be as satisfactory as it now appears. I am always a little doubtful about predicting the results of any legislation of this kind. We can only do the best in the light of experience, and be prepared to amend our steps later if further experience shows such a course to be justified. I ask the Senate to join in cordially passing the Bill through its remaining stages.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 29th September, vide page 2907) :
Clause 2 -
Section 5 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (4) thereof the words “ five per centum “ and inserting in their stead the words “ such addition, not exceeding 20 per centum, as is determined by the Minister after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board”.
Section proposed to be amended -
– I was not present when the Bill was read a second time, but I take it that, with other Bills, it is designed with the object of arming the Customs Department with power to put on a higher tariff. The 5 per cent. provided for in the principal Act was considered ample, and yet we are proposing to put 20 per cent. in its place. That gives a very wide latitude within which the Minister may take action, and, to the extent of his disposition for a high Tariff, he may use the full 20 per cent. I do not feel inclined to support the clause in its present form. I would like to find out what grounds there are for giving this extra margin within which a Minister may work. The clause will be used by the Mrinister to make it more difficult to import goods into this country. That, at least, will be the effect of it. We have a Customs Tariff, which was passed through Parliament after a great deal of careful thought and research, and it was considered at the time to go farther than any Customs schedule that had previously been invented in this country. It was thought to be the last word inhigh protection. We have now, however, a Bill which, if passed, will enable the Minister to go one better. Five per cent. was considered ample last year, and I do not see what warrant there is for giving more latitude this year. We had ‘all the facts before us when we decided on 5 per cent., and now it is proposed to increase the margin by 300 per cent.
I am sorry that- Senator Lynch was absent when , the Bill was read a second time. I desire to repeat something which I have already said in moving the second reading, namely, that the Bill in practice will not alter the general Customs Tariff of Australia. It merely makes special provision to deal with special cases. After the closest investigation, the experts of the Department have come to the conclusion, and in fact have told the Minister, that if he wants them to administer the Act which Parliament has passed he must get it amended, so as to give them the power that is now being asked for under the Bill. The position to-day is that with the depreciation of currency and the manipulation of invoices the Customs Department has found it necessary to say, “ If you do not give us the power sought in this Bill, we cannot effectively administer the Tariff Act which Parliament has passed.” , The additional 15 per cent. will be charged when, after consideration and investigation, the Tariff Board reports to the Minister that it is necessary to charge it in order that there may be imposed upon articles a duty which is fair and commensurate with that placed uponcomparable articles from other parts of the world. Parliament has laid down the principle of Protection, after giving it the fullest possible consideration, and the experts who are charged with the responsibility of administering the law tell us that we must amend the Act, so as to make it possible for them to do their work. In those circumstances it is right for us to accept their advice. There are innumerable instances where it is absolutely impossible for the officers to get a clear and reliable estimate of the value of certain goods. Also, speaking generally, regarding this and the other Bill which is related to it, there is a necessity for an extensive staff of officers in the different exporting centres of the world. Long investigations and tedious inquiries have to be made in order to compute what is a reasonable price. The Bill as amended will remove that difficulty, and will give the officers an opportunity of ascertaining what is the fair value upon which the duty should be levied. and to increase the margin upon which the charge may be made. I give honorable senators my assurance, and I am satisfied that I am correctly advised in this particular, that the Bill will in ho way alter the principle of Protection.
The Senate gave Great Britain a certain preference, and, unless the Act is amended in the way now proposed, Great Britain will not get that preference. I appeal to honorable senators to recognise that the amendments sought to be made by this Bill are intended merely to give practical effect to what they did in passing the Customs Tariff Act of 1921.
– A number of good Protectionists are beginning to ease up a little.
– If the honorable senator desires a reconsideration of the Tariff in order that he may review some of his speeches and votes in connexion with it, that is another matter. It is not proposed by this Bill.
– It is necessary to point out that the clause under consideration gives an extraordinary power to the Tariff Board and to the Minister in certain cases. The Minister referred to the depreciation of the currency of various countries, but this clause has no reference to the importation of goods from countries with a depreciated currency. It refers to ordinary imports.
– No; it refers to cases of dumping. The clause amends section 5 of the existing Act.
– The power conferred by the clause will be used according to the Minister’s view of what is high, low, or fair Protection. I do not know that dumping has been carried on to any greater extent since the passing of the Tariff than was the case before it was considered. The Government are certainly improving the shining hour by proposing under this measure to artificially raise the price of imported goods, and so levy an extra charge upon the consumer.
SenatorEarle. - The honorable senator is under a wrong impression. The clause will cover a very small proportion of cases, and will not affect the Tariff generally.
– It will cover cases of dumping, and will give the Tariff Board and the Minister the power to artificially raise the price of goods on the ground that they have been dumped.
– To bring them up to about their normal value.
– It is not the intention of the measure to reduce the cost of living.
– I quite realize that. It is intended to protect Australian manufacturers against dumping, but I point out that it may be regarded as a two-edged sword. It has been said that Australian manufacturers have themselves been guilty of dumping. That complaint has been made from South Africa. The people there have told us not to send our surplus products to their country or we shall run the risk that they will retaliate. If we indulge in this game of hitting other countries they will hit us in return, and where shall we end up? We passed through this Chamber last year the highest Tariff ever framed in Australia for the purpose of protecting our industries, and yet on top of that the Government come along now with a proposal to enable the Trade and Customs Department to artificially raise the price of imported goods, so that another couple of bricks may be added to the already very high Tariff wall. This is a proposal to make our very highly Protective Tariff more prohibitive still. I believe that the manufacturers of this country will have the time of their lives under the Tariff Board. It is composed of a commercial man, a member of the Chamber of Manufactures, and Major Oakley, representing the Government that introduced the highest Protectionist Tariff on record. Major Oakley, as chairman of the Board, will have a casting vote, and if he says that the margin should be increased from 5 per cent. to 20 per cent., it will be so increased. Judging from our experience of him, it occurs to me that” those who have to depend on imported goods, because their requirements are not supplied here, will get rather a hard bargain. Major Oakley is steeped in an atmosphere of high Protection. A lot of nonsense was indulged in from the Ministers’ table suggesting that I have not been in favour of any duty on agricultural implements. As a matter of fact, I have always contended that agricultural implements should carry an effective duty, if necessary; but when it is suggested that in respect of the value of imported goods the margin should be raised from 5 per cent. to 20 per cent., it is time we called a halt. What will be proposed next year? We may have a proposal that the margin should be 50 per cent. or 100 per cent. I am not prepared to give this power to any Minister. I have on many occasions contended that there are other men in this country besides manufacturers who are entitled to consideration. I refer to the men on whose individual and collective efforts the prosperity of the country mainly depends. They are the men who will have to buy these goods, and they are not, with my vote, going to be saddled in this roundabout way with an extra charge for goods which they must import.
– If an importer buys goods in a cheap market, he will not know what duty will be charged upon them, because his imports may be classed as “ dumped “ goods when they arrive here.
– He may be a keen business man who can look further ahead than his competitors in trade, and in consequence may see an opportunity for a bargain when other men cannot. That is the keynote of all successful business.
– He may be punished for that under this Bill.
– -He may be penalized for the exercise of his superior business ability. That is a wrong principle for any Government to introduce or for any Parliament to accept. If a margin of 5 per cent. was good enough last year, it is good enough this year, and if we agree to a margin of 20 per cent. now we shall be asked to agree to a higher margin next year, judging by past experience. There are people in this country whose interests have not been adequately considered in this Parliament. An amendment of the Tariff has recently been agreed to for a remission of duty on wire-netting and galvanized iron which they use, but the bulk of these goods are consumed in the urban areas of the Commonwealth. I want the producers of this country to be given a fair deal. I am here to speak on their behalf. I agree that they should pay their fair share of the cost of governing the country, but when these people, who were described by the Leader of the Government as “ the corner stone of the prosperity of this country,” are asked to pay more than a fair share of the cost of government, and at the same time can receive no protection for their products, which must stand the blast of competition from every point of the compass, it is time we called a halt. When we add- to the price of every article used by primary producers in this country, at a time when everything they produce is falling in value, how can we expect them to hold their own against the competition of the world ? They cannot do it. I have said before that it is no wonder that there is a Country party in this Parliament. I am against the measure, and I hope that honorable senators who take the same view will rise in their collective oratorical might and tell the Government that it is time they called a halt in this direction .
– The ordinary member of Parliament is in a very poor position to decide what is the correct thing to do in a matter of this kind. He has not the information on this subject which is possessed by the Trade and Customs Department. Dumping is very difficult to define, and it is just as difficult to fix the margin required in order to prevent it. EvenFree-Trade countries have found themselves in an anomalous position on this account. Great Britain, whose motto always was to buy in the cheapest market, has at last discovered that that is a fallacy, and has now adopted an antidumping law. I mention that to show how difficult it is for us to take steps to prevent what it is deemed necessary to prevent even in Free-Trade countries to-day. I agree that, on the face of it, a proposal to increase the margin from . 5 per cent. to 20 per cent. seems an extreme one. I have every confidence in the Government. The alterations that have been made up to the present must commend themselves to every honorable senator. Almost immediately after the Tariff was passed, the Tariff Board, under the direction of Mr. Oakley, recommended certain reductions in the duties on items in which our primary producers were most chiefly interested. The effect of that recommendation was to practically wipe out the duties.
– The Board did not touch those items of most material interest to the primary producers.
– No material is more important to primary producers than wire-netting, and some of the tools of trade which were affected by that recommendation. The Board, in my opinion, has quite justified its existence, and I am prepared to trust it in this matter. Indeed, the attitude of Parliament must be that alterations of the Tariff shall only be sanctioned after a thorough investigation by the TariffBoard.
I have been looking into this clause, which appears to be a very simple one; and comparing it with the section of the Act which it seeks to amend, I find that it opens up a field for pretty lengthy discussion. The Minister (Senator Earle), when introducing the Bill, said that an amendment of the Act was necessary to deal with the position that may arise out of the action of merchants in Australia in purchasing in other countries end of season stocks for the coming Australian season at prices considerably lower than the rates ruling in the country of manufacture; and I am wondering whether this amendment is going to have the effect which the Government anticipate it will have. We owe a duty to every section of the community, including our manufacturers. Last year we passed a Tariff imposing fairly high protective duties. We also owe a duty to the consumers in Australia, so it behoves every honorable senator to look closely into this measure with a view to ascertaining what will be its effect upon all sections of the community. I direct attention to the position that might arise out of the purchase of overseas goods at end of season prices. If honorable senators will turn to the Act, they will find that section 5 provides -
If the Minister is satisfied, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, that goods produced or manufactured outside Australia have been, or are being, sold to an importer in Australia at an export price which is less than a reasonable price. . . .
Then the section goes on to state that the penalty to be imposed in that case will be 5 per cent, added duty.
– But what is the basis of a reasonable price?
– That is defined in sub-clause 4 -
In this section a “ reasonable price “ means such a price as represents the cost of production of the goods, plus 5 per cent., plus free on board charges.
We will assume, for the purpose 1 of my argument, that the manufactured cost, of certain goods is £100, and that in the ordinary way of business they are sold by the manufacturer in the height of the season at £150. We will assume, also, that an Australian buyer purchases those end of season’s goods for the next season in Australia - the Australian season is six months later than in Europe - =for £110. That purchase will not be at below the actual cost of production.
– They will be introduced into Australia to compete against Australian manufactured goods.
– But this amendment will not help in a case of that kind, because the Australian importer will be able to prove to the Customs authorities that the goods have not been bought at less than cost of production. That is my whole point.
– The market price is unquestionably the true commercial value.
– The Act makes no reference to market price at all. It speaks of a “ reasonable “ price, and, as I have shown, a reasonable price means the CCS of production plus 5 per cent, plus f.o.b. charges. In the case I have quoted the Australian importer would be able to prove that the goods had been bought at a reasonable price, as defined in the Act, although they were end of season’s goods obtained at a special cut as compared with the manufacturer’s selling price during the height of the season in the country of origin. In these circumstances I do not see how the Customs authorities could justifiably impose an additional burden, by way of added duty, on those goods. If, however, the penalty were imposed, it would not mean that the Australian manufacturer would get any additional protection, but that the amount of added duty would be passed on to the Australian consumer. I admit that if goods were imported at ridiculously low prices it would be essential to give adequate protection to the Australian manufacturer.
– That i3 all we are trying to do.
– But in this case there would be a possibility of the authorities placing a fictitious value on the class of goods I have mentioned.
– It would only be done after full inquiries had been made by the Tariff Board.
– I can understand the desire of the Government, and of Par- liament too, because this Parliament is Protectionist in its policy, to prevent goods from being brought to Australia at exceptionally low prices to the detriment of the Australian manufacturing industries, many of which have sprung up in the last year or two in the various States, and are employing a large number of hands. I do not want to do anything to jeopardize their success. I want my position to be clearly understood in this respect. I rose principally to point to the possibility of fictitious values being placed upon certain classes of goods that would be reviewed by the Customs Department. If, as the Minister suggests, by a reasonable price is meant the actual cost of production plus 5 per cent, and the f.o.b. charges, I will be quite agreeable to allow the matter to stand.I take it that there will be no penalty unless the Customs Department is satisfied that the goods are invoiced at a price lower than the cost of production.
– That is right, because the goods would not then came under the dumping provisions of the Act.
– I am not going to give approval to any proposal to increase the duties upon the consumers of this country.
– We are not asking you to do that.
– I think I will be able to show that the Bill may mean this. I remind honorable senators that the effect of the last Tariff, according to Knibbs’ figures, was to send up the cost of living straightway. I look around now and I find that the duties on agricultural implements and all the requirements of our primary producers are still very high. Let me also remind the Minister (Senator Earle) of what happened in connexion with the manufacture of carbide - an industry in which his State is particularly interested. When we were discussing that item in the Tariff, I understood that Tasmania was going to supply the whole of the requirements of Australia.
– Tasmania will, eventually, I have no doubt.
– But what happened? Not long after the Tariff was passed the Minister gave permission for a certain quantity of carbide to be imported to supply the requirements of the people in our country districts. I suppose that 75 per cent, of the carbide manufac tured is used by people in outside country areas, but while the Minister allowed the importation of a certain quantity, there was a proviso that it was not to be sold at less than £30 per ton. The Tariff Board has exceeded the functions that Parliament intended it to exercise. If it was necessary to import carbide, it was not the duty of the Board to control the price. I thought that price regulation was now an affair of the past. Honorable senators would never have supported the creation of the Tariff Board had they thought that it would become a price-fixing body. The commercial community has a right to know exactly what the position is. A draper, for instance, who sends buyers to different parts of the world on the look-out for good purchases ought to know just what the duty would be; otherwise a good purchase might result in a bad bargain, because of increased duty.
– He knows perfectly well what hehas to pay.
– Not at all. The Board can decide whether the duty will be 15 to 20 per cent.
– That is where goods are being dumped into Australia.
– I have referred to the case where the Board said that carbide must not be sold for less than £30 per ton.
– That has nothing to do with this Bill.
– It raises the question of whether the Senate is justified in leaving matters of this kind to the discretionary powers of the Board. I do not intend to do anything to further increase the very heavy duties that the consumers have to meet. I think we have reached the top of the ladder. Who prompted this proposal ? The men who speculate in their buying overseas not only have to take ordinary business risks, but also the risk of increased duties. Parliament should not discourage ordinary business speculation.
– You are advocating Free Trade.
– No. I am not opposed to a fair Tariff. A little more assistance should be given to the men who are carrying on the commerce of the country, instead of the Government adopting a policy that results in pin-pricks and constant alteration in Customs duties.
Irealize that this Bill is in keeping with the principles of the Minister (Senator Earle), but there are other people to be considered. The consumer is paying very dearly on account of the Tariff, and I shall oppose any increase of the discretionary power of the Tariff Board.
– No justification has been shown for making the Tariff on the items affected by this clause five times as high as it was last year. I do not think Senator Wilson has studied the bearing that the clause has on the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act that we passed last session. I fully expect the Minister (Senator Earle) to furnish some good reason for the provision.
– I thought I had very clearly pointed out that the investigations made by the Tariff Board have led to the conclusion that it cannot give effect to the Tariff passed last year unless there is a greater margin of duty provided for those classes of goods that are dumped here at low prices. I shall mention one case that came under the notice of the Department. Two brothers were doing business, one in Australia and the other in London. The brother in London invoiced goods to Australia at half their value.
– Send such men to gaol. This Bill is not the remedy.
– The measure gives the Board an opportunity of ascertaining the fair value.
– Were the goods sold at the lower price?
– No; but the Department was defrauded of revenue that honest merchants have to pay.
– That is criminal.
– The honorable senator needs to be clothed with the responsibility of administering such a Department to realize the difficulty there is in dealing with astute business men. The wider power is imperative for dealing with the dishonest trader, and not the honest one. The Tariff Board, after mature consideration, states that it is essential that the responsible officers should have this extra power. When honorable senators say that it is proposed to put on more duty they misunderstand the situation. We are increasing the power of the Department by removing the lower duty of 5 per cent., and increasing it in this case to 20 per cent.
– It is rather difficult to understand this Bill. If an importer making a purchase of goods in the Old Country were an honest man, he would produce the invoice showing the actual price paid. In the case mentioned by the Minister (Senator Earle) the trader would be a dishonest man. Surely that should be dealt with under the penal sections of the Act, and not by this means. It would, perhaps, be difficult to prove a bond fide sale, but it would not be impossible. There would be very few cases of the kind mentioned, and this provision has apparently been inserted so that it will be of a drag-net character. It is presumed that in consequence of fluctuating exchange rates German manufacturers will be able to sell their goods overseas at a ridiculously low rate, as compared with the ruling price of similar goods in Australia. We want British manufacturers to receive fair play, and to be able to compete with German manufacturers whohave the advantage in the matter of exchange. Under the Tariff a British manufacturer receives a 5 per cent, preference.
– On the value of the goods?
– He receives 5 per cent. preference over the foreign manufacturers, and he also receives an additional 5 per cent. in connexion with the dumping provisions. The cost of living has considerably risen of late. Meat, for instance, is lower in price than it has been for some time, and flour, as well as primary products generally, are not higher in price than they were some time ago, so that the increased cost which is being imposed upon the community must be attributed to the secondary industries, which surely have sufficient protection. Unfortunately, this measure has to be dealt with hurriedly. Its consideration should be postponed until we are able to ascertain whether its provisions are justified. Imports from Germany have only been admitted sauce the 1st August, and the Government should delay consideration of the Bill until the situation has more fully developed.
– Therate may still remain at 5 per cent.
– That is so, but the Government are seeking power which may not be necessary and which may be improperly applied. The Tariff Board was only appointed a little while ago, and consequently its members have not had much actual experience in connexion with the importation of goods from foreign countries under the new schedule.
– The case mentioned by the Minister (Senator Earle) as a justification for this clause does not enter into the discussion. If a merchant in Australia has a brother in England who buys and then sells to him below the market rate, ho can be prosecuted for fraud under the Customs Act. If we amend this provision as the Government desire, we shall also have to amend section 6, which deals with goods on consignment from Great Britain under which he would still be able to import at the 5 per cent. rate. If an amendment is made in this direction section 9 , must also be amended, and as the exchange rate in Germany is falling, we would also have to amend section 10.
– We are amending the two sections referred to.
– Yes, but that should not be necessary merely because the Minister had directed attention to a hypothetical case, which could be dealt with under the Customs Act. The Committee has not sufficient evidence before it to justify an amendment in the direction suggested.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 (Goods on consignment).
– The object of this clause isto amend section 6 of the Act of last year, the object being to enable the duty imposed under the original Act to be increased from 5 per cent. to 15 per cent. It seems to me that the whole principle of the proposal is vicious. I think Parliament should not part with its power. We have adopted a Tariff, and we gave to the Tariff Board, after very mature consideration, less than twelve months ago, power in effect to alter that Tariff, and we have provided a range within which they may alter it. The section of the Act is divided into five paragraphs, one of which provides -
If the Minister is satisfied, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, that goods have been or are being consigned to Australia for sale, and that they may be sold at less than a reasonable selling price, and that detriment may thereby result to an Australian industry, the Minister may publish a notice in the Gazette specifying the goods as to which he is so satisfied.
Paragraph 4 of the same section says -
In this section “ a reasonable selling price “ means the price ascertained upon the following basis, namely : - To the fair market value of the goods there shall be added the freight, insurance, landing and other charges, together with the amount of duty payable under the Customs Tariff, together with 5 per centum on the aggregate of all the items mentioned.
I do not know whether this Bill in any way affects the words in that definition or the method of calculation. The “fair market value “ is taken as the basis, and to that is added the freight, the insurance, and the landing and other charges. That is quite right. Then the duty, which may amount to 30 or 35 per cent., is added to that and to the aggregate of all those items a further 5 per cent. is added. I object, as strongly as I objected last year, to Parliament parting with its responsibility. It is a surrender, an abdication, by this Parliament of its responsibility. I am, at least, as strong, as convinced, and as firm a Protectionist as the Prime Minister.(Mr. Hughes), Senator Pearce, or Senator E. D. Millen, and I have always been so. Ever since I have been in public life in Australia I have been a Protectionist. I came in as a Protectionist. When I was standing for election to this Parliament in the first instance, I was, with the exception of one candidate to the other House, the only declared Protectionist among the candidates for Tasmania. Tariff after Tariff I have supported in this Chamber. It seems to me that there is a disposition on the part of some of our Protectionists to keep on. nibbling until they make this country a prohibition country. They are bringing Protection and the policy of Protection into discredit. I objected to the Bill passed- last year, and one of the reasons which I gave for opposing it was ignored by the Government. As far as I can see, one of the reasons for the introduction of the present Bill is that one of the reasons which I then advanced for opposing the previous Bill. The. provisions of the Bill compel Australia to purchase goods for importing where prices are high. It compels us to deal with countries where the rate of exchange, relatively to that of Great Britain, is high. Whom is this clause designed to protect? It is designed to protect Australian and British industries by absolutely prohibiting competition. Confirmed Protectionist as I am, I cannot close my eyes to the fact that in various secondary industries in Australia Protection has become so high that prohibition has resulted, and the outcome is that we are experiencing monopoly with higher prices and poorer quality. The Bill represents only another step in that direction.
-. - That is the reason why the Government removed the duty from iron and wire. It was because there was no competition, and the articles could not be obtained in Australia.
– That is so, and with regard to certain industries that are favoured - I do not say they are intentionally favoured - the people are being exploited. We are getting higher prices, smaller quantities, and inferior quality. I could enumerate numerous Australian articles which, when the Tariff was not so high, we could obtain cheaper, in larger quantities, and of better quality than we can obtain them to-day. I am against any proposal which will give to any body outside Parliament, however constituted - I am not calling into question the capacity or integrity of its personnel. - any further authority, power, or jurisdiction than has already been conferred with regard to the Tariff upon the Tariff Board.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Duty where exchange value is less than one-twelfth of par).
– This clause deals with the portion of the main Act to which I took the strongest exception when it was introduced. I then asked the Government whether it would be possible to defer dealing with that particular portion of the Bill relating to differences in exchange between this and other countries which export goods to us. I pointed out then, and I might have developed the idea further this afternoon when I was speaking on a previous clause, that the whole effect of this legislation was to compel us, when we were importing, to do so from countries where we paid the highest prices; that by such a policy we were playing into the hands of America and Japan, and, outside those two countries, of all exporting countries which during the recent war were neutral; and that we were putting ourselves out of trade with those countries which, by consequence of their participation in the war with us as Allies, were suffering from a depreciated currency.
– Hot exclusively those countries. Germany is in the same position.
– I pointed out that Belgium, France, and Italy, as well as Germany, were suffering from heavily depreciated currencies, whereas, amongst our Allies, Japan and America had a rate of exchange which was higher than that of Great Britain; and that, outside those countries, the Bill would drive Australian buyers into the markets of countries which were neutrals during the war. What is in principle wrong with the method of calculating the value of goods according to the decision of the High Court upon the matter? Let the payment be made in roubles, francs, or marks; if the number of roubles, francs, or marks, as the case may be, is converted into English sterling at the rate of exchange ruling at the time the transaction occurs, what is wrong with it ? The value of the mark has depreciated very considerably.
– It changes from day to day.
– And the rate of exchange from day to day is known. It requires less than a moment to ascertain what was the rate of exchange of the mark on, say, the 27th of August or the 27th of February last. What the mark represented then can be translated into British sterling, and what the Australian importer of the goods has actually had to pay for them oan be ascertained. What does it matter if he has to pay 25,000,000 roubles? What he pays is the British sterling equivalent just the same. I can, therefore, see no necessity for the proposed new sub-section 3. I do not see why the Australian wholesale price of goods should be a factor in the calculation. We haw© already determined by our Tariff what we consider to be the relative ‘cost of production of certain articles in our own community and the average relative cost of production of similar articles abroad. Having determined that, we have imposed a duty to protect the local manufacturer of the articles. If we find that the duty we have imposed is not high enough to enable an Australian monopoly- or manufacturing ring to maintain their price, why should we hand over the power to deal with the matter to an outside authority ?
– It is not an outside authority which is proposed.
– It is an authority outside Parliament. The Minister, under this Bill, will not have to submit his decisions to Parliament. If we pass this measure we shall abrogate our responsibilities and shirk our duties. We occupied a good deal of time in the consideration of the Tariff. We asked what it cost to produce a certain article in Australia. We found that it cost so much. We had a wealth of information given us as’ to the cost of producing a similar article abroad and the cost of landing it in Australia from other countries. We did not legislate blindly. We did not fix the Tariff with regard merely to the cost of production of an article in Australia, but also on the information supplied by interested and other persons as to the competition they were called upon to face. Immediately after we framed the Tariff schedule we are asked to shirk our duty and abdicate our responsibilities. The Minister (Senator Earle) may think that ‘I am exaggerating the case, but I am not doing so. The Bill proposes an abdication of our responsibilities. It proposes that we should hand over to the Minister the settlement of these questions. He may, upon the ex-parte statement of interested persons and permitting the Australian wholesale price to enter into the calculation, allow a protection on certain goods which might amount to absolute prohibition, and which this Parliament, when passing the Tariff, never contemplated.
– What differentiation is made between countries with a depreciated currency and those whose currency has not depreciated ?
– As a matter of fact, Germany is the only country with a depreciated currency that will be affected by the Bill.
– Has not the franc depreciated, to the extent of onetwelfth of its normal par value as provided for in the proposed sub-section 3?
– No, it has not.
– I still get back to my point, that the fair basis for the calculation is the exchange value in British sterling of the goods at the time the transaction occurred. That was the decision given by the High Court. The Customs Department had been following a different practice, and it was ruled illegal. Since then the Department, by a series of Bills, rushed through at the end of last session, secured statutory authority for the adoption of a practice which I consider arbitrary, unjust, and unfair. Protectionists though we may be, we legislate not alone for those interested in industries primary and secondary, but for the consumers as well. With all this Tariff tinkering, I do notbelieve that the interests of the consumers are being sufficiently regarded, and they are. certainly not regarded by a measure such as that now under consideration. I hope that the Committee will negative the clause.
– This clause proposes the addition of certain new sub-sections to section 8 of the existing Act, and in the circumstances it would be as well to see what section 8 of the existing Act provides. It reads -
There is a schedule to the existing Act setting out the way in which the special rates of duty to be charged shall be estimated in accordance with the rate of exchange. Now it is proposed, under this clause, to add to section 8 of the existing Act a new sub-section to provide that the normal par value of the currency of any country “ shall be such as is determined by the Minister.” , So that under this Bill it is proposed that the determination of the Minister shall take the place of the schedule to the existing Act. We have further to bear in mind that imported goods may come within the provisions of clauses 3 and 4 of this Bill, and so the margin may be increased, not from 5 per cent. to 20 per cent., but possibly from 5 per cent. to 40 per cent.
-I remind the Minister that certain goods may be exported to Australia as a consignment, and may under this Bill have the margin of value increased from 5 to 20 per cent., and they maybe imported also from a country with a depreciated currency, and so again be subjected to an increase in the margin of value. I do not know whether honorable senators generally appreciate what is proposed. When we considered the Bill of last year the argument put forward for a low margin was that goods might be chargeable under both descriptions. Are we going to make a laughing stock of ourselves? If we do not pause we shall be justly held by some persons as not having understood the power it is proposed to give to the Tariff Board in these cases. If the existing law had been in operation for twelve months the Government might have been justified by their experience of its operation in the introduction of this Bill, but it has been in operation for not more than one or two months. Why, therefore, should we be asked to make such radical changes as are now proposed? I hope that we will not rush this Bill through to our own detriment. If honorable senators are prepared to support this measure, we might just as well, instead of printing a long Tariff schedule setting out the duties to be imposed on a great variety of articles, say, “ As the Tariff Board prescribes.” I do not disparage the Tariff Board in any way, but I do not think that Parliament should hand over this power to the Board. If honorable senators believe that these matters should be dealt with in the way proposed, we might just as well give the Tariff Board a blank cheque and let them fill in the amount.
– I have voted in two different ways on this measure because of the use of the expression “ cost of production” in one case, and” market value “ in another. These are totally different things. Senator Senior, it seems to me, overlooks the difference between the market value in the country of export and the cost of production. He also overlooks the fluctuating nature of exchange. This clause is directed entirely against German importations. If honorable senators will look at the schedule to the existing Act, they will realize that the normal value of the mark is 20.43 to the £1. When we passed that schedule last year, we anticipated a depreciation in the value of the mark to the extent of not more than 240 to the £1. Do honorable senators realize that to-day the value of the mark has depreciated to 6,475 to the £1. The ratio of value is continually changing, and is Parliament to be called together every time a change in the value of the mark takes place?
– Not if we apply the principle laid down by the High Court.
– I fail to see that it has any bearing on the point we have to decide in connexion with this clause.
– What is the exchange value of the mark now?
– It is 6,475 to the £1.
– Suppose an article costs 12,800 marks, what is the equivalent of that in English money?
– It would be £2.
– Then why not estimate the value of the article at £2 accordingly ?
– The value might be £2 to-day, and something quite different to-morrow. The value of the mark is continually fluctuating.
– We can note the fluctuation from day to day.
– I do not wish to be drawn off the track. I realize that there must be some authority to determine these fluctuations, and I cannot conceive of any better authority for the purpose than the Minister upon the advice of the Tariff Board, as proposed by this Bill.
– Then the honorable senator would ignore the schedule to the existing Act?
– The schedule has failed to fulfil its object, and it is clear that if we want to protect goods of Australian manufacture against dumping of the nature under discussion, we must deal with these cases in some other way. At first I was not disposed to give the Minister this power, but I fail to see any other way to meet the situation. The only other point I wish to make - and in this I agree with Senator Keating - is with regard to the proposal that the duty to be charged shall be such amount as will represent the difference between the landed cost in the warehouse in Australia, plus a percentage of profit to be determined by the Minister. I do not know why such a percentage should be added. I think, with Senator Keating, that it should be the difference between the landed cost and the cost at which the same articles could be landed here from another country whose exchange was normal, plus the duty which the Customs Act imposes upon goods from that country, rather than that it should be fixed on the Australian wholesale prices of similar goods of Australian manufacture, tobe determined by the Minister. This principle may lead to prohibition. However, I realize that as the Act is directed against a former enemy country, and is being amended to meet a feeling of apprehension in the trading community lest Australia be flooded with German goods, I am going to vote for it, notwithstanding its slight imperfections.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 7 and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Order of the Day for the resumption of the debate from 29th September (vide page . 2910), on motion by Senator Earle -
That this Bill be now read a second time, having been called,
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 154 of the principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - “154. (1) When any duty is imposed according to value, the value for duty shall be the sum of the following: -
(i) the actual money price paid or to be paid for the goods by the Australian importer plus any special deduction, or
the current domestic value of the goods, whichever is the higher;
all charges payable or ordinarily payable for placing the goods free on hoard at the port of export; and
ten per centum of the amounts specified under paragraphs (a) and (b) of this sub-section.
In the case of goods consigned for sale in Australia, the value for duty shall be the amount which would be the value for duty if the goods were at date of exportation sold to an Australian importer instead of being consigned for sale in Australia.
In this section -
Current domestic value ‘ means the amount for which the seller of the goods to the purchaser in Australia is selling, or wouldbe prepared to sell for cash, at the date of. exportation of those goods, the same quantity of identically similar goods to any and every purchaser in the country of export for consumption in that country; and
Special deduction’ means any discount or other deduction allowed to the Australian importer which would not ordinarily have been allowed to any and every purchaser at the date of exportation of an equal quantity of identically similar goods.”
– I should like to know the reason for the proposal to add 10 per cent. to the amount specified in paragraphs a and b. I fail to see the necessity for this, in view of the fact that the value for duty is ascertained in the manner set out in the two preceding paragraphs. We are climbing up the scale pretty rapidly in the matter of imposing duties upon imported goods, and before I vote for this clause I should like to have some clearer reason than the Minister (Senator Earle) was able to give, in his secondreading speech, why it is now proposed to add 10 per cent. to the duty on the ascertained value.
– The clause provides for charging duty on the actual money price paid, or the current domestic value, whichever is the higher. It has been found in certain cases to be rather difficult to ascertain the fair price upon which the duty should be levied, and therefore it is necessary to give the Minister power to add 10 per cent. in order to insure that the imported goods shall pay a fair and legitimate contribution.
– You mean that they would be undervalued ?
– In many instances, yes; and apparently great difficulty is experienced in arriving at the proper value of the goods. Therefore power is taken to estimate the domestic value at the port of entry, if it should be higher than the actual money price paid. England charges on the actual c.i.f. value.
– And exchange.
– Canada charges on c.i.f. prices or the actual money price paid, whichever is the lighter. South Africa does the same, and the latest proposal in the United States of America is to do the same. Exporters in some countries consistently show lower than true domestic values to reduce the duty payable.
– They can be punished.
– If they are caught.
– Will you not have to catch them before you can put this provision into operation?
– No. To make their invoices correct as to the amount payable, they inflate the non-dutiable charges to make up for deductions from the domestic value. This is particularly so as regards China and Japan, and in a lesser degree it applies to other countries. A case recently came under notice where an honest importer’s non-dutiable charges were made out to be one and one-third times the domestic value of the goods. In that case the duty would be charged on the higher amount. As to imports from countries with depreciated currencies, the current domestic values have to be shown on invoices in the currency of the foreign country, and they are converted to sterling at the exchange rate ruling at the date of shipment.
– The current domestic value must be the domestic value at the place of export.
– I see no objection to this clause. I remember when the original Act that we are now asked to amend was introduced. Bills were then originated in the Senate, and I believe that that was one of the first Acts that the Senate dealt with. Section 154 should have been set out, and then honorable senators would have appreciated the purport of the amendment. Section 154 is the first section in Division 2 of the original Customs Act of 1901. It consists of four paragraphs, and the first, which is the most important, states -
That provision was adhered to for years. I understand that, following on the expansion of trade, especially in the East, difficulties have arisen in determining what is the “ fair market value” in the country of origin, because goods are often manufactured solely for export purposes. We see in Australia goods manufactured abroad that could have no local value at all in the country of origin. For instance, I recently saw some oddments exhibited in a shop at what seemed to me to be remarkably low prices-. The proprietor showed me one of the articles - a paperweight, or something of that nature, on which there was a representation of “ John Bull,” a typical English saidor, a Union Jack, and a number of other things that loudly trumpeted loyalty to the flag and to the British Throne. The article was stamped on the back as “ Made in Japan,” and obviously there would be no demand for it in that country. The day has gone, therefore, when we could take the “fair market value” in the country of origin as the basis for calculation of the value for the purpose of imposing duty. The Government in this Bill Have wisely adopted the term “ current domestic value.” Those words have been adopted by Great Britain and a number of the Dominions. In assessing the value for duty it is proposed to give the Government as a basis two alternatives as follows : -
If there is no current domestic value the Government will resort to the value that has been paid by the Australian importer, but, if the current domestic value is ascertainable, and it is found to be higher, the duty will be charged on a value based on the higher amount. “ Current domestic value “ is described in the clause as meaning -
The amount for which the seller of the goods to the purchaser in Australia is selling or would be prepared to sell for cash, at -the date of exportation of those goods, the same quantity of identically similar goods to any and every purchaser in the country of export for consumption in that country.
The value for duty is also to include - (lt) all charges payable or ordinarily payable for placing the- goods free on board at the port of export; and
– The alternative to the current domestic value might be* higher, and then the duty would be levied on the higher amount.
– Thirty per cent, nominally might be actually 40 per cent.
– It might he! I think the amendment is warranted by the changed conditions of trade, and it would fairly protect the revenue. I heard the Minister remark that the foreign currency would be converted to English money at the rate of exchange. If that had been done in regard to other matters it would not have been necessary to deal with some of the legislation that we have had before us to-day.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Minister (Senator Earle) to a case somewhat similar to that mentioned by Senator
Keating, but which concerns the manufacture of hosiery. During the war and since several factories have been established in Melbourne for the manufacture of hosiery, and in some cases expensive machinery has been ordered and installed in the belief that the protection which was to be afforded would be adequate to enable manufacturers to compete with importations. Unfortunately, however, British manufacturers are dumping hosiery into Australia at such a price that the Australian manufacturers are unable to sell their product at a profit, and many of the factories are practically at a stand-still, and will at an early date be dismissing a number of employees. I was informed that British hosiery was being landed here at less than cost of production.
– Of British manufacture ?
– If that can be done after paying duty the cost of production here must be reduced.
– The articles are of British manufacture and are coming into competition with hosiery made of wool mixed with silk. I have had experience in hosiery, and was simply astounded at the excellent quality of the Australian product.
– What is the duty imposed?
– Thirty- five per cent.
– These articles are being dumped into Australia and, notwithstanding all our efforts by means of a Tariff to protect Australian manufacturers, they are unable to compete with their British competitors. The son of a factory proprietor informed me that they had ordered thirty or forty machines and although they intended to extend their operations they found it impossible to compete, and had therefore cancelled the order for additional plant. A meeting of manufacturers was called, and it was found that others were in a similar position. This should be sufficient to prove that the Tariff Board should have the power suggested, and, notwithstanding my feelings towards the Old Country, I have to look at the matter from the Australian point of view.
– If goods are being imported at less than the Australian price, it does not necessarily mean that they are being dumped.
– Perhaps not; but when I asked how the price compared with that which was ruling in the Old Country I was informed that the British manufacturers could not even purchase the raw material at the price which they were charging for the finished goods.
– That is quite true.
– I was shown various articles, and was assured that the price was less than the cost of the raw material of which they were made. Hosiery has, however, not dropped in price to any extent, and I trust the Tariff Board will make further inquiries, because if the position does not improve all our work in endeavouring to protect Australian industries will be of no avail.
– The matter to which Senator Reid has directed attention is at present under the consideration of the Tariff Board, and if evidence is adduced to prove that these goods are being actually dumped into Australia, action will be taken to enforce the dumping provisions. On the other hand, if the Australian manufacturers are not able to compete with British manufacturers under a duty of 35 per cent., improvements will have to be made here.
– I was also informed that many of the operatives have been trained, and that those, as well as some who have been brought from abroad, will have to be dismissed.
– The matter is being inquired into, and if the position is as stated action will be taken.
– Senator Reid’s statement is quite accurate, and it seems extraordinary to find that woollen manufactured goods and hosiery are pouring into Australia at actually below the cost of the raw wool. Goods are being sold to the Flinders-lane warehouses as finished cloth actually below the cost of the yarn in them.
– And the purchasers do not get the benefit.
– No. Some Australian manufacturers at’ present are having a “ rough spin “ both in hosiery and in other woollen manufactured goods because material is being dumped in at a pries which, delivered to the Lane warehousemen, is below what we know it has cost. to manufacture in England. The explanation given - I do not know whether it is right or not - is that the English manufacturers have made such a large profit on 90 per cent, of their output that they can afford to sell the remaining 10 per cent, for practically nothing, with the object of hampering the growth of the industry in Australia. I am informed that that is why the Flinders-lane people have been able to purchase certain material cheaper than we can possibly manufacture it here. When the public, however, have to buy from the shops, they are asked a relatively exorbitant price, and I do not see how they are to be fully protected. The manufacturers in Australia can easily submit a good case to the Tariff Board, and can prove that what I have stated is a fact. I do not know if hands have been dismissed, but I know that some Australian manufacturers have been compelled to curtail production.
– Operatives have been informed that they must leave next week.
– I am not surprised, because I am associated with the industry, and I know that what Senator Reid has said is quite correct.
– I am obliged to the Minister (Senator Earle) for the explanation given as to the 10 per cent, charge on top of the other two imposts, but I think he has made it practically clear that the object is to catch, by way of an increased duty, those whom they have been unable to deal with under the existing section by demanding verified values. Any person refusing to give a true answer to questions would have been fined or imprisoned, and, as the Government can effectively deal with importers, there is no1 justification for’ increasing the duty and placing an additional burden upon the backs of the importers. That is what the provision means. I cannot estimate what the exact figure, to which 10 per cent, collected upon the cost of the goods plus all charges incurred in placing them f.o.b. and plus any special deduction in the way of rebates is added, is likely to amount to, but clearly it represents an additional value.
– Ten per cent, ‘is always levied.
– Yes, under the present Act, on the market value of the goods, but this is an additional burden, and that is why I am objecting.
– It is on the market value.
– I am no* disposed to vote in favour of the clause, because it appears to be imposing an unnecessary additional burden.
– It is in the present Act.
– The present Act provides that the value shall be taken to be the fair market value of the goods in the principal markets of the country whence the same were exported in the usual and ordinary commercial acceptation of the term, and free on board at the port of export in such country, and a further addition of 10 per cent, on such market value. It appears to me that it is only on the market value of the goods, and not on all charges as set out here.
– I think Senator Garling is quite right; and when I was speaking previously I referred to the point. The value for duty under the original Act of 1901 was based on the fair market value of the goods in the principal markets of the country whence the same were exported in the usual and ordinary commercial acceptation of the term, and free on board at the port of export in such country, and a further addition of 10 per cent., but only “ on such market value.” So strictly has this been interpreted that in a case, Sargood Bros, versus The Commonwealth, in which the Customs Department endeavoured to impose duty, not merely upon the goods, but upon the cost of the containers, packages, or wrappers, it was held by the High Court - Griffiths, C.J., and Higgins, J O’Connor, and Isaacs, JJ., dissenting” - that the value of outside packages in which goods subject to duty according to their value are imported, is not included in the value of those goods, as defined by paragraph a> of section 154 of the Customs Act 1901 (1910, 11 Commonwealth Law Reports, 258). An honorable senator tells me that they do charge on outside wrappings or packages. If the Department is imposing a duty of 10 per cent, on the “ fair market value “ plus the cost of packages, it is acting wrongly.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.82 to 8 p.m.
Clauses 3 and 4, and title, agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 29th September (vide page 2911), on motion by Senator Earle -
That this Bill he now read a second time.
– This Bill is a second edition of the Bill which we had before us two weeks ago. On that occasion I gave an account of a. competitive demonstration of tractors that had been carried out in this State by the Agricultural Department of the State Government on the State Farm at Werribee. I said that I was present during the whole competition, which, in my opinion, was carried out under very strict conditions. The supervision was all that one could desire. Among those present were a university professor of engineering, officials of the Agricultural Department, and officials of the Royal Agricultural Society, and the champion ploughman of Victoria, whose business it was to see that the ploughing was done in a workman-like way and according to rule. The rule was that at least 4 inches deep should be ploughed. I mention these facts to show that the demonstration, as far as tractors were concerned, was a very strict one, and showed the value of tractors to the farming community. Seeing that the Australian trac- tors came out of the competition so well, we have every right to be proud of them. As there is an inclination on the part or some people to belittle Australian industries, I think it is only right and proper, when a very strictly supervised competition is carried out, and Australian machines show up much better than imported machines, that we should give every publicity to the event in order to encourage our own engineers and workmen to go and do one better, and also for the benefit of the farmer, so that he may know what are the reliable machines for his work. When I was mentioning the result of that competition between the Australian-made and foreign-made tractors, I unwittingly did an injustice to one of our Victorian tractors by placing it further down the list than I was warranted in doing according to the points awarded to it. It is for the purpose of correcting that mistake that I am mentioning the fact on this occasion. I feel that to allow an error, small though it is, to occur in a matter of this kind, and in a public place like the Senate, is to do an injury to our own workmen. Consequently, I wish to place upon record the exact result of the competition. In addition to the officials that I have mentioned who were supervising the competition, the Commonwealth Engineer for Railways sent an engineer, who was the resident engineer at Kalgoorlie for the construction of the transcontinental railway, to watch the proceedings and report to him regarding the working of. the tractors. Mr. Darbyshire, the engineer in question, furnished a signed report which set out the various points in favour of the different machines. He quoted so favorably upon the Jelbart tractor that I cannot refrain from reading a portion of his report, and placing it upon record. His letter is headed, “ Trial of Tractors at the State Experimental Farm, Werribee, on the 19th and 20th September, 1918.” He said-“ In accordance with your instructions, I attended at these trials, and have to advise as follows: - “ and then he went on to mention that there were eight makes of machines taking part in the competition. He gave the weights and other details of machines, and stated the size of their cylinders, and so forth, so that proper comparisons could be made between their performances. There were various makes and different types of tractors. Five of those that competed were the usual round wheel tractors, and two were caterpillar tractors from America. There was a round-wheel tractor from England. Three of the machines were imported. Mr. Darbyshire referred to them by name, and made comparisons, and I may say, briefly, that there was very little difference in weight, size of cylinder, or any other vital dimension between one type of tractor and another. They were all what might be called light tractors, in the sense that they could be used for cultivating wheat country or orchards, or for any kind of agriculture. In order to decide which tractor was the winner, the points were recorded according to the total acres ploughed, the total time taken to do the work, the total fuel consumed, the acres ploughed per hour, and the fuel consumption per acre, and the water used. I do not consider the last point to be of very great’ importance. The result of the competition was that three of the five Australian machines obtained first place. The Jelbart. from Ballarat, was first, and the second place .was a tie between McDonald’s “Imperial” machine and the “ Sunshine “ machine. That was an extremely satisfactory result. The American machines and the one British machine were very far in the rear. The Jelbart tractor was well in the front, and the two machines in second position scored a very creditable number of points. The exact number of points scored by the different machines were -
That table was prepared by the officials, and published under their name, with their authority. It will be seen, therefore, that the competition was carried out in such a way that there can be no disputing the results. .Senator Duncan, in speaking on the last occasion when the Bill was before the Senate, suggested that the winning machine, the Jelbart, should be called the “ Rolls-Royce “ tractor. That, ‘ I think, is a very suitable name. I was so satisfied of the value of the machine that I purchased one, and it has been at work on my farm ever since, and is giving every satisfaction.
Regarding the bounties proposed in the Bill, tractors are only one of the articles that will secure the benefit. I have considered the amount allotted for each of the items, and I think they are very satisfactory. The Government has
Acted handsomely towards these indus tries. The bounties of £2 12s. per ton for iron, £2 12s. per ton for wire, and £3 8s. per ton for netting, are very substantial, and should give the Australian manufacturers very great help in meeting any unfair competition that they may possibly be faced with in the world’s markets. The amount provided for tractors is from £40 to £90. I think the type of tractor which will be subject to a bounty of £70 will be most in vogue. That is the amount of bounty payable on the type of tractor that will be most in favour. The Bill has been framed in a very generous spirit. The farming community has been called upon in connexion with other articles to pay for the protection of their local manufactures, but .in the case of the articles included in this Bill the burden will be spread over the whole of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. That is an eminently. fair proposition, and I do not see how any one can object to it. No one section of the community should be called upon to “ foot the bill “ for the establishment of any industry in Australia. In this country, we have adopted a national policy for the fostering of secondary industries, and those who are behind that policy should not object to have to pay for it.
– Would the honorable senator apply the bounty system to all industries ?
– I hope that the introduction of this Bill represents the beginning of the adoption of a system to take the place of the Tariff system. I have long recognised that Protection through the Tariff has failed to produce the good results which its advocates so often claim for it. It has been a very costly system. It has cost this country a tremendous amount of money, and I have yet to learn that we have received a sufficient return from that expenditure.
– The bounty system was nob a very great success when it was tried.
– I have not much knowledge of the results of the bounty system where it has been in operation.
– The woollen manufacture in Tasmania is a result of the bounty system-.
– I am pleased to hear that statement from Senator Keating. We know also that the bounty system established the iron and steel industry in New South Wales. I know that the system of Protection through the Tariff has not been a success. That much over-rated system, has been given a long trial, and it is proper now that we should try some other system. I believe that the bounty system is that which we should try next. Free Trade is impossible in this connexion, because manufacturing can never be built up in this or any other country on a Free Trade basis. Adopt Free Trade to-morrow, and in a few weeks every protected factory in Australia would be closed, our ports flooded with dumped goods, and our cities crowded with the unemployed workmen. This country must have secondary industries if it is to absorb population. Every one admits that we must have an increased population, and we must have industries to give employment tothe people. I know of no country that ever became prosperous, or cut a big figure in the world’s history, that depended solely upon agriculture. It is quite true that we have plenty of land in Australia, and that- our climatic conditions, though no better than some, are quite as good as those of most other countries. But if we are to rely upon the produce of the land alone, we can never hope to absorb a big population in Australia. It is because I am convinced of that that I say we must adopt some satisfactory system for the encouragement of secondary industries. I repeat that I trust this Bill represents only the beginning of the adoption of a new policy. I hope that proposals for the payment of other bounties will be presented from time to time. I must compliment the Tariff Board for the prompt manner on which they reported upon the items referred to in this Bill. The Government have made a good beginning.
– Some people say that the Government are making a good ending.
– It would not be the first time that a good Government has gone down. The public are fickle, and we know the ignorance that is often displayed at elections. Whether the Government are making a good ending or not, they have made a good ‘beginning by introducing the bounty system, and I hope they will be returned again, as they deserve to be, on their record for the last six years.
The principle of the Bill was threshed out in connexion with the previous measure, providing for the remission of duty on wire, wire netting, and other imports. It is necessary that pur primary producers should be enabled to secure wire fencing as cheaply as possible. The increase in the number of rabbits in this country has been due to the fact that wire netting has not been procurable at a reasonable price. The rabbit pest is accountable for an enormous annual loss, and it cannot be coped with unless we are able to obtain wire netting at a reasonable rate. The other items dealt with in the previous measure are not of so much importance, with the exception, perhaps, of’ galvanized iron. It is easy to carry and is very much used in the country. In cities tiles and slates are much used for roofing, but in the country galvanized iron is about the only roofiing that can be used. Taking a fair view of the whole position the Bill is one which should commend itself to the Senate, and I compliment the. Government upon its introduction.
– This Bill is a counterpart of the measure with which we have dealt for the remission of duties on certain specified articles. The ostensible reason for its introduction is to give some relief to people on the country side as distinguished from those in urban areas, but I feel that as the measure is drafted its result will be to give material advantage to persons upon whom it is not intended to confer any advantage at all. I am pleased that the Government are making good. The mere fact that they have proposed, in this way, to give relief to the men who are trying to make theinland areas of the country productive is a substantial warrant that they may end up all right. It is said that the essence of evil is intent; and no doubt the converse is true, and the essence of good is also intent. Applying that maxim to the Government, we may hope for better things from them in the future.
– This is a step in the right direction.
– It is a very short step. It is a kind of goose step; but, such as it is, I do not cavil at it, and I accept it as a warrant of better things in the future. We have remodelled the Tariff in respect of wire, wire netting, traction engines, and galvanized iron, but it is still proposed to continue duties of 10 and 5 per cent. on these articles. These will be merely revenue duties, as no industry can be adequately protected by a 10 per cent. Tariff. In the circumstances, we might have had proposed the remission of -all duties upon these articles. This Bill is designed to give £250,000 a year as bounties for the local production of these articles, and will result, I am afraid, in giving distinct advantage to people to whom it is not intended to give any advantage. Fencing wire is clearly defined as for use only for fencing. That is the use to which it is applied in the backcountry. Galvanized sheets are not so clearly defined. They are described as “ iron and steel plate and sheet, galvan ized, whether corrugated or not.” Under this measure the settler in the interior may be able to obtain galvanized iron more cheaply, but so will the man in Collins-street and in Bourke-street, Melbourne, and in George-street, Sydney. The city manufacturer will be able to get it more cheaply for housing his machinery.
– Why should he not?
– I am not objecting to that, but we are invited to believe that this measure represents a boon for the primary producers, whereas more than half of the boon it will confer will go to city people. Half the population of Victoria is resident in Melbourne, and more than half the people of South Australia reside in Adelaide, and I do not know how they get a living. If we take Victoria and South Australia, it would be not far from the truth to say that pretty well 75 per cent. of the population is to be found in the cities and large provincial towns. Of course, these people will use galvanized iron for some purposes, at all events.
– Would you leave them out?
– I do not want to do that. I am only pointing out that this Bill is not designed exclusively for the people in the country.
– The primary producer would not get all the benefit by any means.
– Of course not. If the Bill is examined carefully, it will be seen that the urban dwellers, the people in our cities and towns, are going to get the lion’s share of its benefits.
– Not at all.
– In the case of galvanized iron, yes; but not for the other articles.
– Very many of our farmers are not in the position to buy galvanized iron. They have to be satisfied with bark or hessian. If we divide up the population of this Commonwealth of 5,000,000 into urban and country dwellers, we may safely say that only one-half of those who will reap any benefit from this measure are the people who live in the country districts. The Bill, therefore, is calculated to benefit the man in the city as well as the man in the country. Why not admit it at once? Why do the Government persist in saying that this measure is designed for the benefit of the man on the land when it does not exclusively so provide? What the Government should do - and there is ample precedent for it - is to insert a provision in the Bill clearly specifying the destination of galvanized iron upon which bounty shall be paid. It was done in the 1907 Tariff Act, and a similar clause could be included in this Bill. It appears that the people already amply favoured by r eai on of residence in the populated areas are going to be favoured further, and as usual, in this Bill, although we have been told that it has been introduced for the benefit of farmers. Take tractors as another illustration. How many of our farmers are using tractors? You will find a lot of people engaged in secondary industries and road-making using them, and in some cases persons who are in opposition to our railway services. All these people make use of tractors.
– They are being used in orchards in New South Wales.
– I should think that a two-horse outfit would be as much as could be handled in the average orchard. Certainly, an eight-horse team could not. It would be safe to say that not 50 per cent, of the total number of internal combustion engines in Australia are being used on our farms.
– They would be used more largely if the farmer could afford to buy them.
– I realize, of course, that tractors as motive power are coming into more general use on our farms; but at present the proportion is somewhere between 30 per cent, and 40 per cent.
– There are practically no tractors in the Victorian wheat belt.
– Yet we are told that this Bill is intended to benefit the farmers.
– Is it not an advantage to have a tractor on a farm?
– Of course; but if the Government want to encourage people other than farmers to use tractors, why do they not say so? Why should it be necessary for any honorable senator to come along and correctly state the Government policy? If this Bill were described as a measure to encourage our secondary industries, and incidentally our primary producers, that would be a correct specification of its intentions, because the lion’s share of the bounties on galvanized iron and tractors will go to the men engaged in our secondary industries. The Government could improve the Bill by including a provision setting out the destination of those articles upon which bounties will be paid. The proposal with regard to wire netting is very acceptable, but that item still carries a revenue duty which I object to, and which I would like to discuss if I were permitted to do so in the debate on this Bill. Then there is a novel proposal giving power to the Minister to authorize the use of imported articles. I cannot enumerate all the different parts that go to make up the complete combustion engine, but I should say that there are at least a score, all of which may be used in the process of manufacture, and still the bounty will be paid on the imported articles. In this matter we- shall have to rely upon the Minister’s discretion to see that the expenditure of public *money is adequately safeguarded.
The last point upon which I shall touch is the proposal as to fair wages and conditions in an industry that is an applicant for the bounty. It has been inserted in other legislation of a similar nature, and it is, I think, a wise precaution, but I am afraid that, in this measure, it is going a bit too far, for it practically puts the Minister in the position of being a suitor before the Arbitration Court before he can get a certificate from that tribunal as to whether the wages paid in, and the conditions of, an industry are satisfactory. I think the position would be met if the Bill required every applicant for a bounty to accompany his application by a certificate from a wages tribunal to the effect that fair wages and conditions were being observed in the industry.
– (Do you object to that condition.
– No, but I am suggesting that instead of the Minister being required to make application to the President of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration for a declaration that wages and conditions of employment are fair and> reasonable, thereby becoming a suitor before the Court, each applicant should present a certificate from thewages tribunal for the industry that the conditions precedent to the payment of the bounty were being observed.
– That is practically the same thing.
– If the honorable senator and the Minister (Senator Earle) think it is, I shall have nothing more to say on that point. But we have been told that Ministers of the Crown, both State and Federal, have ample administrative work to do without being called upon, as is suggested in clause 10 of this Bill, to become parties to an application before the ArbitrationCourt.
– That would be done by a responsible officer acting for the Minister.
– I am supporting the Bill, believing that it will make good a belated intention of the Ministry to extend some consideration to our primary producers, but it is only touching the fringe of this important subject. If the Government really want to benefit the man working small areas in our country districts, they will come down with some proposal for reciprocal Tariff arrangement with Canada and the United States of America, to enable our farmers to get their tools of trade and machines for tilling the ground at a reasonable price, and so make production reasonably profitable. If only they will do this, they will be doing something substantial and not be trifling with this important subject. The Bill does not mean very much for the people about whom I am most concerned, but it js a beginning, and as such I welcome it inthe hope that the Government in their policy speech, if necessary, will indicate their intention of extending more substantial help to all those engaged in the farming industry throughout the Commonwealth. We cannot make a country prosperous merely by means of the Tariff. I hope, as I said at the outset, that this Bill is only one of a series of measures to be introduced in the interests of the men cultivating the soil.
– I cannot agree with Senator Lynch in the way in which he approaches the Bill, because it seems to me to be a step, if only a short one, in the right direction. The measure of relief that was given in the previous Bill was thoroughly considered, and in it Senator Lynch concurred. His criticism of this Bill is hardly fair. He really sets up a conflict between town and country. I am rather surprised at that, and he uses as an argument the statement that wire netting and roofing iron are to be used in the cities and large towns. I would point out that the modern city has little use for galvanized iron. There is no municipality in any city or suburban area that would now permit galvanized iron to be used in building construction. I am speaking, of course, of up-to-date States such as New South Wales. The farmer will get his share of the benefit conferred by this Bill, and I am sure he will be thankful for it. He will look at it as an instalment of the further benefits to come. The Tariff Board is on a pilgrimage to Western Australia to confer with the farmers there as to the operation of the Tariff duties on agricultural machinery and implements, and I hope that after the Board has finished its inquiries the Government will be able to bring forward a further measure of relief for the men on the land. I am surprised to hear honorable senators from Victoria and South Australia state that tractors are not used on orchards.
– I spoke of the wheat belts; I said nothing about orchards.
– At Shepparton and other fruit-growing districts the small orchard tractor is in use. It will be found on many up-to-date fruit farms in New South Wales. This Bill will give inducement to the farmers to use more up-to-date machinery.
– He would use it if it paid him to do so; he does not need a Collins-street farmer to tell him what to use.
– The farmer needs to work with his head as well as with his hands, and harness science to aid him to meet increasing cost of production.
– You go out and tell the farmers that.
– I have recently attended a meeting of a farmers’ bureau. I told them that, and they agreed with it. Senator Lynch is concerned as to the restriction proposed to be placed on the payment of the bounty, and he is afraid that the bounty will be paid, if the matter is left to the Tariff Board and the Minister., on material that is not entirely produced in the Commonwealth; but, if he will look at the last paragraph in clause 4, he will see a provision that, whenever the Minister authorizes the use of imported material, he shall, within thirty days from the date of the authority, cause a statement of the reasons therefor to be laid before both Houses of the Parliament. There could not be a wider safeguard than that.
– The same duty for the constituent parts of machines that come from outside Australia as those made here! It is giving the bounty to outside countries.
– No ; it is a bounty to the manufacturer, although the machine may have had to be made partly from imported material. Senator Lynch’s next objection had regard to the conditions of employment and the rates of wages. He fears that it would be necessary on every occasion for an application to ‘be made by the Minister to the Arbitration Court. The Bill does not require that at all. It provides -
Every person who claims the bounty payable under this Act shall, in making his claim, certify to the Minister .the conditions of employment and the rates of wages paid to any labour employed by him other than the labour of members of his family.
If the Minister is satisfied with that, he need not go further, but, if he is not satisfied, he may make an application to the President of the Court for the purpose of obtaining a declaration as to the wages and conditions of employment. That should meet the objection raised by Senator Lynch.
There are certain machinery features of the Bill which I shall find it very difficult to support. The trouble with bounty Bills is that they are extremely inquisitorial. I do not like the provision for examination of the accounts, books, and documents of any person, firm, or company claiming the bounty. In clause 8 there is a proposal regarding the sale of goods at a reasonable price. When the Bill reaches the Committee stage, I intend to submit an amendment on that clause, because the deter mination of what is a reasonable price is to be left to a tribunal that is not one that is properly competent to exercise such an important duty.
– It will merely fix the price on which the bounty is to be paid.
– Parliament has, in another measure to-day, as it did in 1921, given a definition of what is a reasonable price. Parliament is the authority that should determine that question. The price should be determined by having regard to the cost of production, with a certain added amount for profit. A further objection I have is the limitation placed upon the amount of net profit that any firm can make.
– I certainly congratulate the Government on their so-called step in the right direction. It is most encouraging to find that the Minister (Senator Earle) can give his blessing to a proposed reduction in the Tariff to benefit any section in the community.
– This is not a reduction in the Tariff.
– But it is on account of such reduction that this Bill has been brought in. I have simply risen to support Senator Lynch, who laid stress on the point that the alteration of the Tariff has been incorrectly described as something that the Government have done for the benefit of the producers; The honorable senator has clearly shown that the reductions do not affect the people engaged in primary production any more than other sections. Take galvanized iron. In all the States, and in the larger towns, there will be much more iron used than is ever likely to be required by people engaged on the land.
– That does not lessen the benefits to the men on the land.
– They receive their share of the benefit, but I object to the proposal being described as a reduction in the Tariff in the interests of the primary producers. I shall give the Government credit on this occasion for having seen the error of their ways, and having attempted to do something. I only regret that they have not gone far enough. Tractors have been referred to as being in use in New South Wales, but that is not the Commonwealth. In my considerable experience of work on the land, I nave never seen a tractor being used for the cultivation of an orchard.
– Have you not seen tractors employed in preparing ground for an orchard?
SenatorWILSON.- That is getting away from my point. I have yet to learn that a tractor is desirable for the economical working of an orchard.
– Have you not seen the small tractors such as are used for orchard work?
– I do not need to go to a lawyer for advice on the practical question of the cultivation of land. The honorable senator has devoted his attention to law, whilst I have devoted mine to the development of the land, and, in doing so, have at all times done my utmost to achieve the best results by adopting the most economical means.
– Has the honorable senator ever been in Queensland?
– Yes. I have travelled over a great portion of Queensland on several occasions.
– Have you ever seen tractors there?
– Very few.
– They are in use all over the State, including the canefields.
– Much of the land in Queensland can be worked by tractors, as can also large areas in the southern portion of Yorke Peninsula, in South Australia; but a tractor cannot be successfully employed on Bay of Biscay land.
– The honorable senator is in error there.
– A South Australian introduced tractors into the Young district, in New South Wales.
– That may be so; and, although a tractor is working about half-a-mile away from my property, I could not possibly work one on my land.
– The heavier the land, the more successful will the work of a tractor be.
– On clayey soil; but not on Bay of Biscay land.
– They are used in the Mallee district, because I have seen them working there.
– I do not know whether they are used there or not, and I have yet to learn that they can be satisfactorily employed in the cultivation of all classes of land. I am exceedingly pleased to realize that, even at this late hour, the Govermnent have complied with the requests of those honorable senators who did their utmost when the Tariff was under consideration to get the duty on certain articles required by primary producers reduced. It willbe remembered that we put up a very hard fight on behalf of the man on the land, and the action of the Government is some slight recognition of the fact that the producers are entitled to consideration, and, incidentally, that those honorable senators in this Chamber who were supporting their interests were right. The high priest of Protection and all of his friends who are now supporting the Government in these reductions, and who voted for high duties last year, must admit that we were right and they were wrong.
.- I also wish to congratulate the anti-high Tariff senators on their victory, and I am glad to find that the Government have at last decided to give a small crumb of comfort, even if it is only a small one, to the primary producers. I will not argue that the equivalent to a reduction in the duty on fencing wire is likely to be of any benefit to the city dwellers, because it is not; but it is unreasonable for the Government to suggest that they are giving relief to the primary producers to the extent of a maximum of £250,000, because every one who studies the question must realize that the bulk of the galvanized iron and many of the tractors are used in the cities and towns.
– -Not in the cities.
– More iron will be used on buildings within the immediate vicinity of the cities and in country towns than will be used by outback settlers.
– Is it not used in the construction of wool sheds?
– Not many wool sheds are being built now. It is amusing to hear the Macquarie-street, Collinsstreet, and Temple-court farmers referring to the extensive use of tractors. In Victoria, which is the largest wheatgrowing State in the Commonwealth–
– South Australia produces more wheat than Victoria.
– It may have a larger area under cultivation; but it does not produce more wheat, and if the honorable senator will peruse statistics he will find that, last year, Victoria produced 44,000,000 bushels, and the probability is that, this season, it will yield 50,000,000 bushels. There are more wheat farmers in Victoria than in any of the other States, because’ the farms here are smaller. I have been associated with wheat-growing in the Wimmera, in the Mallee, and in the Riverina for as long as I can remember, and although I called on nearly every farmer in the Wimmera over a period of ten years, I seldom saw a tractor in use in the Wimmera or Mallee districts. I have seen trials of tractors at the Werribee farm, under the auspices of the Royal Agricultural Society, of the council of which I am a member, and whilst it is quite true that there are places in which tractors will work well, it is not likely that they will be generally used until they are cheaper, and fuel can be procured at a much lower price. As long as the farmer can put in his crop cheaply and effectively by utilizing horse power he will do so, and he is not the fool or ignorant man that some honorable senators seem to think he is. To be a successful farmer, he has to study deeply to discover the best means of working his property at a profit. The Tariff always operates against him, and his product has to be sold in the markets of the world without any protection whatever. This measure will provide some relief to those who have to work hard all day and study hard at night, and who have to fight against exorbitant duties. I know a farmer within 40 miles of Melbourne who purchased a tractor at £900, and who, after trying it on the plains near Geelong, proved it to be unsuitable, and sold it for £200.
– It must have been .an imported machine.
– I know the Jelbart tractor, made at Ballarat, and, in my opinion, it is the best made; but, nevertheless, it is only camouflage to endeavour to pretend that this measure will be the means of benefiting the producer to the extent of £250,000 per annum. It will not be more than one-half of that amount.
– The £900 tractor must have been an imported one.
– It may have been. I have never had sufficient money, or been foolish enough, to use one on wheat land, and yet we are told by the learned professional men in this Senate that they are necessary if a faim property is to be successfully developed. The honorable senator said that if farmers de- voted more time to the scientific side of farming and used their brains instead of muscle they would achieve greater success, and I would direct his attention to the fact that the wheat yield per acre of this State has been more than trebled, owing principally to the fact that the farmers have adopted scientific methods in the working of the land, the use of superphosphates, and the conservation of moisture through fallowing, &c.
– Did the honorable senator say that the yield has been trebled ?
– In how many years ?
– In twenty years it has been more than trebled.
– If the average is 15 bushels, when was it 5 bushels?
– It was 5 bushels twenty years ago. It has been trebled; not in consequence of the advice received from city lawyers, but as the result of practical experience and tremendously hard work, with no eight-hour day or minimum wage. Those engaged in wheat-farming have had to overcome many difficulties, and have devoted what little spare time is at their disposal to the study of scientific methods. They have also received splendid assistance from the State Agricultural Colleges.
– How does the honorable senator account for the average yield in New South Wales dropping from- 15 bushels to 10 bushels?
– That is owing to seasonal conditions and not to any deterioration of the brain on the part of the honorable senator’s constituents who sent him here. Surely the honorable senator does not argue that the wheat yield in New South Wales has decreased because the farmers in the State which he represents have deteriorated ?
– The yield has dropped from 15 bushels to 10.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that that is owing to the manner: in which the soil is cultivated ?
– The honorable senator’s assertions are ridiculous ; I am quoting facts.
– And so am I.
– Surely the honorable senator does not mean to say that because the wheat yield in Victoria decreased considerably during a drought, period, the methods employed were defective. The honorable senator is talking nonsense, and should discuss something with which he is conversant. I support the Bill, as it is a step in the right direction.
– Some honorable senators seem to be under the impression that the Government are not giving any relief to the farmers by reducing the duties and by giving to the manufacturers the protection in the form, of bounties which will be taken from them in consequence of a reduction of duties. I would remind such honorable senators that the primary producers of Australia, or those in New South Wales at least, particularly requested the Government and the Senate to do what is now proposed.
– The same could be said of every State.
– Are you engaged in farming?
– Yes, but I do not visit my farm in a flying machine, as the honorable senator probably does. We are not all wealthy farmers. The farmers of my State are, most of them, a hardworking, honest type of men, who live on their farms and work them.. We have farmers, I know, who never do anything of that sort. I was pointing out that Senator Guthrie and others have told us that the Government has given very little relief to the farmers of this country. He asked about tractors and galvanized iron, and he said the farmers did not use much galvanized iron. The fact is that when the farmers of my State petitioned the Senate for a reduction of duties, galvanized iron was one of the items that were particularly specified. Tractors, if I remember rightly, were also particularly mentioned. The request has only come from the agriculturists; the city dwellers, so far as I know, have never made a request for a reduction of duty upon galvanized iron, tractors, or’ anything of that sort. The argument now being used that the primary producers are not being benefited to any considerable extent by the action of the Government is not fair.
As I have pointed out, the Government has reduced the protection that has been afforded to the manufacturers under the Tariff Act, and is now proposing to give them something in return in the shape of a bounty. I must say that in some respects I like the bounty system better than the protective system, although I quite realize that there are very grave arguments even against it. It has certainly an advantage over the system of Protection as we know it. Under any Tariff the country does not know how much is being paid by the consumers for the degree of protection that is being afforded. It is easy for Parliament to impose a duty of 25 per cent, or 30 per cent., but there is no means of ascertaining, and the people of this, community do not know, just what that 25 or 30 per cent, is costing them. They never know the cost of the protection which is given; but under a bounty system we know almost to a penny. There is, however, one argument against the bounty system. Whilst we do know what we are paying, the payment has to be made out of revenue derived from some other source. We cease to receive revenue in the shape of duties paid, for under a bounty system there is no income whatever. The money has to be raised from some other source to pay the bounty. Thus we are faced with the position that we not only take from the revenues of the Commonwealth a considerable sum of money by the reduction of the duties, but we also give out of the revenues of the Commonwealth a sum amounting to no less, under this Bill, than. £250,000 in one financial year. Senator Guthrie seemed to suggest that the Government was proposing to take credit to itself for giving relief, . amounting to £250,000, to the primary producers on galvanized iron. The Bill has nothing to do with galvanized iron, except incidentally. The amount of £250,000 which is allotted under it for the payment of bounties in any one year will no doubt be paid to many industries, manufacturing all kinds of articles. In addition to galvanized iron, the farmer will buy a great deal of black wire for fencing, galvanized wire, and other articles.
From my point of view, the Bi]] adequately meets the situation in giving consideration to all the interests concerned. It permits only a legitimate profit of 15 per cent, to be made. In the circumstances, I think that is a very fair rate of profit. The object of giving a bounty is to assist an industry which without a bounty could not live. If an industry can PaY 15 per cent, with the assistance of a bounty, it is doing fairly well; but if, with the assistance of a bounty, it could pay a 30 per cent, dividend to its shareholders upon their invested money, there would be very little need for either a bounty or protective duties. The Government is acting wisely in setting a limitation upon the amount of profit which any particular company can make if it receives the assistance of the bounty.
The Bill provides protection, not only to the consumers, but also to the taxpayers, who have to pay the bounty. It also says that the goods must be sold at a reasonable price. There are certain honorable senators who object to a provision of that sort. I do not. When this community is deliberately assisting to build up an industry by giving to it revenues contributed by the taxpayers, we are justified in insisting that the goods produced by that industry should be sold at % reasonable price. I have no quarrel with the Government for protecting the consumers as well as giving assistance to the manufacturers. The Bill also stipulates that fair and reasonable wages should be paid. I indorse that provision, too. We do not want Australia to be a low- wage country. We want fair wages to be paid in all industries, and particularly in those industries which receive the assistance of the taxpayers’ money, and are nursed by the Government and Parliament.
– Would the honorable gentleman not make it mandatory for the Minister to withhold the bounty if proper wages were not paid and reasonable working conditions observed?
– I would almost be prepared to go as far as that. I certainly want to see reasonable wages paid. Tha provisions of the Bill appear to me to be adequate.
– The wages paid must be acording to Court awards.
– That is so, but there may be an industry which is not covered by. an award, and where reasonable wages are not paid. If the indus tries affected by the Bill are all covered by awards, and are paying reasonable wages, the provision to which I have referred cannot hurt them in any way, for it will be inoperative so far as they are concerned.
One other important aspect of this measure is that of the adequacy of the protection given. We have been told that the bounties are designed to ‘ replace the protection removed under the previous amendments of the Tariff,’ but it may happen, and I believe that in one case it has happened, that industries may apply to the Tariff Board for higher duties. I understand that at present there is an application before “ the Tariff Board for an increased duty on galvanized iron. The manufacturers have represented that it is impossible for them to carry on with the present duty. Their works are closed down, and they say they must have a higher duty if they are to work at all? I believe they are satisfied with the Bill as far as it goes, and consider that it will just about replace the duty which was remitted in order to meet the wishes of the primary producers, but they want to know whether it is the intention of the Government, if it should be found by the Tariff Board that adequate protection is not being given, to give adequate protection’, in the shape of an increased duty or an increase in the bounty.
– That would be a matter for Parliament to decide.
– In a case of that sort would the Government recommend an increase in the bounty or an increase in the duty ?
– I cannot commit the Government definitely. The purpose of the Government is to provide adequate protection. If the Tariff Board, after full investigation, reported that it was imperative that there should be more protection, there is not the slightest doubt that the Government would submit their recommendation to Parliament.
– I am satisfied with that assurance of the Minister, and I propose to give my vote in favour of this measure, because I believe it is entirely necessary in the interests of the country.
– I would not have spoken on this Bill to-night but for the fact that during the discussion on another Bill 1 was twitted with being inconsistent. We have been dealing with Tariff Bills all day, and I think they are. an indication of the reasonableness of the Tariff Board. Members of the Tariff Board, so far as their judgment and experience will permit - and I am not questioning that at all - desire to do the fair thing by the people of this country. Whenthey think an increase in the Tariff is necessary, they recommend it to the Government, and the Government brings the question before Parliament; and when they think a reduction of the Tariff is advisable, they also, as in the case of this Bill, bring it before the Government, and the Government in turn brings it before Parliament. I am opposed to the Tariff Board. I am opposed to every Board that takes work out of the hands of Parliament. When Senator Keating was speaking in opposition to the Tariff Board and similar Boards, I applauded him, but I did not support him in his amendment. I was consistent in supporting him as far as I agreed with him, but when it came to his amendment, I did not vote with him because I did not agree with his amendment. The farmers of Australia should greatly benefit from the amount of advice they have received here to-night.
– And cheap advice, too.
– It is cheap, but it ought to be good. I do not propose to add to the advice which has been tendered to the farmer. I think he can take care of himself. I recognise that it is the function of Parliament to see that no injustice is done to the farmer or to any other section of the community. Parliament is a slowly moving machine, but I hope that it moves in the direction of benefiting every section of the community.
A great deal has been said about the use that will be made of tractors by farmers. I followed the reports during last week of what was done at the Melbourne Agricultural Show. The secretary of the Royal Agricultural Association, in summing up the business done during the week, commented specially on the number of tractors that were sold at the Show. This is an indication that if tractors are brought before people in a practical way they can be made to see their advantages. We were told that the number of tractors purchased during Show week exceeded the number available in Melbourne.
– They were not all necessarily for country use.
– I do not say that they were, but if a tractor is a cheaper machine than a team of horses, and it is used in the making of roads, the farmer will derive some benefit from its use. A farmer cannot take a man from behind a team of horses and put him on a tractor and get him to drive it away. That, no doubt, is one of the reasons why more tractors are not being used in connexion with farming operations. I can remember when, in South Australia, it was most difficult to induce farmers to see the benefit to be derived from the use of superphosphates on their land.
Fault has been found with the Government because they have agreed to pay bounty on portions of a tractor that are not made in Australia. We know that parts of engines are not yet made here. During the war period nearly every man went up and down Australia saying, “ Only let us get the war over, and you will Bee what we shall do.” We had to do without innumerable articles during the war period because they were not manufactured here. Every household had to do without some article because it was not manufactured in Australia and could not be imported during the war.
– We could not get even knitting needles.
– Ordinary requirements of every household could not be procured, and all declared that when the war was over we would pass such a high Tariff in Australia that we would set every industry going and manufacture in this country all that we required. We have forgotten those days already.
– We have forgotten a lot of things we said then.
– Yes, we have; and more is the pity. We should have remembered them. I am not anxious to see the Tariff wall broken down and our doors thrown open to imports from every part of the world in the way that some honorable senators would suggest. I agree that we should be making engine parts in Australia, but I suppose our Tariff has not been sufficiently high to induce local manufacturers to begin making them. The Government are doing the next best thing in this Bill in proposing a bounty for tractors built in;
Australia and, as far as possible, of Australian material, and at the same time permitting such, parts as are not manufactured here to be imported and paying the bounty on the completed machine. I find no fault with that, because we cannot do any better until all the parts are made here.
– Could we not have a bounty paid pro rata?
– I do not see how it would be .possible to pay bounty on certain parts of a tractor and not on others. We often complain of the number of persons in the various public Departments, but if the course the honorable senator suggests were adopted we should have to double the number employed in the Trade and Customs Department, and would derive no benefit from doing so. The Government, it seems to me, are in this regard doing the most sensible thing they could do.
So far as wire netting is concerned, we may say that there is only one section of the community that will benefit greatly by the reduction of the duties on wire netting and the .payment of the bounty proposed. Practically the only people who use wire netting are those who have taken up country. The suburban dweller may require a few yards of wire netting for a fowl-house, but he will not derive much benefit from this legislation. Still, there is no differentiation proposed between one section of the community and another in this Bill. It does not put the country dweller against the city dweller as has been done by some honorable senators. Wire netting is chiefly required for the destruction of vermin. Those of us who know something of the back country of Australia also know something of the destruction caused by rabbits and by the ravages of wild dogs, foxes, and other vermin. The only effective way of dealing with these pests of settlement is by the wire-netting of holdings. We are spending millions of money in introducing people from overseas who are earmarked as land settlers. If something is not done in this way to assist them we shall be bringing these people here under false pretences. The Government, in reducing the duty on wire netting, and in paying the bounty proposed under this Bill, in order to make it cheaper to those who must use it, are really doing a very excellent work to enable the immigrants to go on the land after their arrival in Australia. The same remarks apply to fencing wire. The farmer and the grazier are practically the only people who require, it. There are millions of square miles of country in Australia that must be wire-fenced and wire-netted before they -can be effectively occupied. In my opinion, the benefit which may accrue to Australia as a result of these bounties, and the reduction of duties on these articles is incalculable.
An attempt was made here this- evening to differentiate between the users of galvanized iron. This Parliament represents the city dweller as well as the man in the country. How can we draw a Tariff line between the men who live in the suburbs of Melbourne, Sydney, or Adelaide, and those who live in the backblocks of Western Australia, Queensland, or any other State? If galvanized iron is cheaper, it will provide a cheaper home for the city worker as well as for the farmer.
– Perhaps we should pay a bounty on stringybark, to provide a cheap roof for the “cocky” farmer.
– I was pleading the other night for the men who live in stringybark humpies, and I got very little help from some honorable senators who have put up a strong plea for the farmer to-night. I deprecate this differentiation between different sections of the community. The benefits of our Tariff and bounty system should be available to every section of the community.
I should like to see the proposed bounty paid on a diminishing scale. I think that we have made a mistake in the way in which we have imposed duties in order that certain industries might be established. If those duties were imposed on a diminishing scale they would encourage local manufacturers to erect buildings and install plant, and all the time they were carrying on their industries they would be preparing for the time when the protective duties would cease to operate. If they did not cease to operate altogether, they would in time be at a very low rate, and by that time the local manufacturer, by the improvement of methods and machinery, should ‘be able to compete with ‘manufacturers of similar articles in other countries. I think that the ‘payment of bounties should be on similar lines. Bounty at a certain rate should be paid for the first few years, and as time went on the rate should diminish until ultimately the bounty disappeared altogether. That would compel Australian manufacturers to improve their appliances and put themselves on an “ equal footing with manufacturers in other parts of the world. Such a system would, benefit the Australian manufacturer, because it would compel him to adopt modern methods and up-to-date machinery. I know nothing of Australian workmen and manufacturers that leads me to suppose that they cannot keep pace with their competitors in other parts of the world.
I welcome this Bill. There appears to be a habit growing up amongst honorable senators to find fault with the Government whatever they do. If they did not bring forward these measures they would be to blame. When they have introduced them they are found to be in a form which does not suit certain honorable senators. It is, in my opinion, the duty of those who believe in the policy of the Government, and believe in assisting the manufacturers and citizens generally of Australia, when a Bill is introduced that is so manifestly for the benefit of a very large section of the community, as this measure is, to commend the Government for its introduction and to extend to them their support.
– I am pleased at the reception of the Bill. The criticism has been reasonable, and in some cases eulogistic to a degree. We were all pleased to hear Senator de Largie speak so highly of the trial of tractors at Werribee Farm, where the Australian machines, in competition with machines from other and older manufacturing countries, proved infinitely superior. It must be gratifying to all Australians, and especially to Protectionists, to know that a machine made in this country came out of that test with flying colours. It is a feather in our cap, and should encourage us to persevere in our policy of protecting and supporting the Australian manufacturing industry. As to Senator de Largie’s advocacy of an extension of the bounties principle, I can only say that, as a Protectionist, my object always has been to encourage the manufacturing industry by means of the Tariff, in order to make Australia independent of other countries. I have to remind (Senator de Largie and those who think with him that the replacement of Customs duties by the bounties system would cost Australia about £30,000,000.
– It could cost us no more than the present system.
– The revenue derived from Customs is about £15,000,000 a year. All that would be lost, of course; and, if we were to place our manufacturers in a position to meet foreign competition, as they can now under the Tariff, we should have to provide another £15,000,000 for the payment of bounties, so that the actual expenditure by the Commonwealth in some form or other would be about £30,000,000 a year. We know by experience that, while people contribute readily enough by indirect taxation through the Customs to encourage local industries, it would be quite another matter to get them to contribute by direct taxation to secure the same end. As practical men we must recognise the difficulties. It has> been unkindly suggested by some honorable senators that the Bill, as a measure designed to benefit the rural industries, is so much camouflage. I should like to ask those who hold that opinion how they could confer greater benefits upon the agriculturists and rural workers than by relieving them of the £250,000 a year in Customs duties on the particular items that are dealt with in this Bill. In what Why could greater advantages be given to people living in the country than by taking off the duties on fencing wire, wire netting, galvanized iron, and traction engines? It is absolutely unfair to charge the Government with insincerity or with a desire to take undue credit for bestowing some benefit upon the rural industries. We recognise that all sections of the community depend upon the prosperity of our primary producers. The towns could not live without the country, but the country could, of. course, exist without the towns.
– Have the people in the towns asked for cheap galvanized iron ?
– No; but the country people have, and they have also asked for cheaper tractors. No requests came to the Government from town dwellers, or road makers, or carriers for the removal of the duty on tractors.
– Then the Government have given them what they have not asked for.
– All the requests have come from country people; and I repeat that, if there is any other way in which, by the revision in Customs duties and the expenditure of this money, we could bestow greater benefits upon our rural industries, then I have yet to learn what it is. Expert officers of the Department have advised that our rural industries will benefit to the extent of, at least, £230,000 out of the £250,000 which it is estimated the remission of the duties on these items will cost the Government. We have been advised that at least half of the galvanized iron, the whole of the wire netting, of course the whole of the fencing wire, and all the tractors will go to the country. I venture to say that 90 per cent. of the benefits that will flow from this measure will go to the rural districts of the Commonwealth, so it is not fair to say that the Government are merely professing to do something for the primary producers. As nearly as possible the object of this Bill is to place the manufacturing industries concerned in the position they occupied before the remission in the duties. Senator Duncan has asked that this question should be considered by the Tariff Board. The Government are anxious and willing for that to be done, and if it can be shown that the bounty is too low and not equal to the duty which has been removed, the position can be rectified.
– Or if it is shown that the duty is too low.
– That will be one and the same thing. Parliament has agreed upon a certain amount of Tariff protection, and the object of this Bill is, as I have said, to maintain the position of the manufacturers concerned whose interests otherwise might be jeopardized by the removal of the duties on certain articles.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Definitions).
. - In this clause, as I pointed out in my second-reading speech, fencing wire is clearly defined, but the same cannot be said of galvanized iron. It states - “ Galvanized sheets “ mean iron and steel plate and sheet galvanized, . whether corrugated or not.
asked for suggestions as to some better method for helping those whom this Bill is ostensibly intended to help, and my suggestion ‘is that the destination of galvanized iron on which the bounty is to be paid should be clearly set out in this clause. There is ample precedent for this course. It may be found in the 1907 Act and succeeding Acts. One or two quotations will serve to illustrate what I mean -
Leather n.e.i., including chamois leather . . used in the manufacture of boots and shoes.
Machinery and parts thereof used in the manufacture of fibrous materials and felt, and felt hats, when installed for use in a woollen mill or a hat factory. . . .
Piece goods of any material when used in the manufacture of rubber waterproof cloth.
It will be seen from these brief quotations that the expedient I have mentioned has been resorted to on other occasions, particular items being specially designated. The same course could be followed in respect of galvanized iron, which could be traced much more readily than the articles I have just mentioned.
– Bounty is not payable on galvanized iron entering into the Commonwealth.
– But the import duty is the foundation or starting point. The payment of the bounty is provided to make up for the remission in the duties on those items, and it would be quite feasible to provide that the locallymanufactured galvanized iron upon which the bounty is to be paid shall be that portion of it that is intended for use in the rural areas of the Commonwealth, and that no bounty should be paid on galvanized iron used in the urban areas. My suggestion is that the bounty should be paid only on galvanized iron used for building operations outside the municipal areas. The money so saved would help in the remission of the duties, that I have always contended are too high, on the implements required in cultivation. I refer to the Canadian and American machines that are so largely used in Australia despite the enormous duties imposed. It is idle to say that this cannot be done, because it is an accomplished fact already, and to apply it in the case of galvanized iron would be a simple matter.
– I am glad the honorable senator does not intend to move for any alteration of the definition clause. I can assure him that that would be impracticable. The provision contemplates that the bounty shall be paid on those articles on which the duties have been removed by the Tariff Act. There are many purposes for which galvanized iron is used in the country, apart from roofing. It is required for tanks, buckets, &c. An enormous staff would be required to inaugurate a system by which we could check the iron sent to the country and the iron sold in the towns.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 -
If, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, the Minister is of opinion that the manufacturer of any goods on which bounty is payable under this Act is not selling those goods at a reasonable price, having regard to the fact that bounty on those goods is provided -by this Act, the Minister may withhold payment of the bounty or so much thereof as he thinks fit.
– I do not like the wording of the clause. The fixing of a reasonable price should not be left practically in the hands of the Tariff Board and the Minister. Admittedly what is a reasonable price would depend on each article.We have got over the difficulty of defining “ reasonable price” in two previous Acts. It should he a sum not exceeding the cost of production, plus the amount of the bounty applicable to those goods. In the Customs . Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act there was a similar section, and we added a sub-section reading, In this section a reasonable price means such a price as represents the cost of the goods, plus 5 per cent.”. Why not in this instance have what is a reasonable price fixed on a similarbasis, and provide that it shall fee such price as represents the cost of production of the goods, plus a sum not exceeding the amount of bounty payable in respect of them?
– Is not the next section sufficient?
– No. Clause 9 merely provides that if the net profits of a firm or company claiming the bounty exceed in any year 15 per cent. on the capital employed in the business, the Minister may, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, withhold so much of the bounty payable as will reduce the net profits for that year to 15 per cent.
– I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Earlier in the day Senator Garling asked me why the trains running between Queanbeyan and Canberra did not carry passengers. The reply is that the train is at present running entirely for freight, and the business does not warrant more than two trains per week. Nearly all the men employed at present are more favorably located close to their work than at Queanbeyan. The carrying of passengers by train would entail special arrangements and increased railway expenses which the passenger traffic does not warrant.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 October 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1922/19221003_senate_8_101/>.