9th Parliament · 3rd Session
ThePresident (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Forestry - Maps and photographs supplemen tary to their report by Mr. C.E. LanePoole (Commonwealth Forestry Adviser) on the Forest Resources of the Territories of Papua and New Guinea.
Ordered to be printed.
Inscribed Stock Act - Dealings and transactions daring year ended30th June, 1924.
Meteorology Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1925, No. 118.
New Guinea - Ordinances of 1925 -
No 34 - LawsRepeal and Adopting (No. 3).
No. 35 - Quarantine.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Post master-General’s Department - F. S. Dairy mple; J.Wetherill.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Defence any information to give to the Senate in reference to the case of Mr. A. W. Page, of Western Australia, who was retired from his position as paymaster in the Defence Department?
– On the 16th July the honorable senator mentioned the case of Mr. A. W. Page, who was retired from the Defence Department in September, 1922, under the provisions of the Defence Retirement Act 1922. I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator that the whole of the papers on this matter have been placed in the hands of the Crown law authorities, who have been instructed that, if Mr. Page is held to be entitled to compensation, payment is to be made to him accordingly.
– I have to announce to the Senate the receipt of the following -letter from the Hon. J. G. Coates, Prime Minister of New Zealand, on the subject of the resolutions of the Senate and the House of Representatives relating to the death of the late Prime Minister of New Zealand : -
I beg to acknowledge the receipt ofyour letter, of the 14th July forwarding a bound copy and several loose copies of resolutions agreed to and speeches” delivered in both Houses of Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia relating to the death of the late Prime Minister of New Zealand.
I desire, on behalf of the Government, Parliament, and people of New Zealand, to express deep appreciation of the tributes paid to Mr. Massey’s services to the Empire, and sincere thanks for the kind messages of sympathy in the great loss sustained by the Dominion.
I propose to arrange for this correspondence, together with a copy of the resolutions and speeches, to be laid on the tables of both Houses of the New Zealand Parliament.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Commonwealth Railways Bill.
Constitution Act and Coasting Provisions
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs,upon notice -
Will the Government, seeing that it has decided to give relief from the Navigation Act to native Papuans, extend the same consideration to the people of Tasmania?
– Whilst the Navigation Act enables trade between the Territories and the Commonwealth as a whole to be exempted from the coasting trade provisions, no such power exists as regards the trade between the various States. Section 99 of the Constitution, it may be pointed out, prohibits the Commonwealth by any law or regulation of trade giving preference to any one State or any part thereof over another State or any part thereof. There is no such restriction in respect of Territories.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28th August (vide page 1821), on motion by Senator Wilson -
That the preamble, agreement, and schedules embodying the tariff agreement with Canada (vide pages 1821-22), be adopted.
– In moving this motion, Senator Wilson endeavoured to paint a very rosy picture of the advantages that are likely to accrue to Australia as the result of its adoption, but I am very much afraid that the benefit to Australia will be very meagre, and that, instead of this agreement being of great advantage to Australia, it will be of much greater advantage to Canada. The preamble to the agreement reads as follows: -
That whereas in pursuance of the provisions of paragraph (a) of sub-section (3.) of section 9 of the Customs Tariff 1921-1924 the Minister of State for Trade and Customs has referred to the Tariff Board the question whether, having regard to the reciprocal benefits which have been or will be granted to Australia by the Dominion of Canada, it is desirable in the interests of the Commonwealth that the . British preferential tariff in the Customs Tariff 1921-1924 or the intermediate tariff in the Customs Tariff 1921-1924 (hereinafter respectively referred to as “ the British preferential tariff “ and “ the intermediate tariff”) should apply to the Dominion of Canada, and, if so, the extent to which it should so apply:
And whereas the Tariff Board has reported that . it is desirable in the interests of the Commonwealth that the British preferential tariff and the intermediate tariff should apply to the Dominion of Canada to the extent specified in this resolution:
I wish to direct the attention of honorable senators to the words, “ having regard to the reciprocal benefits which have been or will be granted to Australia by the Dominion of Canada.” I intend to submit figures showing Canada’s trade with Australia, which should be considered when studying the alleged advantages which Australia may derive from the proposed reciprocal arrangement. Canada’s preference to Australia on meat is l½d. per pound, and for the year 1922-23 the quantity of Australian beef, lamb, mutton, pork, &c, exported totalled 333,782,000 lbs. valued at £6,312,000, of which the United Kingdom took 283,621,000 lbs. valued” at £5,629,500 and Canada 203,315 lbs. valued at £3,944. During 1923 Canada exported $28,000,000 worth of meat of various kinds, and. her imports amounted to only $9,000,000 worth, practically all of which came from the United States of America. It will be seen that Great Britain takes nearly all our exports of meat and Canada very little. The concession on eggs imported from Australia is1½d. per dozen. In 1922-23 Australia exported 1,236,000 dozen worth £103,000. Canada imported3,613,500 dozen valued at $1,400,000 and exported 8,320,000 dozen valued at $8,256,000. Most of Canada’s importations were from the United States of America. I shall now quote the figures in relation to butter, which is one of Australia’s important primary products and one on which Canada offers a concession of l½d. per lb. In 1922-23 Australia exported 79,571.000 lbs. of butter valuedat £6,134,000, of which the United Kingdom took 69,735,000 lbs. valued at £5.244.000, whilst Canada did not take a single pound.
– Where does Canada obtain her butter?
– Either from the United States of America or Denmark. Canada imported butter to the extent of 3,767.000 lbs. valued at- $1,350,000 and exported 22,000,000 lbs. valued at $8,243,000. I understood the Minister (Senator Wilson) to say that there was a possibility of considerable trade being done with Canada in currants and raisins, but the figures show that in 1923-24 Australia, exported 26,500,000 lbs. of raisins valued at £803,000, of which Great Britain took 24,500,000 lbs., valued at £746,000 and Canada only about £1.000 worth. In 1923 Canada imported 32,044,000 lbs. of raisins, valued at §3,644,000. The United States of America supplied nearly the whole of those imports. Canada offers us a preference of l$d. a lb to meet this competition from the United States growers. Comparing the distance between Australia, and Canada with that separating Canadian markets from growers in the United States, what chance have we of securing this trade? Raisins and currants are the only lines in which we can hope to do extensive business with Canada. The preference given to Canada in respect of newsprint is very important. At present the duty on imports from Canada is £3 a ton, ‘whilst the imports from Great Britain are free. During the war the British Government commandeered thousands of manufacturing establishments, including the British paper mills, which were all turned over to the manufacture of munitions of war. As a result, Canada captured the British trade in newsprint, audi Canadian mills, I should like to impress oh honorable members, are, in the main, owned and controlled by manufacturers in the United States of America.
– Has the honorable senator any proof ‘ of that statement ?
– I hope to be able to prove what I am saying. During the war, these so-called Canadian firms charged exorbitant prices for newsprint. To quote the Minister for Customs of that time, Senator Greene, “ they bled Australia white.” Every proprietor of a newspaper in Australia was compelled to pay excessive prices for his newsprint. After the war Great Britain endeavoured to recapture its lost trade in newsprint. British firms made an offer not to charge more than £30 a ton, to ship the paper in Commonwealth vessels to Australia, and to render assistance when required to establish the industry here. Under this arrangement, for the” twelve months ending 30th September, 1924, 32,500 tons’ of newsprint were shipped by the Commonwealth Line to Australia at a cost of £2 15s. a ton, representing £90,000 in freight. But the Canadian firms were not inactive. They reduced prices in an effort to crush British competition, and in the following year a considerable portion of this freight was captured by the Inchcape shipping combine. Senator B«id asked just now if I could prove my statement that Canadian paper manufacturing companies are really United States’ concerns. I have here a statement showing that in 1917 the Attorney-General of the United States instituted proceedings, under the Sherman Act, against the NewsprintManufacturers’ Association. The judgment declared that the association, which included thirteen Canadian manufacturers, representing. 91 per cent, of Canadian export tonnage, was an unlawful combination in restraint of trade, and the court ordered its “dissolution. In addition, certain presidents of Canadian firms were fined 2,500 dollars. The Technical Journal, published in New York, in its issue of the 18th April. 1923. stated -
The development of the Canadian pulp and paper industry during the last decade is one of the most interesting chapters in the industrial life of the North American Continent. . . For America it has uncommon interests, 3ince -American capital and enterprise have played a very important part in it.’
The extent to which the United States of America has been gaining ground in Canada is shown by the following quotation from the Industrial Australian and Mining Standard of the 12th July, 1923:-
The Research Department of the Bankers Trust Company of New York issued in May last a special report entitled “ The flow of capital into Canada,” from which the following quotations will be of particular interest to Australia : - “ The United States would now appear to have invested in Canada 2i billion dollars, or almost as much as the British investments. The 2,500,000,000 dollars, or thereabouts, may roughly be allocated about 1,200,000,000 dollars invested in bonds, and the remainder invested directly or indirectly (through holding of shares in stock companies) in farming, mortgages on real estate, industrial enterprises, in banking, in small business undertakings, and in private loans. . . . Late in 1922 there must have been over 700 such establishments with a further number seeking suitable location. . . One of the incentives for this development is that the American manufacturer can thus supply the Canadian market, and at the same time escape the Canadian tariff. Another is that by manufacturing in Canada they are able to enjoy the preferential treatment accorded to Canadian goods by many countries within the British Empire.
Apropos of this discussion, I may refer to a statement by the late Senator E. D. Millen, who said -
Canadian manufacturers hare no claim upon our gratitude. There is a very strong reason for assuming that there is a very close intimacy between American and Canadian manufacturers.
Having considered the matter as closely as time would permit, I think that there is a great deal in what the late honorable senator said. Let me now give this extract from a statement made at one time by the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) : “My vote will be governed very largely by the knowledge that the request will help Great Britain.” I venture to say that Mr. Pratten has lived to learn, even as Minister for Trade and Customs, and that if the agreement is ratified, it will not help the British Empire to the extent that is supposed. In fact, instead of benefiting Canada, as part of the Empire, it will simply assist American investors in Canada, and we in Australia will not get the commensurate benefit for which we hope. Senator Wilson on one occasion remarked: “ I admit Canadian manufacturers are not entitled to expect very much from us at this juncture.”
– That juncture has passed.
- Senator Wilson has failed to satisfy me, at any rate, that this is a satisfactory agreement. I emphasize that I am merely expressing my personal views. The Acting Government Whip, Senator Duncan, referring to newsprint, said that Australia had had “ a rough spin’’ from newsprint manufacturers in Canada. I do not know whether the honorable senator is still of the same opinion, or whether he is now as free to express his views as he was when that statement was made, but I hope to hear what attitude he now takes up. The quantities of newsprint and other printing paper carried by vessels of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers is indicated by the subjoined letter, addressed to Mr. Andrew Milne, care of Messrs. Lendrums Limited, Collins- street. Melbourne, . and dated the 1st October, 1924:-
Paper Shipments - United Kingdom- Australia
Further to your inquiry of yesterday, we -have to advise that the quantities of newsprint paper and other printing paper carried by the vessels of this Line from United Kingdom to Australia during the past twelve months ending 30th September, were as follows: -
I do not propose to criticise the motion much more. I consider it is an invitation to a gamble.
– We decided a few days ago that gambling was not permissible under Commonwealth law. Certainly, in my opinion, Parliament should not give its assent to this proposed gamble, for the nation’s money is at stake. A justifiable summary of the Minister’s speech, in introducing this motion, is, “ Australia hopes to get some advantage.” May I remind honorable senators that “ hope deferred maketh the heart sick.” If we accept this proposal, I am afraid that we shall become sick of hoping for an advantageous result. Great Britain takes 90 per cent. of the exports that are mentioned in the schedules. It must be patent, therefore, that even if Canada took the whole of the remaining 10 per cent., which I do not believe to be the case, we could not gain very greatly. Admittedly, Great Britain is the best customer we have for our exportable primary products. In. my opinion, the only result that would follow our acceptance of this proposal would be that American investors in Canada would gain. I understand that the Canadian Parliament has already considered this matter, and that itis in consequence of its decisions that these schedules axe before us. Will the Minister tell us, in his speech in reply, whether any amendment of the schedules would make the whole proposal invalid ? I do not think the Government has made out a good case, and I ask the Senate to negative the motion.
– As I look at this proposal, it should be examined from two standpoints. First of all, we should ask ourselves what is its sentimental worth; and, secondly, what is likely to be its business value. As to the sentimental aspect, there is, of course, a bond of sympathy between Canada and Australia as sister dominions of the British Empire. That bond, I believe, will be very little affected by the fate of this motion. Another sentimental consideration that should carry a good deal of weight is the effect, if any, that our acceptance or rejection of this proposal would have on world politics. I am one of those, and I am thankful to say that they are many, who believe that the peace, prosperity and justice of the world depend very largely upon the English-speaking races. Anything that
Gan be, done to assure a perfect cohesion or fusion of the Engish-speaking races ought to be done. Our acceptance of this proposal might have a prejudicial effect upon the relations between Canada and the United States of America. As the solidarity of the United States of America and Canada is very much more important than that of Canada and Australia, from the point of view of world politics, we should be justified, on that ground alone, in rejecting the motion. The proposed agreement certainly has very little to recommend it from the sentimental point of view, in so far as world politics are concerned. As to its business effect, Senator Needham has just given us an explicit account of what might be called the balance of trade. The honorable senator’s speech bore every appearance of careful preparation, but I do not think that the facts that he gave us were at all secret. It has been evident for many years that the balance of trade, as between Australia and Canada, is overwhelmingly in favour of Canada. No possible effect of this proposed agreement could alter that. The Minister for Markets and Migration (Senator Wilson) appears to pin his faith, to a very great extent, to the good effect that might follow from the proposed amended duty on dried fruits. I regard that as a somewhat frail reed upon which to lean. From the point of view of proximity, Southern California could easily supply all Canada’s require^ ments in that line. She could certainly do so much better than Australia, if proper transport arrangements were made. We need always to remember that the Government of the United States of America is very willing to help transportarrangements by means of subsidizing freights. It has proved that it is much more willing to do that than Australia is. The operation of that policy in other areas of world commerce has been detrimental to Australia. For these reasons, and for another which I shall touch upon briefly, it is my intention to oppose the ratification of this agreement. The other reason is that Canada is one of our most active opponents in a trade which means, in my opinion, a very great deal indeed to the primary producers and manufacturers of Australia. I am referring to the trade with southeastern Asia, more particularly with China. Aided by the subsidies to which I have already alluded, Canada is fighting us for the markets in south-eastern Asia, with fatal effect upon us. Hampered by a lack of regular and cheap transport, 0111 flour, although it is far better than Canadian, cannot obtain a footing in those markets. If we could secure that trad - and I believe, with judicious treatment, we can - it would prove a. much more important market to us than the Canadian market could ever be. For the reasons I have enunciated, and which, having no desire to prolong the debate, I have touched on lightly, it is my intention to cast my vote against the ratification of this agreement with Canada. -
– While listening to the remarks of Senator Wilson, I was wondering how he would endeavour to impress on the Senate that any advantage would accrue to the Commonwealth from the adoption of this motion. I was particularly interested to ascertain from him to what extent Australia was now supplying commodities to Canada. At that moment he had not the figures at his disposal, hut since then he has very kindly furnished them to me. They are of sufficient importance, I think, to cause honorable senators to reject the motion, or, at any rate, to pause well before accepting it. The return furnished to me shows that, in the year 1923-4, we imported into Australia articles under statement A to the following value: -
These figures speak much louder and more effectively than any words could do. Another return shows the value of imports into Canada of the items mentioned in statement B for the year 1923-4:-
Australia’s share of that trade was insignificant in the extreme. The Minister has failed to put before the Senate sufficient information to induce us to accept his motion. He has not been able to show us how Australia can get any share of the trade that passes into Canada. In my opinion, the word “ Canada “ in this agreement should be replaced by the words “ United States or America.” The motion is ostensibly to give preference to Canada, but it will really, if adopted, afford a preference to the United States of America as against Great Britain. One of the principal commodities we import from abroad, is newsprint. I suppose that in common with all members of the Federal Parliament, honorable senators have been supplied with an elaborate statement containing very carefully arranged arguments in favour of the establishment of paper mills in Australia for the manufacture of newsprint. The information it affords to honorable senators is of the utmost value. In it the quantity of newsprint imported during the last few years is shown to be as follows: -
The real object of this motion is to give the so-called Canadian paper mills an opportunity to recover the trade which these figures show they have lost to Great Britain.
– They are Canadian mills, using all Canadian material.
– They are not owned by the Canadian people. The ramifications of capital are world-wide, and information placed at our disposal by those who are well qualified to give it with authority, shows that a very large proportion of American money is invested in the Canadian paper manufacturing business. Senator Needham, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, showed us this afternoon very clearly from figures he quoted that the Canadian paper mills were owned very largely by persons residing in the United States. A significant statement published in the Industrial Australian and Mining Standard on 12th July, 1923, should have been sufficient to cause the Minister to pause before seeking to do an injustice to Great Britain to the advantage of the United States of America. That statement was as follows : -
Tlie Research Department of the Bankers’ Trust, New York, issued in May last a special report, entitled “ The Flow of Capital into Canada,” from which the following quotations will be of particular interest to Australia : - “ The United States would now appear to have invested in Canada 2,500,000,000 dollars, or almost as much as the British investments.”
I think the Minister ought to answer that statement before he insists upon his followers voting for this motion. The statement continues - “ The 2,300,000,000 dollars or thereabouts may roughly be allocated : - About 1,200,000,000 dollars’ invested in bonds, and the remainder invested directly or indirectly (through holding of shares in stock companies) in farming, mortgages on real estate, in industrial enterprises, in banking, in small business undertakings, and in private loans.”
This statement, whose accuracy I have no reason to challenge, shows that the socalled Canadian paper mills are to a very great extent the property of American investors. Therefore, the only effect of this motion will be to withdraw from Great Britain a trade which it has built np after very strenuous exertions following the war, and transfer it ostensibly to Canada, but actually to the United States. I will not stand for that. If preference is to be given, it should be given within the Empire. If I were satisfied that the Canadian people would reap an advantage from the proposed preference, I would not have so much objection to it, but I am satisfied that they will get nothing, and that the effect of the adoption of the proposal will be to destroy, gradually but surely, Great Britain’s” export trade in newsprint to Australia, and transfer it to so-called Canadian mills situated in Canada, but really belonging to the United States of America. If we were considering the establishment of paper-mills in Tasmania, or some, other portion of the Commonwealth, the position would be entirely different. We are not doing anything of the kind. The Government is proposing to give Canada a preference on certain commodities in the foolish hope that we will be able to export to that country some of our surplus products; Nothing of the kind is likely to happen. I am at a loss to understand why the Government should bring down such a proposal as this. It would not do so if it had given the matter careful consideration, unless it is its intention, as I believe it is, to destroy the British trade with Australia in news-print by transferring it ostensibly to Canada, but actually to the United States of America. Without any justification whatever, the price of newsprint during the war was increased enormously, and almost every consignment which reached Australia was sold at a higher rate than the preceding one, until it reached approximately £100 per ton. We were fortunate to receive supplies even at that figure. The remarks on the subject made on one occasion by the late Senator E. D. Millen - one of the ablest men that ever occupied a seat in this chamber - should not be forgotten. He said, “ The Canadian manufacturers have no claim upon our gratitude, but there is a very strong reason for assuming that there is a close intimacy between American and Canadian manufacturers.” The late senator, who was once associated with the news-print trade, would not have made such a statement if he thought the position was not as he stated. The present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), when a member of the Senate, also said, “ My vote will be governed very largely by the knowledge that the request will help Great Britain.”
If this motion is agreed to, and the Government, in pursuance of its policy, ostensibly, to give preference to Canada, gives effect to it, American manufacturers will undoubtedly benefit. The proposal is one which I cannot support and I believe that the Government would be well advised to allow the duties to remain as at present. As Parliament is prepared to give bonuses to the Australian industries when those responsible for their control find that they cannot possibly carry on without assistance, we should not take this unnecessary step, and destroy the trade in newsprint which has already been built up with Great Britain. As the United States of America in common with Tasmania imposes a tax upon all those who enter its borders, and the Dominion of Canada can be entered without travellers having to submit to such an injustice we have an additional reason for opposing the concession. The proposal is an obnoxious one, and for the reasons I have stated as well as others which could be given, I trust the Government will withdraw the motion.
– This proposal in making its appearance for the second time revives memories of the attempt to give effect to at least two desires in the minds of the people. The first is to draw a little closer together the different portions of the British Empire by means of more intimate trade relationships. The second is to see what can be done in the way of allowing other portions of the” British Empire to sell to us those goods which- they can produce to greater advantage than we can, and vice versa. In a secondary sense this subject can be approached from the point of view of the fiscal policy under which we adhere to the delusion of building still higher a protective barrier in the vain hope that by that means alone we can increase our production to our own advantage. I propose, however, ito view it solely from the stand-point of the well-being of this country as a whole. I have to ask myself if this reciprocal arrangement is likely to hamper and restrict an overwhelming bulk of our producers, or lift from their shoulders the burden which they are at present, and have been for a long time, bearing. I intend to address myself to the question from that stand-point alone. We have two classes of producers in the Commonwealth, each of which is well known to honorable senators and’ to any outsider who has studied the question of protection. There are, in the first place, the producers who established themselves on the broad areas of this country, and who have held the fort for many succeeding years against great disadvantages in producing directly from the soil articles required for human consumption. Another section is serving a very useful end, but in doing so is asking the whole of the community to bear an unequal and unwarranted impost for the purpose of supporting it against what it terms unfair outside competition. Tor many years I lent a willing ear to the demands of this section, and I still maintain that they have a good deal to recommend them. Its demands have to be granted up to a reasonable limit, but beyond that we should not go. Australia should expand as an industrial and productive nation in every sense, but it cannot do so by giving special concessions to one class of producer at the expense of another. We cannot afford to allow secondary producers to come to this Parliament as they do, and a3 they did, to the State Parliaments prior to the inception of federation for successive favours in the direction of an unreasonable degree of protection, as against those engaged in corresponding efforts elsewhere. The history of tariff legislation in the Commonwealth is very simple, and, indeed, a short story. The first effort was made after the inception of federation, in 1901, and was followed by a later effort in 1907-8 when a still’ stiffer tariff was passed. The opinion then expressed was that those who by means of the first Federal tariff were to a degree insufficiently protected, should be further protected, and acting under that belief Parliament proceeded to provide a higher and more effective degree of protection. I shared in that effort, and do not withdraw one word I said on that occasion; neither do I feel sorry for anything I did to give the secondary industries the necessary help which I thought, and still think, they should enjoy. But what was our experience with those who once said that they were satisfied with the effort of 1907-8, when an attempt was made to give them the protection they desired and which we thought they were entitled to? It was said by those people who once expressed satisfaction with the tariff that it was not producing the effect expected, and little by little the volume of opinion in favour of further increased protection grew in intensity, with the result that during the war period further additions were made. Then followed the last successful attempt in this Parliament to give these industries a still further helping hand along what we were informed was the road to success. Three successive attempts have been made to put the secondary industries upon what is considered to be a satisfactory basis, in order that they might not only hold the field against foreign competition, but also take a hand in supplying the markets overseas. What has been the result? Instead of these industries exporting products they have failed to meet even the local demand. There must be something wrong with our secondary industries. I think we may fairly pride ourselves that, in the matter of tariff protection, we have done the fair thing by them. ^Notwithstanding this ample measure of protection, they have . failed to justify our hopes, ‘ not only with regard to the home market, but to the overseas market as well. This failure is brought into relief by the effort made by our primary producers, who not only have to bear this extra tariff burden for the assistance of secondary industries, but have also to face overseas competition of the fiercest and most unrelenting kind. What has been done in the case of our chief staple product, wool ? Our growers, as we all know, produce one-fourth of the world’s production in finer wools. As a consequence, although our population is small we have a steady inflow of gold from this source ranging from £60,000,000 to £70,000,000 a year. Canada is in no such favorable situation. That country is never likely to produce first class wool in any quantity. She has less than 3,000,000 sheep. South Australia alone has double that number, and, in common with the other States of the Commonwealth, other great natural resources as well. On the other hand, Canada makes up for what she lacks in natural resources by capitalizing the energy of her people. It is quite true that the sister Dominion is fortunate in the possession, of vast prairie lands for the production of wheat.
Australia, as every one knows, also has almost unlimited areas for wheat production; but, unlike the Canadian prairie lands, our soils will not stand heavy and continuous cultivation. In addition, we have great potential mineral resources. We have already won immense quantities of gold and other minerals from our mines. Will any one say that we may not expect a vast accretion of wealth from this source? But let me return to the consideration of the position occupied by our secondary industries. What are they doing? Are they performng their allotted task? In my opinion, they are not. I do not say this in a spirit of fault-finding. I am merely stating facts as I see them. In the field of secondary endeavour, we are not “ delivering the goods,” to the same extent that we are in our prmary industries. The Commonwealth Year-Book 1924 sets out the position very clearly. Taking the year 1913 as the basic year, I find that the total exports from all sources, except manufacturing, totalled £72,000,000, and that the value of manufactured goods exported was £2,300,000. Since then, as I have shown, substantial advantages in the form of increased tariff protection have been given to our secondary industries, consequently we should be entitled to look for progress. The figures disclose the contrary to be the case. In 1921-2 the value of our primary products exported rose to £86,000,000, whereas the value of our manufactured goods exported was slightly over £2,300,000, representing only a slight increase over the figures for 1913. In 1922-3 the value of primary products exported declined to £70,000,000, and the value of manufactured products dropped to £1,900,000. The decline in exports of primary production was due entirely to a falling off in the value of the output from our mines and quarries from £14,000,000 in 1913 to £8,000,000 in 1922-3; and in forestry products from £1,100,000 to £700,000. Taking 1913 as the basic year, the exports of agricultural produce in 1922-3 represented 107 per cent. ; in the pastoral industry, it was 105 per cent. ; in the dairying industry, 126 per cent. ; in mines and quarries, 56 per cent. ; in fisheries, 114 per cent. ; and in forestry, 65 per cent. “ From these figures it will be seen that, had production in our mines, quarries, and in forestry, held their own,, there would have been a substantial increase during the years mentioned, in the field of primary production. Our secondary industries in the same period declined to 83 per cent. And this notwithstanding all the patronage extended to them by this Parliament. In the light of these facts, are we going to give further benefits to our manufacturing industries which, during the last nine years, have not returned to the people that benefit which they had every right to expect for the protection given ? The position in Canada is almost the reverse of that in Australia. In 1922 the raw materials exported from Canada to the United Kingdom and the United States of America totalled §329,000,000, or, roughly, £60,000,000. The value of partly manufactured goods exported in the santa year was $107,000,000; and the value of fully, or chiefly, manufactured goods exported was $303,000,000. In other words, Canada, in 1922, exported about £20,000,000 worth of partly manufactured articles, as well as the £60,000,000 worth of fully,’ or chiefly, manufactured goods; or a total of about £80,000,000 worth of secondary products, compared with less than £2.000,000 worth exported from Australia. As far as I have been able to gather, the Canadian tariff is not more protective in its incidence than is the Australian tariff. Therefore, in that respect, Canadian manufacturers are not so favorably situated as are manufacturers in Australia. Take, for example, the position of the manufacturers of farm machinery.” which is an important factor in Australian primary production. The agricultural machinery that comes from Canada to Australia has to bear an impost of something like 50 or 60 per cent., although it is made in a British country by workmen who receive the benefits of high wages and an eight-hours’ day. The Canadian manufacturers manage to surmount our high tariff barrier, notwithstanding the fact that they have to obtain their raw material from the United States of America, and pay a duty upon it at the American border. It is about time we called a halt. I am not prepared to give Australian manufacturers of agricultural implements, or the manufacturers in any secondary industry, this great advantage to the positive injury and hardship of the agricultural, pastoral, mining, and dairying section of the community that are supplying the substantial form of national wealth. The producers engaged on the lighter and drier soils of Australia are engaged in a royal battle, but those carrying on our secondary industries are not experiencing similar hardships, for they are sheltered by a high tariff wall. I should like to see the treaty so moulded. that our primary producers would be given a chance to prosper and enjoy some of the good things of life that up to the present time they have been denied. I have already made clear in this chamber the result of the repeated coddling of secondary industries. I well remember how Mr. 0. G. Hoskins made repeated attempts before the Tariff Board to obtain the utmost protection he could secure, from the time the iron ore was taken from the mine in South Australia until it was landed in New South Wales, and later on was converted into either mining or agricultural machinery. By the repeated efforts of this gentleman to obtain tariff favours, one would have imagined that he was in financial difficulty, but we now know thathe told an exaggerated tale. Mr. Hoskins now has a twelve-storied building in the heart of Sydney, built as a result of the assistance given to an industry which Parliament was led to believe was unprofitable. Honorable senators should realize that Parliament has listened too readily to these manufacturers, when in reality it should have told them to go about their business and put up a fight equal to that being carried on by those engaged in the primary industries. I regard the agreement as only a partial effort to do justice to the men on the land, who are engaged in by far the greatest effort to sustain our country’s position. Why are not agricultural implements included? There is one type of manufactured article mentioned in the schedule, but it represents only a fractional part of the producer’s requirements. We should tear down -the tariff barrier and give manufacturers in Canada and Australia even competition, to see which can come out on top. We cannot continue to pile up duties on the machinery and implements required by our primary producers without making their position worse than it is, or oven driving them off the land. I do not know how to give effect to my desires in regard to this agreement. I do not propose to discuss the matter of newsprint and other items that are of comparatively small moment. I believe that the advantage given with regard to our dried fruits will be of great benefit to at least one small section of our producers, but it seems to me that the agreement might have been extended to wines.
– They are included.
– The slight advantage given under the agreement is not sufficient. There should be a good market for our dry and sparkling wines in Canada. The manufacturers of iron and steel products are enjoying too high a duty, and they are not “delivering the goods” to the people of this country. Our primary producers are making an almost superhuman effort without receiving the reward to ‘which they are entitled. The dairying industry is carried on largely with the aid of the labour of women and children, and almost a sweated product is placed on the market for the benefit of the consumers in the cities. Why, then, should these producers not receive some compensating advantage ? If the Government took 15 per cent, off the present duty on agricultural machinery, it would not place the local manufacturers on an unfair footing. Are they paying higher wages, or . giving better conditions of employment than obtain in Canada? As far as statistics are available to guide me, I say that they are not. The facts are that they have advantages over the Canadian manufacturers. Australian farmers have to bear the handicap of a yield on our light soils of about twelve bushels to the acre, as against sixteen or twenty bushels in Canada, but they also have to submit to the extra impost of a 60 per cent, duty on their implements. I know that I have been like a voice in the wilderness in the past, but I hope that I have induced honorable senators to view this matter from the proper angle. There may be a further opportunity of considering it when the tariff comes before us, but I accept this first instalment of a proposal designed to bring together people with a common language, who have sprung from a common stock, and who are working out their destinies on two different continents. I give the motion my hearty support, realizing that, although it does not go so far as I think it should, it will assist to promote the welfare of the people of Australia, and particularly those engaged in the broad areas of our interior.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) did me the honour of quoting from a speech that I delivered in the Senate a considerable time ago on the subject of British preference. It is true that, as far as it is possible to do it with justice to our own manufacturers, I am prepared to give to Britain as large a measure of preference as possible. At that time I fought strongly to give a preference to Great Britain under our tariff schedule. We found, subsequently, that Britain was not prepared to reciprocate. A change of government occurred there, and the Labour party, which assumed office, callously disregarded the wishes and best interests of the Dominions, and threw overboard the preferential tariff proposals which the previous government was prepared to grant. So the position was that Australia was giving everything to Britain and getting nothing from her. In that circumstance, I introduced a motion into the Senate, with the object of rescinding the preference that had been given to Britain. The matter was discussed at length, but before a vote could be taken on it, another election occurred in Great Britain, which resulted in the defeat of the Labour party, and the return to power of a party which was prepared to accord a proper degree of preference to the Dominions. In introducing my motion, I stated that I was favorable to entering into equitable tariff arrangements ‘ with the sister Dominions, and particularly with Canada, with the object of bringing about an interchange of Dominion products. Later on, the Commonwealth Government negotiated with the Canadian Government, arranged a basis for a reciprocal trade arrangement, and submitted a concrete proposal to Parliament. We were told at that time that unless we ratified the agreement without amendment it would not be effective. On that understanding, we ratified it. Subsequently, however, Canada refused to do so. She made counter proposals, the result of which we see in the proposed agreement now before us. The Minister has told us that, in his opinion, this arrangement is more favorable to Australia than the previous one. I know the Canadians, and I say, deliberately, that although wo are accustomed to regard the business men of the United States of America as the example par excellence of men who will drive a hard bargain, the Canadian business men can “ put it all over the Yankees in that regard. The Canadian Parliament refused to ratify the original agreement, for the reason that it considered an arrangement more advantageous to Canada could be made.
– The last agreement was never before the Canadian Parliament. It was dealt with by the Canadian Government.
– At any rate, the agents or Ministers of the Canadian Parliament made an agreement with the agents of the Commonwealth Parliament, and subsequently refused to ratify it. We are told now that this proposed agreement, which the Canadian authorities are prepared to ratify, is more favorable to Australia than the previous one. I should like the Minister to point out in detail the items in the schedule which make it so. Senator .J. Grant, in discussing this matter, found himself in an anomalous position. He is one of the leading freetraders of this Parliament. I shall not call him the high priest of freetrade, for that would award him the palm that very rightly belongs to his honoured Leader ‘ in the Senate (Senator Gardiner); but he i3 a worthy standard-bearer for his Leader. He is, on principle, opposed to the imposition of Customs duties; but this afternoon he objected to a proposed reduction of them. I feel sure that his freetrade supporters in New South Wales will be horrified at his attitude. To be consistent, he ought gladly to accept all such reductions on the ground that they must lead ultimately to the abolition of the duties. He has failed lamentably to stand by his convictions. He told us that we ought not to ratify this proposed agreement for the reason that capital from the United States of America is invested in Canada.
– That is a most important point.
– I point out to the honorable senator that, although the capital comes from the United States of America, the factories are in Canada, the employees are Canadians, and the Canadian Government obtains revenue from both, the investors and the workers. Does he object to the investment of such capital anywhere except in the United States of America? Is he opposed to the establishment of Ford factories in Australia?
– I object to the United States of America having a preference against Great Britain.
– I shall deal with that point presently. The honorable senator must realize that the investment of foreign capital in Australia means more employment, better wages, and improved conditions for our workers. We have been told, for instance, that the establishment of Ford factories here will mean that we shall soon be able to buy Fords for the price of perambulators. Senator J. Grant also said that if we accept this proposed agreement we shall deal a heavy blow at the British paper trade.
– That is the object of the proposal.
– The. British paper industry has been enjoying a substantial preference from Australia for some years, which, according to figures quoted by Senator J. Grant and Senator Needham, has enabled it to increase its Australian trade enormously.
– But not to recapture the trade that it lost to Canada during the war years.
– The paper manufacturers of Great Britain have gone a long way in that direction. We are not now buying any paper from the United States of America. The preference that has been enjoyed by Great Britain has destroyed the Australian trade which was formerly done by the paper manufacturers of the United States of America. At the time that the preference was granted we were assured that it would enable the British manufacturers to re-establish themselves and to hold their position against competition from the outside world; The wages paid in the Canadian paper industry are higher than those paid in the industry in Great Britain. We know, of course, that the British manufacturers have to meet freight charges incurred in bringing a considerable quantity of their raw material from America, but that cannot be regarded as an entire offset against the preferential treatment that it is accorded by Australia. I hold that we ought not to give to Great Britain a preference which we will not give to a sister dominion of the Empire, whose people are working under conditions that are equal to our own. We all desire to see the various dominions of the Empire grow. If I believed that the ratification of this proposed agreement -would benefit the American manufacturer as against the British manufacturer, I should oppose it. Figures which I have been supplied with do not lead me to believe that the position of the paper industry is as Senator J. Grant and Senator Needham have described it. I do not in any way challenge the accuracy of their statements as to the amount of American capital invested in Canada, but it does not necessarily follow that all the capital invested in the paper industry in Canada comes from the United States of America. I am assured by authorities, whom I consider to be quite as reputable as those quoted by the honorable senators, that most of the capital invested in the Canadian paper industry is either Canadian or British, and, indeed, that the greater part of it is British. We are asked by Senators Needham and J. Grant not to give this meed of preference to a Canadian industry, which is mainly supported by British capital, because by doing so we should be taking from British capital invested elsewhere a preference now enjoyed by it. We are not asked to give a preference to Canada over what has been given to Great Britain. We are merely asked to give to Canada that which has been given to Britain. The next point is that this agreement cannot be harmful to Australian industry. The whole matter has been investigated by the Tariff Board, which I do not think even Senator J. Grant would say has freetrade instincts or is imbued with freetrade principles; and as that board has recommended the ratification of the agreement, I think it can be safely said that its acceptance will not prove harmful to Australian industry. One of the great arguments advanced by the Minister (Senator Wilson) was that, while no Australian industry would be hurt, the agreement would prove to be of tremendous assistance to the dried-fruit industry, which is a very important branch of Australian industry.
– I referred to it as one of many industries that would derive assistance.
– Is the honorable senator willing to exclude newsprint from the schedule J
– After all his arguments against the agreement, Senator J. Grant now admits that, so long as newsprint is excluded, it is not so bad.
– I did not say that.
– That is the inference to be drawn from the honorable senator’s interjection. Unlike Senator J. Grant, who is interested in the British newsprint trade, I am interested in the well-being of the growers of fruit in Australia who will secure some benefit from this agreement. They should receive our first consideration. We have spent millions of pounds in an endeavour to establish the dried fruits industry in Australia and thousands of our returned soldiers are engaged in it. On out irrigation areas are some of the finest settlers in Australia, but they are faced with the problem of finding adequate markets for their products. ‘ By the adoption of this agreement we can offer to them some hope of securing a footing in a most important market that will give them a fair price for their products. Honorable senators who are opposing the motion assure us that the agreement will prove of no advantage to the dried fruits industry. I believe it will be of advantage, but if it will not, then on giving the requisite six months notice we can have it amended. If we find that the agreement is working entirely in one direction it will be easy enough to have it altered later on, but on the figures supplied by the Minister as the result of the investigation made by the Tariff Board, I believe, that it will prove decidedly advantageous to the dried fruits industry and those engaged in it. I am prepared to give those people every possible assistance, because I know what a rough spin they have had, and I regret very much that Senator J. Grant and others who have spoken against the motion are not willing to give these people the measure of assistance and sympathy they deserve. I have some doubt about how the agreement will work out - it will be interesting to watch developments - but the advantages it offers more than outweigh the disadvantages.
– The motion submitted by Senator Wilson has given honorable senators a second opportunity to express their opinions upon the reciprocal agreement with Canada. It has also opened the door to a discussion of the merits of the preference given to the United Kingdom. This discussion must be of considerable benefit to the people whom the agreement is intended to help, inasmuch as it will give them some idea of what the Government is doing for them. Some doubt has been expressed to-day as to whether the agreement will be ratified. There are very good reasons why we should ratify it. There may be some, items in the schedule which should have been omitted, and Senator Lynch has referred to some that might have been included. Many of the items included are not manufactured to any extent in Australia. Some of the types of machinery referred to are not extensively used here, at any rate not as extensively as the agricultural implements to which Senator Lynch referred. Australian manufacturers who understand Australian requirements are turning out agricultural implements that suit those requirements better than any foreign manufacturer could turn them out. Therefore, I am notvery much concerned about the omission , of agricultural implements from the schedule. I am more concerned about the inclusion of dried and preserved fruits. I believe that the class of men referred to by Senator Duncan, the returned soldiers engaged in the production of dried fruits, will derive considerable benefit from this agreement. Although the Government has done a great deal to afford them every assistance - this agreement is further evidence of its desire to promote their interests - many of them now find it difficult to remain on their blocks. I know scores of them who have had to leave their blocks in South ‘Australia because they were getting an inadequate return for their produce. This agreement will provide them with another market. We cannot open too many avenues for the disposal of our dried fruits, and if we are to gain a new market for this produce it will benefit a type of men who are more deserving of assistance than is any other class in the community. They are the men who went to the war and on their return settled on the land, very often paying such high prices for it that they have been carrying on under a great handicap. I agree with honorable senators who say that we have no idea what benefit this agreement will bring to Australia. It is not as if we were dealing with a matter affecting only people within our own borders. As itrelates to exports to another country, it will be a considerable time before the figures are available to show what actual benefit has been derived. If we were to follow the advice of some honorable senators we would reject the agreement without giving it a trial. It has already been pointed out that if we find it is not working as well as we would like, we can give notice of our intention to terminate it. In the meantime, it is of the greatest importance to Australia that we should endeavour to expand our trade with other countries, and particularly with other parts of the “British Empire. This Parliament has no desire to destroy Australia’s trade within the British Empire or with any other country with which it is doing business, and I marvel at the statement made by some honorable senators that this agreement is intended to destroy the newsprint trade with Great Britain. I do not think that it is likely to be affected to any extent either by the adoption or by the rejection of this agreement. In any case, I say emphatically that it is a serious reflection on the Tariff Board, which has been authorized by the Government to make inquiries and inform Parliament on matters of this kind, to say that the intention of the agreement is to destroy British trade with Australia. It is likewise a serious reflection upon the Minister. Senator J. Grant referred to the large amount of American capital invested in Canadian industries, and said that by ratifying this agreement we would be assisting to support American commercial enterprise. I do not. know whether that statement is correct or not, but doubtless American money is invested in Canada, just as it is in other countries, where satisfactory returns can be obtained. American money is invested- in the Commonwealth, and it would be just as reasonable for Canada to decline to offer’ preferential rates on the products of Australian in dustries in - which British or foreign capital was invested.
– It would be a stupid distinction.
– Yes. We cannot differentiate merely because American money may be invested in Canadian industries, neither should we expect to have an agreement wholly in favour of the Commonwealth. On perusing the latestfigures available, I find that the preference given by Great Britain on dried fruits was valued at £18,644, and on wines £53,568, or a total of £’72,212, which was of great benefit, particularly to ex-soldiers settled on the land. If, under this agreement with Canada, Australian producers can obtain preferences equalling the amount I have mentioned, a very deserving section will benefit. There are many other items which one could quote to show the extent to which advantage has been taken of th’e preferential tariff, and I have no doubt that under this proposal our trade with Canada will increase. I intend to support the motion, because I believe it will assist, not only that section for which I particularly plead - the returned soldiers growing fruit and producing wine - but also a large number of other primary producers, who, as Senator Lynch said, are not so aggressive as are other producers, and for that reason are not receiving that consideration from the Parliament to which they are entitled.
– As I mentioned in submitting the motion, apart from such items as beeswax and eucalyptus oil, Australia has not increased her concessions to Canada, whilst Canada has dealt favorably with the Commonwealth in the matter of fruit pulp and sugar. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham), in endeavouring to show why the agreement would not be of any benefit to Australia, really proved conclusively that it would be of advantage.
– I said it was not of much value.
– Hitherto Australia, in her trade relations with Canada, has been at a greater disadvantage than Prance, Belgium, Italy, and Holland. Although the Deputy Leader of the Opposition believes that under this agreement the Australian meat producers will not derive any benefit, he should remember that at present in competing for the Canadian market they are in the same position as those of the United States of America, whereas under this proposal they will have an advantage of 1½d. per lb. Senator Sir Thomas Glasgow and other honorable senators acquainted with the meat export trade will admit that such a concession will place the industry in a much better position. During the last year Canada purchased 406,285 dozen eggs from various countries, and as a concession of 1½d. per dozen is provided for in the agreement, Austrafia, which up to the present has not exported any to Canada, should be able to obtain a fair share of the trade. It should be possible to produce eggs more profitably in Australia than in Canada. In that country poultry has to be housed and hand-fed for a considerable portion of the year, as well as kept warm for six or seven months by artificial means, whereas egg production in Australia can be carried out under much more favorable conditions. The concession of ld. per lb. on cheese is also of benefit, and is almost equivalent to the freight on that commodity between Australia and Canada and the cost of marketing. Then again the arrangement in regard to butter should be of advantage to us. Under an agreement between New Zealand and Canada, New Zealand has been exporting large quantities of butter to Canada, whilst Australia has not exported any. If we are to secure a portion of that trade we must be placed on a similar basis. Even if the agreement is adopted by Parliament, as we expect it to be, the business done with Canada will still depend solely upon the efforts of the trading community. We give them the opportunity; it is for them to cater for the trade. I believe that, in respect of some of the items in the agreement, we shall not have much trade with that country, but I am advised that the preference given to Australia with regard to currants should prove of substantial value, and that is a market which we are endeavouring to develop. Senator Needham stressed the fact that Britain is our best customer. No one will dispute that statement for a moment, but that question does not arise in connexion with this agreement. The honor- able senator also stated that a large amount of United States money was invested in Canadian paper mills, and that preference in the duty on newsprint meant preference to the United States. Whilst I was in .Canada I met a great number of people and received three deputations from men interested in the paper industry. I am satisfied that the labour employed in Canadian paper mills is Empire labour, and that the industry itself is Empire managed and controlled. It is not reasonable to suggest that, because United States money is invested in the Canadian paper industry, it must not be given any concession in this tariff agreement. My honorable friends opposite would take as much money as they could get from America if it were offered at j per cent, cheaper than the rate at which it could be obtained from Great Britain. Queensland, as we know, got in very early with a loan from the United States of America.
– And it was not too cheap, either.
– I believe there was a difference of opinion as to whether the money from the United States of America was cheaper than the then ruling British rate. Senator J. Grant spoke of the effect of this proposed agreement on the revenue. I can assure him that practically the whole of our paper comes from Great Britain at present, so the revenue will not be affected as he suggested.
– I did not say that the revenue would be affected. I said that our trade in newsprint was with Great Britain at the present time.
– I understood the honorable senator to say that the revenue would be affected by this agreement, but I have shown that it will not be. Practically all the wood pulp imported by Great Britain for the manufacture of paper comes from Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Germany, the total for last year being 1,226,000 tons.
– What proportion was from Canada?
– 6 per cent. only.
– What proportion was imported from the other countries mentioned?
– I have not the details. This agreement gives Canada the British preferential rate. If, in the future, we set about the establishment of the paper manufacturing industry in Australia, and decided that the general tariff must be increased, any increased tariff on British imports would apply also to the Canadian imports. Senator Kingsmill said he approached the consideration of this agreement from the standpoints of sentiment and business. It. is well to have a mixture of the two.
– It is as well sometimes to separate sentiment from business.
– In this case, I think, we might . very well allow sentiment to influence, to some extent, our attitude towards Canada. The honorable senator mentioned that by freight concessions the United States of America was developing trade in flour withsouth-eastern Asia. I admit that we are not doing as much trade with south-eastern Asia as we should be, but that matter is quite outside the agreement.
– My suggestion was that the Government would be better occupied in endeavouring to secure that trade than in bothering about this agreement.
– I regret that the honorable senator was not present when I explained that our chief difficulty with Canada was that practically every other country except Australia has a trade agreement. New Zealand has a reciprocal agreement with it in regard to butter, but hitherto we have not had one. These agreements which other countries have made with Canada have virtually forced our hands. This proposal really originated at the Economic. Conference. Honorable senators will recall that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) had arranged to return to Australia through Canada, but unfortunately he was not able to do so, and I went there instead. The feeling at the Economic Conference was that all the dominions of the British Empire should make trade agreements for their mutual advantage. Believing that, in this matter, sentiment should have some play, the policy of the Government is to trade within the Empire, if possible, and this agreement should help us to reach out for trade with our sister dominion. Senator Lynch spoke of the effect of tariff protection upon -primary industries in Australia. Agricultural machinery, I remind him, is not included in the list.
– It ought to be.
– It comes under the general tariff. If Senator Lynch will scrutinize the agreement be will find that the list includes a very large number of our primary products, such as meat, cheese, butter, eggs, dried fruits, raisins, currants, canned fruits, fruit pulp, wines, beeswax, vegetables in tins, honey, and many other items. Whilst we may not have got all we wanted in this agreement from Canada, the sister dominion, on the other hand, has not got all that she wanted. The agreement may be regarded as a starting point, or as a foundation upon which we may build future arrangements. Only 9 per cent. of goods covered by the agreement are made in Australia. These include corsets, rubber shoes, and parts for motor cars, so the agreement will not affect the manufacturing industries of this country to any extent. I am sure that all honorable senators wish to see our trade with the sister dominion develop along satisfactory lines, and will look to the future with interest. If our trade with Canada expands as the result of this agreement, it may be necessary at a future date to reconsider and enlarge it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 28th August (vide page 1829), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I understand that the intention of this bill is to establish a rural credits department of the Commonwealth Bank. The object is certainly a good and worthy one. Many years ago the Labour party contended that such a department should be brought into existence. When the party established the bank it wished it to be conducted in the interests . of the people of Australia, and particularly the primary producers, but as time went on it was found that the bank was not functioning in the way that its creators had contemplated. This fact was particularly noticeable after the death of the first governor, Sir Denison Miller. To whatever extent the scope of the functions of the bank may have fallen short of the Labour party’s ideal during the regime of Sir Denison Miller, that fault was intensified by the amendment of the Commonwealth Bank Act, so as to provide for the appointment of the board of management. I do not say that while Sir Denison Miller was at the head of the bank it did not, with its limited functions, do splendid work on behalf of the people. The hope of those who founded it were that it would be a people’s bank, but, unfortunately, as a result of later legislation, it has been converted into a banker’s bank. The proposal to establish a rural credits branch is not new. I may mention that in July, 1924, when the bill for the amendment of the act, to provide for the appointment of the present board, was under consideration, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) moved in another place: -
That the bill be referred to a select committee to consider the advisability of extending the functions of the Commonwealth Bank to provide rural credits for the following purposes : -
To advance upon broad acres;
To assist co-operative finance in primary and secondary production;
To assist in land settlement and development; and
To establish a grain and fodder reserve against periods of drought.
The lot of the primary producer in his endeavour to secure financial assistance to tide him over his difficulties is not an enviable one. I think that Senator Lynch will agree with me that from time to time the man on the land is faced with very serious difficulty in this respect. He has been in the past, and possibly is today, a victim of arrangements with either private individuals or private banks. . I find that the very men whom this bill proposes to assist will not be free from what I may call the curse of these individual financiers and private financial institutions. Now, imperfect as the existing act may be, I venture to say that power is provided already to give financial help to primary producers, although that power has not been ex ercised. Section 7 of the act of 1911 states : -
The Bank shall, in addition to any other powers conferred by this act, have power-
to make advances by way of loan, overdraft, or otherwise;
to issue bills and drafts and grant letters of credit;
to do anything incidental to any of its powers.
Section 53 of Part VI. of the act of 1911 provides -
The bank may from time to time issue debentures to such amount as it thinks necessary, but so that the total amount thereof current at any one time shall not exceed one million pounds.
It is clear from the above sections that the act as it stands gives power to render assistance to people on the land. The operations of the bank, especially since the death of its first governor, have been restricted. Whilst the private banks have progressed, the Commonwealth Bank has remained almost stationary. It has not catered for the requirements of the people as it should have done. That statement cannot be successfully challenged. I do not wish it to be thought that I am decrying the work that has been accomplished by the bank in the last thirteen years, for I realize that it has rendered great service to the nation. If it had not been in existence when the tocsin of war was sounded in 1914, there would have been a greater financial crisis in Australia than was experienced in 1893. From the moment when that catastrophe overtook the Empire, the bank proved the Commonwealth’s sheet anchor. The. Labour party has never received the credit to which it is entitled for the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank. During the years of peace the bank has not made the progress that might reasonably have been expected, considering the large field upon which it had to work, and I am wondering if any influence has been brought to bear upon it by the associated banks of Australia to prevent its progress. I suggest that one of the reasons for the recent legislation converting the people’s bank into a bankers’ bank is the influence exercised by the associated banks. I notice that under this bill a loan given to a person engaged on the land will be renewable every twelve months. If, at the end of a year, loans must be renewed, it may be very expensive to the applicants.
– The produce is always sold within the year.
– There may he seasons when there is no harvest and no produce. This bill does not provide for that contingency. The general trading department of the Commonwealth Bank is empowered to issue debentures to the value of £1,000,000; but the Government proposes to empower theRural Credits Department to issue at least £3,000,000 worth, and possibly as much as £12,000,000 worth. Proposed new subsection 60abi provides that -
Advances may be made by the Rural Credits Department, upon the security of primary produce placed under the legal control of the Bank, to -
The provision to lend to “ the Bankor other hanks “ is the main weakness in the bill. -
– It is a pretty rotten proposal.
– It is disastrous. It will perpetuate the very conditions that the Commonwealth Bank was created to destroy. It will strengthen the position of the middleman. Our rural settlers ought to be encouraged to deal direct with the Commonwealth Bank. They would then be safe from the ravages of private financial institutions. If theRural Credits Department is empowered to make advances to the settlers direct, it will be a blessing to them; otherwise it will he a curse.
– I have done a good deal of business with the private banks, and have not had any experience of their “ ravages.”
– Then the Minister has been more fortunate than the general public, and particularly the man on the land.
– I dealt with the banks as a man on the land.
– We know perfectly well that the private banks are always after their pound of flesh, and so are the other private financial institutions. The middleman also is always on the job. In times of scarcity he uses his power to demand his own. price for any produce that he may control. He is always endeavouring to rig the market and fix his own price at the expense of both the producer and the consumer. The Labour party has consistently endeavoured to help the man on the land.’ I say, without fear of contradiction, that even a glance at the legislation that has been passed by the various Commonwealth Labour Governments and the Labour Governments that have held office in the various States willshow that it is distinctly favorable to primary producers. For that reason we welcome this bill, and will give it our support, but we shall also attempt to remedy its deficiencies, the main one of which I am now discussing. Surely the Commonwealth Bank is big enough and strong enough to handle aRural Credits Department. This proposal is not new to either the Labour party or honorable senators supporting the Government, hut I venture to say that nowhere else in the world has it been proposed that such an institution should be established to strengthen the position of the middleman. If the bill is agreed to in its present form, it will be conclusive proof, if such be needed, that the Government intends the Commonwealth Bank to be a bankers’ bank instead of a people’s bank. That is actually what it now is. The following quotation is taken from an official statement issued on behalf of the Country party on the 13th October, 1924:-
The Bruce-Page Government took the bold step of converting the Commonwealth Bank into a bank for the bankers.
Although Dr. Earle Page is the Leader of the Country party, he boasts of this. The proposal that money should be lent only to “the bank and other banks” indicates that the Government intends to persist in its policy of making the Commonwealth Bank a banker’s bank. This will mean that the rural credits department will be of no assistance to the producers. It is unfortunate that the Commonwealth Bank has not developed as the Labour party, which created it, intended that it should. The original Commonwealth Bank Act was passed in 1911 and the bank has been established for thirteen years, but even now there are only about 80 branches throughout Australia. There are of course a number of sub-branches. It is exceedingly difficult, to induce the Commonwealth Bank Board to establish new branches. I endeavoured not long ago to get a branch established at Bassandean, about eleven miles from Perth, where there is a big working class population. Although the private banks have branches there, the Commonwealth Bank Board will not open one. . Last year when the Commonwealth Bank Bill was before Parliament, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey)- endeavoured, in another place, to insert a provision for the establishment of a rural credits department. No discussion was allowed on . his proposal. The “gag” was applied, and when the House divided on Mr. Anstey’s motion only members of . the Labour party voted for it. The Government, however, is now moving in that direction. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister for Home and Territories; [6.20].- I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
As the business on the notice-paper is rather slender at present, I do not think it is necessary to ask honorable senators to continue the sitting after dinner.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.21 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 September 1925, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1925/19250902_senate_9_111/>.