10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator theHon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Entertainments Tax Assessment Act - Regu lations Amended - Statutory Rules 1926, No.. 58.
New Guinea - Ordinances of 1926 -
No. 11. - Judiciary.
No. 12. - Lands ‘Registration.
Northern Territory - Ordinances of 1926 -
No 9. - Meat IndustryEncouragement (No. 2).
No. 10. - Birds Protection.
Public Service Act - Regulations Amended -Statutory Rules, 1926, No. 53.
Local Government - Protection of White Women
– In view of the fact that a number of plantations in the Mandated Territory of Now Guinea have . been sold, and ‘that the Government contemplates selling the remainder, will the Government . now give effect to a promise made . some, time ago, thatwhen . a proportion of these, plantations was sold it would bring into operation a form of local government giving the owners of these stationsand others the right to vote?
SenatorPEARCE. - The matter will be considered.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, uponnotice -
SenatorPEARCE. - The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice-. -
Has the Tariff Board made a report yet relating to an application by Mr.Ludwig, of Brisbane, in connexion with the manufacture of fortifying spirit from pineapples?
Senator Sir VICTOR WILSON.Yes.
Debate resumed from 20th May (vide page 2151), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I am pleased that at this early stage of the resumed session I find myself at least for once in agreement with the Government, so far as this bill is concerned. We have before us a measure to provide another £100,000 for the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, half of this amount to be supplied by the Commonwealth Government and half by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, the partner of the Commonwealth in the company. There is just one phase of the agreement between the Commonwealth and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company I do not like. It is true, as the Minister, Senator Pearce, pointed out yesterday, that of the £500,000 capital originally invested in the refinery company, the Commonwealth has provided £250,001, and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company £249,999, giving to the Commonwealth the controlling vote so far us shareholders are concerned. But that commanding position is counteracted by the fact that on the directorate of the company the Commonwealth is represented by only three directors as against four representing the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. I do not wish any remarks of mine to be construed as reflecting in any way on the management of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, but I think that the Commonwealth should have not only a commanding share of the capital, but also a controlling position on the directorate. It is contended that a meeting of shareholders could at once be convened if it were discovered that the interests of the Commonwealth were not being conserved, and that our position could be safeguarded in that way, but one never knows; something may occur, and it may be too late to remedy it by the time a meeting of shareholders is convened. . I have always contended that whenever the Commonwealth enters into a partnership with some other body, it should have a controlling hand, not only as regards the amount of capital provided, hut also in the actual direction of the affairs of the concern in which it is interested.
– We should then get inefficient management.
– So far as the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is concerned, there is perhaps justification for entrusting to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company the actual direction of operations, because of its expert knowledge of the work; but I hope later on the Government will bring about an alteration in order to see that the interests of the Commonwealth are properly safeguarded. In 1920, the Labour party opposed the original bill, providing for the formation of this partnership, on the very ground that the Commonwealth was not sufficiently represented on the directorate of the. refinery company. The bill of1920 was brought down to ratify an agreement between the Commonwealth and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company to establish the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, with a capital of £500,000. In 1924 that capital was increased by another £250,000, each partner, of course, providing one-half. The refinery company commenced operations about March, 1924, and, according to the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) lost £53,000 in fourteen months. There is some provision in this bill to meet that deficiency. We are now asked to increase the capital by a further £100,000. I have no objection to the amount asked for. As a matter offact, 1 should bc prepared to support a bill providing for a greater amount. I have visited the company’s refinery at Laverton, and I realize the splendid work that it is doing for Australia. Although it is working three shifts - its fullest capacity - it cannot fully meet the demand for its product. There was at first a certain amount of prejudice against the product of the refinery, but when ifc waa found that the refinery’s competitors were charging 2d. a gallon more, consumers generally began to use it, and speedily recognized its value. While I support the bill, I do not want it to be taken for granted that the directors of the refinery company can get financial assistance from the Commonwealth any time they ask for it. Seeing that they have now been operating for about two years, and that the concern is running well, they ought to be able to avoid future losses. One recognizes, of course, the necessity at the present moment for wiping out the loss already incurred, but, with the advantage already secured, the directors of the concern should not find it necessary to approach Parliament again for further assistance to recoup them for their losses. If the operations of the refinery were extended to every capital city in Australia, it would effect a vast saving in the cost of distribution. Of course, it would take much more than £100,000 to enable that to be done, but the money would be well spent in establishing branches of the refinery in all the capital cities. Undoubtedly the refinery company has been the means of stabilizing the price of petrol in Australia. It has imposed a very big check on the operations of the competing firms - the British Imperial Oil Company aud the Vacuum Oil Company - and if it had not been in existence, the price of petrol would have been higher than it is today. In my opening remarks I said that, for once, I was in agreement with the Government. That is because I find the Government is adopting the policy of honorable senators of the Labour party, who advocate the nationalization of all industries such as this. The refining of oil is a semi-nationalized industry, established by a Government which recently went to the country and told electors that it was opposed to interference with private enterprise. To-day that Government is partner in a concern which, in the production of oil, is certainly hitting private enterprise heavily.
-brockman. - The Government also told the electors that it was against the exploitation of the people of Australia by any one, and this bill is fully in accord with its policy in that respect.
– The Government is following the Labour ideals, because it now realizes that there are private concerns in Australia exploiting the people. In moving the second reading of this bill in another place, the Prime Minister said -
We cannot allow this country to bc exploited in regard to one of its most vital commodities.
He was speaking the truth; but if the Government had sufficient courage it would extend this industry, and thus make oil and petrol cheaper than they are today. It would not need to be afraid of the competition of private concerns, because it would be in command of the field.
– Even at the present price the refinery company is operating at a loss.
– The loss is very small, in face of the big competition it has encountered. The Prime Minister and other members of the Ministry have made much of the fact that the establishment of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has been of great benefit to Australia, and has assisted to keep down the price of petrol. The Government recently disposed of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong. It contended that they were interfering with private enterprise, and therefore it virtually gave them away. Now. however, by this bill, the Government itself is interfering with private enterprise, and is taking legislative action because it recognizes that certain private companies should not be permitted to exploit the public. The work being done at the refineries at Laverton demonstrates the adaptability of the Australian, workmen. On a recent visit to Laverton, I heard the manager of the refineries speak, in terms of the highest praise, of the efficiency of the work being done there by Australians, despite the fact that the distillation of oil is a new industry in this country. The workmen were said to be performing their duties with remarkable efficiency. I entirely approve of the Ministry’s decision that competitors of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited shall not be permitted to exploit the public- This is an age of motor transport, and there should be no monopoly of the supply of petrol and oil. I read an article contributed to a recent issue of the Melbourne Herald by Mr. Cohen, exMinister of Public Works in Victoria, dealing with the traffic problem of Melbourne. He referred to the growth of motor traffic, and pointed out that, while in 1904 motor vehicles in Melbourne and suburbs numbered 6,000 or 7,000, the number had now increased to about 99,000.He remarked that there was now one motor car to every sixteen and a half inhabitants. If flow oil is ever discovered in Australia,’ this country will be placed on a much improved footing in regard to motor transport. But, in any case, there are rich deposits of oil shale inNew South Wales and Tasmania that could be utilized for industrial and other purposes. The principal comment I wish to make in regard to the bill is that the. Government should consider the necessity to alter the directorate of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited so that the Commonwealth will be in control so far as the personnel of the board is concerned, as well as hold a majority of the share capital.
.- It seems to me that the Commonwealth Government is amply safeguarded by holding a majority of the shares in the company. Under the articles of association, the Government could call a general meeting of the shareholders at any time, and take any action it might think fit. For a considerable time there have been only six directors on the board instead of seven, three representing the Government and three the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, since a vacancy has not been filled. The Government has also enjoyed the advantage of one of its representatives being chairman of the company. Up to the present time there has not been the slightest difference of opinion between the two interests represented.
– I think that, it was at the suggestion of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company that one of the Commonwealth directors was made chairman.
SenatorFOLL. - Yes: that shows how harmonious the relations have been. One clause of the agreement between the parties is that arrangements for freight for the supply of crude oil are to be made between the Commonwealth Government and the representatives of the AngloPersian Oil Company at Home. This is a most important consideration, because the cost of the refined article depends upon the cost of obtaining the raw product. Only honorable senators who have had an opportunity, as members of the Public Accounts Committee have had, to investigate the affairs of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited have any idea of the strenuous opposition it has had to meet from the British Imperial Oil Company and the Vacuum Oil Company in Australia. These companies have made every possible effort to put the product of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited off the market. I think that SenatorNeedham, and others who have investigated this matter, will agree that had it not been for a serious tactical blunder on the part of these companies the Australian refined product would have lost its market. Their grasping greed and overreaching methods, however, have done the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited the , best turn that it could have been given, and have assisted to place it on the sound foundation on which it now stands.
– How did they overreach themselves?
– The Shell people asked the Government to put certain duties on spirit handled in cases and tins, and stated that by adopting bulk handling they would be able to reduce the price of petrol in Australia. Later on they endeavoured to get their competitors to come into line with them so far as price was concerned. They invited the other companies, including the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, to raise the price of petrol to the extent of 2d. a gallon; but the latter company saw no reason to adopt that course and refused to do so. The private companies, after they had tiedup practically every motor garage in
Australia, raised their price 2d. a gallon, thinking that it would be impossible for a market to be found for the Australianrefined product. The refusal of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to raise its price resulted in a large increased consumption of its product. Once the new customers of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, who had been led by the low price to try it, realized that the articlesupplied was equal to the product sold by the British Imperial and Vacuum Oil Companies, they immediately became regular buyers of the Australian-refined spirit.Not long ago I tried for the first time topurchase some of this petrol, and I visited at least 20 garages before I could find one thatstocked it.
-in what State?
– In New South Wales. I do not desire to dilate uponthat aspect of the matter, because I realize that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has not yet been able to complete its distributing arrangements in all the States. The point I wish to make is that 90 per cent. of the garage owners I approached remarked “ We would not keep the damn stuff,” or used words to that effect. Not one word did I hear in favour of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries spirit, because, as Senator Pearce pointed out yesterday, the rival companies had persuaded nearly all garage proprietors in Australia to instal kerbside petrol pumps on easy termsof repayment, and on the understanding that they would sell only the motor spirit distributed by those companies. Consequently, all garage proprietors were active agents for the sale of Shell or Plume spirit, to the detriment of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries product. Very few people realize how terrific has been the opposition from these overseas companies to the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. It so happened, however, that they overreached themselves in their endeavour to exploit the people of Australia, and gave the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited an opportunity to establish itself upon a sound footing. For the first time in its history the refinery, although working at full pressure, is unable to supply all orders received. It was brought under our notice that the representatives of the American companies-
– Are they both American companies?
– Revelations published concerning the British Imperial Oil Company show that it is no more a British concern than the Vacuum Oil Company is.
– It is not a British company.
– I understand that it is controlled mainly by Dutch interests.
-Brookman. - That is so.
– I have no doubt that its directors find the title very useful for propaganda purposes in British communities. Intheir endeavour to crush the Common wealth Oil Refineries Limited, the rival companies even enlisted the services of motor lorry drivers for propaganda purposes, so that when a certain firm decided to give the Commonwealth Oil Refineries product a trial, the lorry drivers, alleging that they had found it unsatisfactory, stated that if it were placed in the tanks of their lorries they would not take them out. Subsequently, unknown to the drivers, Commonwealth Oil Refineries spirit was used in the lorries, and there were no complaints from the drivers. I have no desire to occupy further time. I hope that if, in the future, the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited finds that it requires additional capital to extend its business, it will not hesitate to approach the Minister, and that the Minister will not hesitate to place the proposal before Parliament.
– I am entirely in favour of the bill. I believe that its acceptance will be in the best interests of Australia, because it will ensure to the people of this country an additional source of supply of motor spirit. But whilst I favour the measure and shall vote for it, I feel, that some honorable senators who have spoken in this debate have not been wise in making an attack upon other companies that are doing business in Australia. There can be no doubt that the companies referred to have, on occasions, attempted to stifle competition. We all know what was done in connexion with the supply of kerbside petrol pumps to garages, and the conditions under which they were erected. But I am not sure that the companies are entirely to blame for that. What they did was only in accordance with the commercial practices of the day, and what other commercial concerns are doing every day of the week to ensure that the public shall purchase their commodity in preference to that supplied by opponents in business. I have gone to a certain amount of trouble to ascertain the exact position, because I like to be fair even towards opponents, and I regard the overseas companies as opponents of the Australian company. The estimated consumption of petrol in Australia for 1926 was 16,000,000 cases, or 128,000,000 gallons, and the estimated consumption of kerosene was 3,750,000 cases, or 30,000,000 gallons. The actual consumption last year was 12,000,000 cases of petrol, and 3,000,000 cases of kerosene. It is interesting to note that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited supplied only 6 per cent. of that total, so that whilst we may desire to do everything possible to place this Australian company on a sound footing, we should not go out of our way to make wild and rash statements about its opponents, as possibly they may be induced to make the fight still more bitter.
-I think that the honorable senator himself was guilty of a wild statement just now.
– What was that?
– His statement about the erection of kerbside petrol pumps.
– I believe that what I said in that connexion was true. But I want to give the other side of the picture. It has been said that the British Imperial Oil Company is not a British concern. That may be true, but its head-quarters are in London, and although it is associated with Dutch interests, a very large proportion of the shareholding is in British hands, and during the war it contributed very materially to the success of the British and Allied arms. I was surprised to learn that in six weeks during the war period a large distillery was transferred from Holland to England so as to make available to British munition manufacturers ample supplies of constituent elements re quired for the manufacture of TNT. At the close of the war the British and French Governments specially thanked the Shell Oil Company for its splendid services, in making available ample supplies of petrol for the Allied armies. In view of these facts and leaving aside altogether other considerations, it is not wise that we should go out of our way to attack companies that are doing important business in Australia; that is not likely to materially assist the Australian company.
– To what statement in the course of the debate does the honorable senator refer.
– I could give the Minister quite a number of statements that in my opinion, were uncalled for. Some remarks of the Minister in introducing the billwere not as well chosen as they might have been. Although I can understand the anxiety of the Minister to have the measure accepted by the Senate, I think that, in this debate, we should confine our remarks to the bill itself, and to the advisability of doing something to assist the establishment of the industry in Australia. There is no reason why we should reflect upon other companies.
– It is only fair that the honorable senator should indicate what statements he objects to.
– Possibly I misunderstood the Minister. But if he did not make any disparaging remarks concerning the rival companies, it is a fact that such statements are constantly being made in the press, and I feel that something ought to be said on the other side.
– The statement that the two rival companies have been exploiting the Australian public is not fair.
– I think there is a good deal of truth in that charge, but as said before, I want to be fair. I believe that, but for the presence of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limi ted in the field, the Australian public would have been still further exploited.
– Is the honorable senator aware that during the war period the companies which, according to him, made noble sacrifices in the cause of the Allies pushed up the price of petrol to 30s. a case
– I am aware that they were ‘well paid for all that they did, but we must not forget that they are commercial concerns, and there is no reason why we should quarrel with them on that account. Naturally they carry on business for the purpose of making a profit. It has been said, in the course of this debate, that the purpose of the bill is to assist an Australian company in competition with foreign companies. What is the position. Last year the Shell Oil Company controlled mainly, as I have shown, by British interests, spent over £3,000,000 in Australia. Of that amount £500,000 was paid in wages to Australian employees. Surely it can be termed an Australian industry. We do not wish to do anything that will assist in crippling a huge concern which is spending such a large sum of money in this country and employing Australian labour at a cost of £500,000 a year. We ought to treat these companies with a certain amount of consideration, although we are opposing them by assisting a concern in which the Government has an interest. I am strongly supporting the bill, but I submit these facts in a spirit of fairness, and because I believe it is not iri our interests, or in the interests of the future of Australia, to antagonize these great concerns that have been and are still furnishing our main supplies of liquid fuel and certain by-products.
– Does’ the honorable senator suggest that, because of certain statements made here, these companies will withdraw their petrol from the Australian market, where they sell millions of pounds’ worth of spirit?
– I do not think they will. The honorable senator tried Commonwealth Oil Refineries petrol in his car, as I did, and stopped using it.
– That is not true. It is a deliberate lie.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Newlands). - The honorable senator must withdraw that expression.
– I cannot allow the honorable senator to make such a statement concerning me without answering it. What I have said is correct, and I stand bv it.
The “DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- The honorable senator has said that a statement made by Senator Duncan is a deliberate lie. He knows that such language is both unparliamentary and highly disorderly, and I therefore ask him to withdraw his remark.
– I withdraw the remark, but the statement is a terminological inexactitude.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- It must be withdrawn without qualification.
– I have withdrawn it, and I cannot do any more.
– I regret that I have said anything concerning the honorable senator to which he takes exception. I am not supporting certain interests, but am only endeavouring to be fair to them. The facts aro as I have, stated.
– The honorable senator’s statement is a reflection upon the quality of the petrol produced by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited.
– The Minister (Senator Pearce) stated that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited product is equal to that retailed by the other companies. I wish it were. I tried it, as I had no desire to use anything else.
– How long ago?
– Quite recently. I am supported in my contention by the fact that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited product was withdrawn from the market in New South Wales for six weeks. Whether the product is again on the market in New South Wales I cannot say. I hope it is, and that the quality will be such as will enable users to be satisfied with it.
– The honorable senator said ho was referring to petrol purchased this year.
– I am, and I can supply the Minister with the name of the garage, and can also assure him that the proprietor informed me that he could not obtain further supplies because the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was making certain- alterations in its plant, which it was hoped would result in improving the quality of its product. There is an old saying, “ It is not wise to place all one’s eggs in one basket.” So far as supplies of petrol in Australia are concerned, it is well to note that the British Imperial Oil Company have sources of supply in many countries, which are not likely to be interfered with. If we depend upon the one source, there is not only a possibility, but an extreme danger, that at some time supplies may be cut off, particularly as the crude oil refined here is obtained from Persia, which is in a more or less, unsettled state, and which, as we know, is coming under the influence of Russia, where Bolshevism holds sway. In these circumstances, we do not know when our supplies of petrol may be interfered with. Whilst we should do our utmost to assist the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, it is unwise to antagonize or embitter other companies which are not depending upon Australia to absorb the whole of their products. We can treat them fairly, and at the same time show the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited that consideration to which it is undoubtedly entitled.
– The hill appears to embody a business proposition from this view-point: Some time ago Parliament agreed to assist the establishment of the oil refining industry in Australia; but up to the present the industry appears to have been under certain disadvantages. I am supporting the bill, but I think it is just as well to say that many of the statements made concerning the operations of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and the companies which have been supplying Australia with liquid fuel for a considerable period may be misunderstood, particularly when it is suggested that the two companies operating in. . Australia have been exploiting the public. The companies engaged in the distribution of liquid fuel in Australia have met a decided need, as without the British Imperial Oil Company and the Vacuum Oil Company I do not know where we should have obtained supplies. It is, of course, desirable to safeguard the interests of Australia by refining oil here, and I ain hoping that before long the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited will be able to supply a substantial portion of our requirements. The two companies operating in the Commonwealth are controlled by keen business men, who never lose an opportunity to extend their business. I have no quarrel with them in that regard. Recently there have been very great developments in connexion with the distribution of petrol. Reference has been made to the fact that during recent months a large number of petrol pumps have been installed. That is only reasonable, ‘because a better system of supply was necessary. In considering this subject it must be remembered that these petrol pumps were installed by the companies -not because the garage proprietors were anxious to handle only the products of the British Imperial Oil Company and the Vacuum Oil Company, but because 90 per cent. of the garage proprietors “were not in a position to pay cash for the installation of the pumps and tanks. Seeing the opportunity, the companies offered to undertake the work at a relatively low cost, which was met by paying a lower commission on the petrol sold by the garage proprietors. We have to face this competition, and adopt similar methods, otherwise we shall be out of the race. We have placed £375,000 of the people’s money in the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, but it is unable to show a profit, and we have therefore fo adopt up-to-date methods in order to produce a satisfactory return.
– The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is not a. serious competitor of the other companies.
– , 1To. I am not in a position to give any information concerning the quality of its product. I have used petrol only in Tasmania and, so far as I know, the Commonwealth Oil Refineries’ product is not on the market in that State. Even if there is a prejudice against it, provided that it is equal to that supplied by our “ competitors, that prejudice will gradually disappear. When any commodity in general use has gained public favour, it cannot be easily displaced even by an article of slightly better quality. The products of the British Imperial Oil Company and the Vacuum Oil Company have, on the whole, given general satisfaction. It was brought under my notice a few days ago that certain garage proprietors who had recently installed petrol pumps to supply Waratah motor spirit, had “been notified that the price of Waratah spirit must be the same as that of the other two well-known brands. The Waratah spirit, I understand, was being sold at Id. * per gallon less than
Shell or Plume, and the Commonwealth Oil Refineries’ product was1d.per gallon less than Waratah. If that is sothe Commonwealth Oil Refineries’ product should have a still better opportunity to get on the market. On the staff of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited there are doubtless experts who are able to distinguish any deficiencies or defects in its petrol, and I trust that the consumption of the Australian product, which is at present only 6 per cent. of the total, will rapidly increase. I am supporting the bill for the reason that, from a business point of view, it would’ be fatal to reject this proposal. We must adopt the up-to-date methods of our opponents. An uphill fight is before us. Many of the smaller garages, which in the aggregate sell greater quantities of petrol than do the larger garages, have already installed two petrol kerb pumps, and have no room for another tank. We shall have to look beyond them to place the product of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited on the market in a satisfactory manner. We must install pumps where at present none exist. To some extent, particularly in the city of Melbourne, the ground has been cut from under our feet by the action of the British Imperial Oil Company and the Vacuum Oil Company. Whatever difficulties may present themselves, it is imperative that the operations of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Ltd. be extended, by the provision of additional capital’. I hone that the venture will be successful.
– I am drawn into this debate because of the nature of some of the speeches which have been delivered. It is regrettable that this Chamber should be used for propaganda on behalf of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited or its competitors. Any reflection on the quality of the product of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited can only be regarded as propaganda on behalf of the other companies, and is, therefore, to be regretted.
– The statement is true.
– In common with most other public men, especially those in the Federal arena, I have been interested in the operations of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and have made it my business to ascertain the quality of the product at present offered for sale by that organization. The result of my inquiries among a number of users of petrol is to show that the spirit supplied by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is equal to that obtainable from the other corporations, whose product has been extolled here this morning. That information was given to me, not by men prejudiced in favour of the product of any one company, but by users of petrol.
– My statement was the result of my own experience.
– BROCKMAN - The- honorable senator has been driving a car for a few months only. It is unfortunate that he should condemn the Commonwealth Oil Refineries’ spirit- because of his own lack of experience. I have not depended upon my own experience, but I have sought the opinion of others who should know what they are talking about; and they have given me very favorable reports regarding the Commonwealth Oil Refineries’ spirit. I say that, not because I wish to indulge in propaganda on behalf of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, but. because I desire to refute the statements made on behalf of the product of foreign corporations. These corporations are not altruistic institutions, but business concerns out to make money for their shareholders, who do not reside in Australia. It is interesting to compare the priee of petrol supplied by these corporations to users in the United States of America and those in Australia. If. to the retail price of petrol in the United States of America, we add all the charges for shipping, handling, insurance, freight, and so on, we should arrive at a price which ought not to exceed the retail price in Australia. Even giving those corporations the benefit of any doubt, figures compiled by a person well competent to do so show that the retail price of petrol in Australia ought to be not greater than1s. 7d. a gallon.
– The honorable senator’s brief has been well prepared.
-I hold no brief for any company. My only concern is. for the Australian users of petrol. I want to see them in a position to obtain this essential commodity at the cheapest price. I do not blame the foreign companies. They are doing their best to make money for their shareholders; and if they are able to exploit “the people of Australia I do not blame them for taking advantage of the opportunity. Bub I do say that, as the representatives of the people, we should be unworthy of our trust if we took no steps to protect them from exploitation. To prevent such exploitation was one of the reasons for the establishment of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. We should make it perfectly clear to these foreign corporations, as well as to any internal monopolistic concerns, that this Parliament and the people of Australia will not tolerate undue exploitation. When companies with huge capital obtain monopolies the danger of exploitation is always present. I do not care whether the shareholders of these American and Dutch companies reside in Great Britain ox the Continent: they should be told that if they intend to exploit the people of Australia, the whole of the resources of the Commonwealth will be utilized to thwart them.
– I agree with that.
– That is the policy of the Nationalist party. Senator Needham congratulated the Government on indulging in a socialistic venture. The Nationalist party, as I understand it, stands for private enterprise, but always with the qualification that no private enterprise shall be allowed to establish a monopoly for the purpose of (exploiting the people of Australia. These monopolistic corporations must be controlled. The people of this country are prepared to allow this industry to remain in the hands of private companies, but these overseas corporations must be given clearly to understand that if they will not deal fairly with the people of this country, the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited will be given the opportunity to extend its operations in order to protect the people.
– I should like to remind some honorable senators that Henry George, in his work, Progress and Poverty, set out the important formula that all industries which were in the nature of a monopoly should be controlled by the State or the municipality. The supply of oil is an industry in the -nature of a monopoly. It came as a surprise to most people when a few years ago they were informed thatJohn D. Rockefeller, in New York, was able to control the price of kerosene throughout the world. Since that time other companies have come into existence. So far as I have been able to ascertain, the British Imperial Oil Company and the Vacuum Oil Company have come to an “ honorable understanding “ regarding the disposal of petrol in Australia. Little or no undercutting is practised. The Government some time ago realized that, to a certain extent, the people of Australia were being exploited by reason of the high prices charged by these corporations for motor spirit, and, in order to prevent a continuance of that exploitation, it very properly decided to establish the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited . in conjunction with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. At that time the price of petrol was about 3s. a gallon; it is now about 2s. a gallon. I admit that that result may not be entirely due to the operations of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. But even 2s. a gallon is beyond the price charged for similar spirit in some other countries. Nothing would be more acceptable to tens of thousands of people in the Commonwealth than a substantial decrease in the price of petrol. I do not see any reason for the introduction of heat into this debate because of the statement that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries’ motor spirit was at one time hot of a particularly high quality. The Leader of the Government in this chamber, when introducing the bill, stated definitely that at the commencement of its operations the company did not supply spirit of the required standard.
– I made it clear that that was at the commencement of the company’s operations.
– Yes. In the same sentence the Minister also said that to-day Commonwealth Oil Refineries’ motor spirit is equal to any on the market. I, therefore, fail to understand why so much emphasis has been laid upon his first statement. That stage of production has passed and to-day Commonwealth Oil Refineries’ motor spirit is equal to the best obtainable in Australia. That fact cannot be too strongly stressed. Considering the small proportion of the oil required by
Australian consumers which is supplied by the Commonwealth Oil Henneries Limited, the Government would be well advised to consider the advisability of granting immediately further financial support to that company to enable it to extend its operations. Although only 6 per cent, or 7 per cent, of the petrol consumed in Australia is supplied by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, it may have a restraining effect on the other companies in the same way that the Commonwealth Woollen Mills kept down the price of the material required for clothing the Australian Army. But whether that is so or not, in view of the fact that these companies have practically enjoyed a monopoly of the supply of oil in the Commonwealth - they have been working in harmony all the time - and that this industry is one that in its nature lends itself to monopoly, it is highly essential, in my opinion, that the Government should immediately consider the advisability of making additional financial provision, so that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited may extend its operations throughout the Commonwealth. I do not sec why Tasmania should be excluded from the benefits that flow from the establishment of this refinery. We are informed that the company’s product is not available in Tasmania. The supply in New South Wales is certainly very limited. In fact, the benefit of the establishment of the refinery seems to be mainly derived by Victoria. That was not my intention in voting for the original bill, nor is it my purpose to support this bill if the product of the company is to be confined exclusively to one State.
– The product of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is available in Sydney.
– As the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited supplies not more than 7 per cent, of the total petrol requirements of the Commonwealth, its output is so small as to be almost imperceptible.
– It will grow.
– But not unless the Commonwealth gives the company further financial assistance. While the Government has very properly put into operation a plank in the platform of the Labour party, it is not doing so with the vigour and determination that the occasion warrants. I hold no brief for or against the companies that have been supplying oil to the Commonwealth during the past, but I think it is a very wise step on the part of the Government to go into the oil business, realizing that when private enterprize possesses a monopoly it cannot be relied on to give a fair deal to the public. I should welcome any proposal on the part of the Government to go into any business that would affect a monopoly, and no doubt by and by it will see its way to do so. I should not like to say that it is determined to enter into the oil business because a large number of wealthy people are affected by the price of oil, but it is a fact which cannot be gainsaid that it is not embarking upon it as wholeheartedly as it should. With the high overhead charges one would expect from a company like the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, ‘it is difficult indeed, without the supply of adequate capital, for the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to carry on successfully against the keen competition it has to face. T hope that the Government in the very near future will see its way clear to review the position again and supply the refinery- company with additional capital which will enable it to extend its operations not only in the favoured State of Victoria, but also throughout New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, and Queensland, not forgetting,, also, that there is a small State like Tasmania somewhere down in the Southern Ocean.
– I do not propose to traverse the general discussion on this bill, but I cannot allow a statement made by Senator Duncan to go without challenge. The honorable senator deprecated an attack on the other oil companies, and complained that wild and rash statements had been made during this deb.ate. By interjection, I invited the honorable senator to tell me what were the wild and rash statements to which he objected, but he did not avail himself of the opportunity to do so. During the debate I have heard no wild or rash statements in regard to this matter, nor any attack on other companies. For my own part I simply stated certain facts which had led up to the decision of the Government to place before Parliament this proposal for an increase in the capital of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. Senator Duncan, like any other honorable senator, had the opportunity to prove that those facts were not true, or that the Government had been misinformed. But he did not avail himself of that opportunity, nor try to throw any doubt upon the statements I had made. Senators Needham and Foll, who as members of the Public Accounts Committee, have gone thoroughly into the position of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, gave the Senate the result of what they had learned as members of the committee, and if any statements they made were inaccurate, I presume Senator Duncan would have drawn attention to their inaccuracy. But, again, he did not do so. He did not treat the Senate fairly by making the general charge he did without bringing forward a scintilla of evidence to back it up. It is somewhat peculiar that this honorable senator, who deprecates what he calls wild and rash statements on the part of others, should himself make the most wild, rash, and inaccurate assertion that in the present year the petrol turned out by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries is not equal to that turned out by its competitors. The inaccuracy of that statement can be proved by countless testimonies from unchallengeable sources. I shall tell the honorable senator one test which is taking place at the present time and has been in progress for some months. The Commonwealth owns quite a number of motor cars. These cars formerly used other petrols on the market - Shell, Plume, and various others - but it was decided that they should use only Commonwealth Oil Refineries petrol. They have now been using it for a considerable length of time with the same drivers and the same men in charge of the garage, and from the recorded results it is the unanimous judgment of that particular branch of the Commonwealth service that it is getting, from Commonwealth Oil Refineries petrol, results ‘ at least equal to if not better than those obtained from the best of other petrols. That testimony amply demonstrates the fact that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries’ product is equal to the best of other products on the market. Senator Duncan should not have made his statement without giving honorable senators an opportunity to judge the evidence on which it was based. He simply made an allegation without bringing forward evidence to prove it. In the course of the debate an honorable senator asked what action had been taken to distribute the product of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited throughout Australia. I am informed by Major Bird, of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, that the principal depots outside Victoria are situated in Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, and Adelaide ; that the largest number of depots is in Victoria ; and that there are 80 in New South Wales. I regret .that whilst deprecating what he called wild and rash statements on the part of others, Senator Duncan should have made most wild and rash statements in regard to the product of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, because, going out as it will in Hansard, the allegation he made without the slightest scintilla of evidence in proof of it will have the effect of damaging the reputation of the company’s product. The honorable senator said that at the present time the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited iB turning out a product which is not equal to the product of other companies;.
– I do not think I said that. I said that I did not know what quality it was turning out at the present time.
– I asked the honorable senator if he was referring to the present year, and he said “Yes.”
– Yes, I was speaking of what had been supplied to me early this year. I may have been supplied with some of the earlier product.
– I told the Senate that when the company first started operations its product was not quite satisfactory. But that was only in the initial stages. That difficulty was overcome, and its product is now declared by all impartial people to be at least equal to that of any other company.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause .3 (Authority to borrow money to pay Commonwealth’s share of increased capital.)
.- This i« a vital provision of the bill. It authorizes the borrowing of money to increase the capital of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited by £100,000. When speaking on the second reading I expressed the hope that the Government would indicate when it would go further than is now proposed, and in this regard I think I shall be in order in quoting the following paragraph from the report of the Public Accounts Committee proving the vast amount of good that the company is doing to the people of Australia who use petrol : -
A review of the oil prices in Australia during the last few years indicates that the establishment of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has undoubtedly had considerable effect in st ob li zing the local market far oil products. Figures placed before the committee indicated that in December, 1922, when the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was preparing to enter the Australian market, the price of first-grade motor spirit was 23s. per case, whereas it is now 17s. per caBe, and as a consequence, it is claimed that during that period reductions in the price of petrol alone have saved the people of Australia nearly £5,000,000. The reduction in prices has. to a certain extent, synchronized with a fall in price throughout the world, but it. may be said that the presence of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has been a powerful influence in securing to Australia the benefit of price reductions.
In view of that undoubted fact, to which Senator Duncan has evidently paid no attention, the statement of which he complained was not a wild or rash one, but perfectly true. The cost of distribution has to be considered. I understand from evidence submitted to the Public Accounts Committee that the duplication of the plant at Laverton would take a year, and cost about £170,000, whereas the erection of a similar plant in or near Sydney would occupy a longer period and cost, exclusive of land, from £320,000 to £330,000. I am hoping that the Government will agree to either the duplication of the present plant or the installation of a similar one in Sydney, and that the Government’s policy of preventing private companies from exploiting the people will be rigidly adhered to in regard to not only petrol, but also other commodities.
– “We are bringing down a measure to enable the Parliament to have the necessary power.
– The honorable senator remembers his Labour day: when he advocated that the Parliament should have full control over trade .and commerce and industrial matters. I hope that -Senator Drake-Brockman, too, will realize that the public are- being exploited in more ways than one. I welcome this measure as au instalment of most desirable legislation.
– I cannot pledge the Government at this juncture, but Ave shall watch the whole position with a view to deciding what future steps shall be taken, if any are found to be necessary.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 20th May (vide page 2156), on motion by Senator Crawford -
That the bill be now rend a second time.
– Tariff matters are of vast importance to any country, and particularly to a young nation like Australia. For many years the fiscal policy of this country was a bone of contention; but I think that it has at last been firmly established . that that policy shall be one of protection to our industries. If any proof of that statement were wanting, a glance at the composition of the present ministry w ould supply it. Australia is governed by a ministry composed of representatives of the Country aud National parries. Every member of the Country party, I understand, is an avowed advocate of. freetrade. I cannot imagine the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson), or the. .Minister for Works and Railways Mr. Hill) advocating a protective policy. The Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) was at one time ‘ a single-taxer, and I am sorry to say that I believe he still holds the same views. He is an avowed freetrader. It will be seen, therefore, that these member’s of the Ministry have not had the courage of their? convictions, or they would not be members of a cabinet that is prepared to bring down a bill of this kind. ‘
– One might easily call it a freetrade cabinet.
– But it has brought down, a measure that will provide a certain amount of protection to seme Australian industries. Prior ta the last election, when Senator DrakeBrockman stood down to make way for a member of the Country party, an “ honorable understanding “ was arrived at between the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) and the Country party, that he and his party would not advocate a high tariff.
– We might with advantage have the history of that incident.
– There was an understanding ; but I shall withdraw the word “honorable.”
– Is Senator Pearce a member of the Country party?
– No, but from the 1st July next we shall have a senator from Western Australia representing that party. I was about to say that if Senator Drake-Brockman had been wise he might have continued to be a member of this chamber after the 30th June. It. is imperative for a young nation such as Australia to adopt a policy of protection. Other nations have done so, and even freetrade Britain - that great citadel of Cobdenism - is taking steps to protect itself, although a cheap labour country, against the imports from other parts of the world where even cheaper labour obtains. I wish to explain that I am expressing merely my personal views on this matter. It is well known that the Labour party advocates the new protection. In my younger days I passed through the industrial hell of Great Britain, and I have also experienced industrial conditions in Australia. I know the difference between thetwo countries, and while the Australian worker has not secured ideal conditions, I readily admit that he enjoys far better conditions than his confrere in Great Britain. The United States of America, through the adoption of protection, is to-day foremost among the manufacturing nations of the world. The people of that country, in their determination to be self-contained, translated their conviction into legislative enactments, with the result that, instead of being dependent upon other countries for manufactured products, they have become a great exporting nation. It is no argument to say that, because Australia has only a small population, the same beneficial results will not flow from the adoption of the same policy here in the near future. The United States of America had only a handful of people when protection became the settled policy of the country. Protection leads to an increase in population with all its attendant beneficial results. The value of this policy was demonstrated in Australia during the four and a half years of the war. Because of the dislocation of shipping services with countries overseas, we had to depend largely upon our own resources. Substantia] progress has already been made in Australia, under the measure of protection already enjoyed, though I dare say that, from the manufacturing stand-point, we may be a little behind other countries.
– Very much behind them in many things.
– Nevertheless, we are making steady progress.
– We shall have to turn out better articles in many lines of manufacture if we are to succeed.
– Articles of Australian manufacture compare favorably with similar articles manufactured in other countries.
– Only in certain lines.
– I disagree with the honorable senator. During the past two or three years I have come in contact with manufacturing industries in the several States, and I am satisfied that Australian workmen adapt themselves readily to any set of circumstances, and, with efficient machinery at their disposal, turn out as good an article as workmen of any other country. Australian workmen at Cockatoo Island Dockyard have proved remarkably efficient, notwithstanding that the shipbuilding industry is new to Australia. Ship construction includes nearly every known trade, and Australian workmen have demonstrated that, given the opportunity, they can more than hold their own.
– The experts at Cockatoo Island are nearly all imported men.
– I admit that they are. In the main they come from Scotland. But the point I am making is that Australian workmen, trained under such experts, have proved as efficient as the imported men themselves.
Figures dealing with the progress of our secondary industries show that, in 1907, there were 12,555 factories employing 248,859 workmen, who received wages to the amount of £18,324,000. In 1923-4, there were 20,189 factories, and 429,990 employees, who received in wages £77,278,000.
– That progress may not all have been due to the tariff.
– I would not say that it was, but unquestionably protection was an important factor in the progress made. Since 1907, the number of Australian factories has increased by 60 per cent., the number of Australian employees in those factories by 72 per cent., and the wages paid by 322 per cent. In 1907, the average wage paid to each employee in Australian factories was £77, and iti 1923-24 it had increased to £.181. Industrial awards by arbitration court; and wages boards would, of course, be a contributing factor to this increase; but, at the same time, the figures indicate that, although the measure of protection to Australian industries has not been very great during the last few years, steady progress has been made by our secondary industries. The value of the production in Australian factories also shows an increase. The earliest available figures for the Commonwealth are for the year 1909. when it was £42,000,000. In 1923-24 it rose to £141,000,000, an increase of 326 per cent.; whilst the total value of the output in 1909 was £107,000,000, in 1923-24 it amounted to £348,000,000, an increase of 225 per cent. What may we deduce from those figures ? I have already stated that the incidence of protection during the past decade has really not been protective. The revenue from Customs duties supports this contention. The tariff is neither more nor less than a revenue-producing tariff, and, as such, it does not meet with my approval.
– The honorable senators contention is not- wholly borne out by the figures he has just quoted.
– I agree that the tariff has enabled us to make some progress in the development of our secondary industries; it has provided more employment for Australian workmen; it has kept money within the country instead of sending it abroad: and it has enabled us to utilize a large proportion of our raw materials. Why should not we use the whole of our raw materials? Why should we continue to take the wool off the sheep’s back, send it many thousands of miles across the sea, and bring it back in the shape of cloth? Why should we continue to send our hides overseas to be manufactured into boots? Why should not Australia become an .exporting country of manufactured goods?
– The honorable senator knows that, with our rates of wages and hours of work, we cannot compete with other countries in outside markets.
– I welcome that interjection from a loyal Australian like Senator Guthrie. He is constantly urging people to use nothing but Australian material, but complains about the wages that are paid to Australian workmen.
– Nothing of the kind. The honorable senator knows he is saying what is absolutely incorrect.
– He tells us, in one breath, that we should all wear Australian clothes, but he complains about the cost because Australian employees get better wages than workmen overseas.
– The honorable senator knows that .T have not made any such complaint.
– My contention is, that instead of exporting Australian hides and wool, we should work them up into manufactured goods in Australia and export the finished products.
– The honorable senator knows that we cannot compete in the overseas markets.
– We have “ Buckley’s “ chance of exporting boots.
– Now we have another chorus from loyal Australians!
– We all wish that we could complete in outside markets with manufactured goods. The honorable senator knows that we cannot.
– I am optimistic enough to believe that we can become absolutely self-contained, and we should make a determined effort to become an exporting nation to a greater extent than we are. I think Senator Guthrie will subscribe to that policy.
Sitting impended from 1 to ;? p.m..
– I nave some figures which, illustrate the way in which the tariff has .operated during the last few years, and which show that it has not the protective incidence which some people attribute to it. For the year 1921-2, the imports were valued at £103,000,000; and for the year 1924-5, at approximately £157,000,000, showing an increase of £54,000,000 during that period. The output of Australian, factories in 1921-2 was valued at £320,000,000; and that in 1924-5 at approximately £370,000,000; or an increase of £50,000.000. From these figures, it will be seen that the value of the output of the manufacturing industries in 1921-2 was approximately three times the value of the imports for’ the same period. Therefore, an increase of £54,000,000 of imports in the period from 1921-2 to 1924-5 should, if we maintain the same ratio of three to one, mean an increase in the manufacturing output for the same period of £150,000,000, instead of what it is, viz., £50,000,000, which would make the total trade for the three years £204,000,000. The total increase in trade, imports and output of industries, between the years mentioned, was £104,000,000, £54,000,000 of which represented increase of imports, and £50,000,000 the output of industries. It will therefore be seen that,, as far as manufacturing is concerned, Ave are not holding our own with imports, because on the three to one ratio, and taking the £104,000,000 increase in trade in the three years, £78,000,000 of it ought to represent the increase in the output of the manufacturing industries, as against £26,000,000 increase of imports, instead of £54,000,000 increase in imports and £50,000^000 increase in the value of our manufactured output. In analysing these figures, we are confronted with a serious position, which can only be remedied by manufacturing many of the articles at present imported, and in some cases giving more protection to our industries against overseas competition. There is another feature of the measure to be considered, and that is the relation of our fiscal policy with the defence of the Commonwealth. One of the planks of the Labour party’s defence policy is, “ Convertible factories for the manufacture of small arms, munitions, and aeroplanes.” “We should like to see factories in Australia that can easily be converted, into plants for the manufacture of small arms in the event of trouble, instead of our depending upon supplies from overseas. We wish to keep our factories going, ourpeople employed, and to see that our workmen receive fair wages,, and work under conditions that are reasonably comfortable. It was on that point that Senator Guthrie and I came into conflict; but I still contend that we can pay reasonable rates of wages and give fair conditions to our employees, and at the same time compete with manufacturers in overseas countries. In other parts of the world, men are receiving wages and working under conditions that would not be tolerated here. I am sure that no honorable senator, whatever his fiscal belief may be, desires to see the conditions of labour and rates of wages in Australia reduced. I think it is the general desire that they should be improved. ‘Die Labour party is responsible for the better conditions and higher wages enjoyed by Australian workmen.
– The Labour party is not solely responsible.
– It is mainly responsible, because of its organization. If we had not had in Australia a number of vigorous trade unions we would not have the conditions of employment which obtain to-day.
– The first Factories Act in Victoria was introduced by a Liberal government.
– Yes, but at that time there was a virile Labour organization, consisting of militant trade unionists, who impressed upon the Liberal ‘government the necessity for introducing such legislation. If we had not had such men in Australia, the conditions of labour and the rates of wages would not be what they are to-day. Good as the conditions are, they can still be improved, and credit must be given to organized labour for the work it has done. I now come to a phase of this subject, the policy of the Labour party on fiscal matters, to which I have previously referred. A plank of the Labour party’s platform is new protection, which means that not only shall the Australian manufacturer be protected, through the Customs House) and the employees in industry receive reasonable wages and. fair conditions, but that the consumer of the articles protected shall not be charged exorbitant prices. It is the last mentioned phase of new protection which is most important. We contend that there should be some tribunal to* see that protected goods are not sold at exorbitant prices-.
– General price-fixing ?
– Yes ; that is what new protection means.
– It also means prohibition.
– I do not think so. In 1911-13 the Labour government of the day submitted to the people of Australia a policy of new protection, but the electors did not grant the Commonwealth Parliament the necessary powers to give effect to it. Ever since 1906 the fighting platform of the Federal Labour party has embodied new protection. In 1908 the Deakin Government supported new protection, .and said it would go to the country with such a policy. Later on, however, it joined forces with the free trade element, and the matter was dropped. I am referring now. to the year in which the famous Fusion Government was formed, when the arch-priest of high protection, Mr. Deakin, joined forces with the arch-priest of freetrade, Sir Joseph Cook. On two different occasions the people have been unsuccessfully appealed to to grant these powers. Every one who has followed tariff matters knows of the test case brought before the High Court. An excise duty of £6 was placed upon harvesters, to be refunded1 if wages ‘ awarded by the Arbitration Courts were paid, and a reasonable rate charged for the article. That was declared unconstitutional. Since then we have been working- within the ambit of the Constitution. It is now rumoured that the Government is bringing down a measurewhich, perhaps, may affect the situation. I have nob seen it, but if it. goes as far as diet the proposal of 1911-13, I shall welcome it. I realize that until we have new protection, under which the manufacturer, employee, and consumer are alike safeguarded, we shall never have a, sound fiscal policy. As far as. this tariff is concerned, I think that half a loaf is better than no bread. I am not what I believe one honorable senator has described himself - a Himalayan protectionist. I do not believe altogether in unlimited protection, nor do I believe in a revenue tariff. I have already said that a revenue tariff is one of the worst forms of indirect taxation. I believe in taxing goods -.at the Customs House merely for the protection of our industries, and I do not favour such protection being afforded too long. The intention of a protective policy is to foster and establish industries. I do not believe in an industry being protected for ten or fifteen years, .and then asking for additional assistance. If industries connot get on their feet in a reasonable time, they should be compelled to meet outside competition.
– The honorable senator is not in favour of protecting an industry after it is established?
– I would not give it as much as before.
– -Every case should bo treated on its merits.
– Yes . If an industry has been reasonably protected for ten or twelve years, it should be able to stand alone.
– How can an Australian industry paying £4 or £5 a week to its employees successfully compete with a similar industry in another country which pays its operatives perhaps only 10s. a week?
– I think that industries can, if properly protected, compete with those of other countries, despite the fact that wages outside are lower.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that when they are properly established protection should be withdrawn ?
– I do. not say that protection should be wholly withdrawn, but they should not be given the same measure of protection afforded in the early stages. They should be able to stand on their feet.
– Which means that the protection should bo withdrawn ?
– Either withdrawn or reduced. If up-tc<-date- machinery were installed in all our factories, a larger output could be obtained at a lower cost. That is an answer to the interjection of the Honorary Minister (Senator Crawford). The honorable senator, by interjection, drew a comparison between” the rates of wages in Australia and some other countries. He must admit that many of our factories are equipped with machinery that is not sufficiently modern to enable them to compete with other parts of the world. If they had that modern machinery their output would be considerably increased, and that would assist them to compete with other countries.
– The industries that are protected to-day will require just as much protection in twenty years’ time.
– A difference of opinion exists upon that point.
– Is the honorable senator aware that America quite recently granted increased protection to a number of industries?
– I admit that. I would do as Senator Wilson has advocated - treat each case on its merits. If it were shown that protection was necessary to preserve an industry, I should continue it. I understand that one of our manufacturing firms - Bond’s, of Sydney - will supply retailers with their hosiery only on the condition that they charge the public a certain price for it. If a manufacturer is in a position to make that stipulation, why cannot the Government act similarly?
– That has been the custom for many years with a number of items.
– The Commonwealth Government should have the power to fix prices. I now come to another phase of this question; that is, the 44- hour working week. We have listened to-day to complaints regarding the high rates of Australian wages. We are at present involved in a struggle for a 44- hour working week. If the manufacturers of Australia would install modern machinery a 44-hour working week would not cause them any trouble. Those very employers who to-day are appealing to the Parliament for greater tariff protection are leagued against the employees in an effort to prevent them from obtaining a reduction in their working hours.
– The honorable senator’s argument would apply also to a working week of 36 hours.
– The arguments that are being adduced to-day in opposition to a week of 44 hours were adduced during the agitation for a week of 54 hours, and, later, for a week of 48 hours. It was then said that our manufacturers would not be able to stand up against the competition of outsiders, and that capital would flee the country. In five States of the Commonwealth the employees are working 44 hours a week, under either statutory authority or administrative act. Queensland and New South Wales have given statutory authority to that number of hours, and in Western Australia all Railways and other Public Works have been given it by administrative act. The employers have availed themselves of a. technicality in the Constitution to deprive the employees of .a reduction in their working hours.
– Does not the honorable senator think that our manufacturers would require still further protection if they were compelled to conform to the 44-hour working week ?
– I do not think so. My view is that the protection afforded under this bill is ample, and that a 44-hour working week would not in an)7 way handicap our manufacturers in competition with outsiders, provided they installed proper machinery.
– Does the honorable senator argue that a machine will do as much work in. 44 as in 48 hours?
– The modern machinery that lias so far been installed has increased the output. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) the other day, in another place, referred to the increase that had taken place recently in our production. If that is so, there can have been no going slow.
– The honorable senator has not answered the Minister’s question.
– That question was not relevant to the issue.
– It was quite relevant, but it was rather an awkward one for the honorable senator to answer.
– Is the honorable senator’s opinion, what protection would be necessary under Mr. Garden’s ideal of a working week of five days, each of six hours ?
– I am not concerned with Mr. Garden’s ideals. I never have been, and I never will be. I shall answer the honorable . senator’s question by asking him his opinion of the proposition put forward by Henry Ford ?
– Did I understand the honorable senator to say Henry George?
– I did not. We have one apostle of Henry George in this chamber, and that is quite sufficient. Henry Ford’s proposition is that we should have a five-day week, aggregating 40 hours. He is instrumental, either directly or indirectly, in the employment of about 2,000,000 people.
– Henry Ford’ pays his employees what they earn. He pays according to results.
– I have almost exhausted tbe time that is allowed me under the Standing Orders. I have no desire to continue the debate for a greater length of time. There will be further opportunities to give expression to my opinions. Honorable senators must understand that, so far as this measure is concerned, I have not spoken on behalf of my party. I hope the day is not far distant when this Parliament will have the necessary power to give a proper trial to the policy of new protection, so that, not only the manufacturer, but also the employee and the consumer, will receive the protection that is their due. I support the motion for the second, reading of the bill.
– I support the bill, and I stand behind the Government in their general policy of effective protection. I congratulate Senator Needham upon the speech that he has just made. The first portion admirably expounded the policy of protection for the benefit . of his party in Victoria, and the latter portion exhibited a freetrade tendency for the benefit of his constituents in Western Australia. Being an old campaigner, the honorable senator knows every trick in the trade. He has made the assertion that Australian factories are badly equipped and inefficient. The contrary is the case. Our factories have been established for a comparatively short while, and they have had the advantage of being equipped with machinery that is the result of long years of experience in the older countries of the world. I know many factories in Melbourne, and elsewhere, that are equipped with the most up-to-date machinery it is possible to procure, and they are undoubtedly managed in the most efficient way. Our workmen are well paid and excellently treated. They are as efficient as the workmen of any other country - possibly they are more efficient. Under the protectionist policy of the Government, our workmen enjoy the highest standard of living that is to be found in any country, and their wages probably have a higher effective value. The Factories Act, which was passed by a Liberal Government in Victoria, ensured to employees in factories, not only decent hours of work and high wages, but also a sufficient quantity of air space and light, and, in short, comfortable working conditions. Senator Needham said that we ought to be able to manufacture sufficient to enable us to export. That honorable senator is to-day advocating a 44-hour working week. At the next election I presume that the number will be reduced to 40 hours; and eventually a week of 30 hours, to be worked in five days, will be advocated. Notwithstanding the protection that is afforded to industry by the Customs tariff, we could not possibly compete, even in our home market, if the men worked only 30 hours a week. I believe that we should encourage both the primary, and secondary industries. I am a protectionist, because I wish to build up the secondary industries to enable them to provide a greater amount of employment. Our principal requirement to-day is increased population. Senator Needham appeared to think that the Government’s policy of protection was not effective. He said that our progress had not been sufficiently great. I have looked up the latest returns of the Commonwealth Statistician. I pay a tribute to the efficiency of that gentleman and his staff. I consider that our statistics are second to none in the world; they are most comprehensive and correct. The protection afforded by this Government has been so effective that the value of the factories in Australia increased from £39,000,000 in 1914, to £82,000,000 in 1923-4, whilst the value of the output of those factories increased from £166,450,508 to £348,577,583 in the same period. Those figures prove that the nation is making very rapid progressunder this Government. It must be remembered that the war occurred during that ten-year period, and that industries were more or less at a standstill, because our man power was engaged in assisting to win the war.
– Does the honorable senator not think there is a risk of over-production in Australia?
– Yes, in some commodities, because we have not a sufficiently large population. Our greatestneed is increased population. Although T am a protectionist I maintain that it is possible to impose too high a duty. These questions must be regarded sanely. High protection increases the cost of living ; but we must have effective protection to enable our factories to compete with those that are established in low-wage countries. I. think the most effective way of assisting our factories and our country is to be loyal - enthusiastically loyal - to the products of the soil and the factories of Australia. It is a more effective means of giving assistance than is the imposition of a high protective tariff. Let our people show faith in their own country by buying and using the goods it produces. I am surprised that some honorable senators opposite are so lacking in enthusiasm for the products of Australia that they do not even wear and use completely those products. Even at the present moment some of them have foreign-made matches in their pockets.
– I will produce my matches against the honorable senator’s.
– I am pleased that I have at last been able to induce the honorable senator to support an Australian industry.
– Everything that I wear is Australian-made, but I am doubtful about what the honorable senator wears.
– Everything I wear and use is made in Australia. I was the first member of the Commonwealth Parliament to adopt the policy of wearing a complete outfit of Australian-made garments. Not only do I wear allAustralian goods from my boots upwards, but my crutches and crutch-ends and even my gloves were made in Australia. I find that one can get the best of articles made in Australia even down to the detail of gloves, if one cares to wear them in cold weather. Unfortunately, there is a stupid prejudice against Australian products.
It has been in existence for years, and is still in evidence. I have met people who are even prejudiced against the magnificent raisins and sultanas produced at Mildura, and try to argue that dried fruits imported from the Mediterranean have a better flavour than the Australian. Under efficient management, by the use of the latest machinery, and by the employment of efficient workers clothing can be made in Australia equal to anything made elsewhere in the world.
– Not quite.
– I think it can be. Whether it be underclothing made by the Lincoln Mills at Coburg, tweeds and serges turned out by the returned soldiers at Geelong and elsewhere, shirts and collars made by the Pelaco people and others, or matches produced by Bryant and May at Richmond, the Australian-made article is as good as the imported. Yet in the Senate club-room a little while ago, when I asked for matches, I regret to say I was handed foreign matches. The other day in a well-known hotel I asked for tomato sauce, and, to my annoyance, was handed a bottle branded “ Heinz, Pittsburg, U.S.A.” We know that the sauces made in Australia are superior to imported sauces because the Australian Pure Foods Acts are very much stricter than are those of America, or elsewhere. There is really no necessity to import tomato sauce artificially coloured in a fashion not permitted in Australia. There is no need for the people of Australia to import goods like this if they would only be sufficiently enthusiastic to buy the products of their own factories. Why should we be using Japanese, Chinese, Swedish, or Polish matches as we are now doing to an alarming extent?
– The matches we import are mostly Swedish.
– Our exports to Sweden are practically nil. I am sure that the people of Australia have only to be asked to use Australian-made matches for them to do so. These matches are made under Australian conditions of labour, which are good. The people engaged in the factories are paid higher wages than are paid in countries like Japan, China, or Sweden, from which we import matches, and they work shorter hours and enjoy better conditions than are worked or obtainable anywhere else in the world. I was’ .surprised in looking up the statistics the other day to learn that for the year ending 28th February last Australia imported matches valued at £258,645 - over a quarter of million pounds which should have been spent in Australia.
– I am sure those matches were not used by us Australians.
– They were. Unfortunately, our people are sometimes thoughtless. During the election campaign when I was being heckled and unfairly treated I often challenged the audience to be as enthusiastic for Australianmade goods as I was. When a claim was made that the supporters of the Government were anti-Australian I issued the challenge that I would give £50 to a local hospital if more than 50 per cent, of the men who were heckling me had not foreign matches in their pockets at the time. That challenge was accepted at one place, and when the matches were brought forward it was seen that about 15 per cent. of the men who were calling me an anti-Australian were carrying foreign matches in their pockets. Similarly, I am sure that at least 50 per cent, of honorable senators opposite have foreign-made matches in their pockets.
– What about honorable senators on your own. side?
– I think they will bc equally guilty, but not intentionally, and only through that thoughtlessness which has led to over a quarter of a million pounds sterling, for matches alone, going annually to foreign countries.
– I wonder if there is any proposal in this Tariff to increase the duty on matches.
– There is no such proposal in this tariff. When merchants have sent me foreign-made matches, I have returned them, and have asked whether they supplied foreign-made matches because they made more money by selling them. They told me that such was not the case. Some said that the imported box contained more matches than the Australian box, but when I took the trouble to count them, that was not the case. The Australian-made matches are as good as those made anywhere else. I am pleased to see that the Government has increased the duty on certain woollen goods. In 1991, when increased duties were proposed for woollen goods, I opposed the proposal because, at that time a commission had shown that, over the period of the war, the woollen manufacturers of Australia had averaged a net profit of 33 per cent. As they had had such a good time, I did not think .the Government was justified in increasing the duty because, at that moment, owing to the war, wages in England and other countries producing woollen goods were practically as high as those payable in Australia. Since then, however, conditions have entirely changed. In other woollen manufacturing countries, the hours of work are much longer, and the rates of pay much loss than they are in Australia. As a result of the increased duties on woollen .goods, the woollen industry has gone ahead very well in Australia. In tern years the number of woollen mills has increased from 22 to 47. In 1913, the year prior to the war, the value of our output of manufactured woollen goods from 22 mills was £925,602, the amount of wages paid was £231,018, and the number of employees engaged was 3,090, earning an average wage of 29s. a week. There is a good deal of female labour engaged in this industry. In 1922-3, from 40 mills the output was valued at £4,712,96-1-, the wages paid had increased to £991,801, the number of employees had increased from 3,090 to 6,928, and the average weekly wage had increased to 55s. The last figures available show that, in 1923-4, the number of mills had increased to 47, and the number of employees to 7,532. Senator Grant was a little facetious in hia remark that Victoria was a down and out State, which was being far outstripped by New South Wales, but of the 47 woollen factories, the vast majority are located in Victoria, which is probably due to the fact that, while the colony of New South Wales was pursuing a policy of freetrade, Victoria, under a policy of protection, had already established the woollen industry. All of the Australian factories are now busy. They had a very bad spin for a year or two, but the recent tariff increases have proved very effective, a»d every mill, with the exception of one at Stawell, is doing fairly well. Under the Victorian Wages Board system, the ‘hours of labour in Victoria are 4’5. In addition to woollen mills, we Lave clothing factories giving employment to 28,148 hands. This number is exclusive of dressmaking and millinery factories. Although the tariff has been scientifically and carefully drawn after careful investigation by the Tariff Board, and although it will be effective in keeping the mills going full steam ahead, and providing openings for fresh mills, it is an anomaly that we are still sending abroad large sums of money for woollen goods.
– Does the honorable senator think that the manufacturers will be satisfied with the present duties?
– A few moments ago, Senator McLachlan asked if there was a fear of over production. We have a long way to go in Australia in the wool manufacturing industry before there is any fear of over production. It may not be easy to manufacture certain fancy lines here on account of our small population, but all the ordinary line3 required by man, if not by woman, can be made in Australia. We produce the greatest quantity, and the greatest variety, of wool of any continent in the world, and while our factories have the first choice - the chance of acquiring it at their doors - we have the anomaly that, during last year, we imported £4,220,000 worth of woollen goods. I maintain that we should manufacture the whole of our requirements, but I would not go as far as Senator Needham, who would have us manufacture the whole of our wool in Australia, and export it inmanufactured form. It would not be practicable to do so. For one thing, our hours of labour are shorter, and our wages are higher than those paid in other countries. In any case, we have not enough people in Australia to manufacture all the wool we produce, even if all were working at that, and doing nothing else. We lead the world in the number of our flocks, and in the output and quality of our wool. For the year ending 30th June this year, Ave shall produce a record clip, the biggest, I am glad to say, Australia has ever produced. It will amount to 2,250,000 bales.
– And off depleted flocks.
– Yes. Off depleted flocks, thanks to the efficiency of our flock masters, we shall have a bigger clip. But it would be quite impossible to manufacture all that wool in Australia. There may be some lines in which- we could compete with the rest of the world. I was delighted the other day to learn at the Warrnambool mills that, by specializing on blankets, they could turn out so superior an article that they could sell numbers of them to wealthy people in America, the East, and Canada. I am also pleased to learn that during the last year Australia has worked up a trade, mostly with Canada and Japan, in wooltops. Thus the first process in the manufacture of the woollen goods takes place in Australia. I am a believer in Australian goods for the Australians. Everything we eat, use, and wear, should, as far as possible, be produced in this country. To bring about this result, we do not require a highly protective tariff so much as enthusiastic support for the goods of our own country. As an advocate of trade within the Empire, I have always supported the preference that Australia gives to the Mother Country. Last year, that preference was worth £8,500,000 to Great Britain, and evidently it has had a good effect. I notice that, for the three years immediately prior to the introduction of the last tariff, the value of our imports from Great Britain was £95,000,000, whereas for the three succeeding years it increased to £198,000,000, an increase of over £100,000,000. Such commodities as Australia needs to import should be obtained from, the Mother Country rather than from Germany and other foreign countries, from which we purchased far too much prior to the war. Australia is now Great Britain’s second-best customer, and Britain is by far the largest purchaser of our products. Britain takes the largest portion of our wheat, wool, butter, meat, and fruit; but I do not think she has reciprocated quite to the extent she might have done. I have been disappointed at times to notice contracts for meat placed by the British Army and Navy authorities with the Argentine. While we give Great Britain a definite preference, she has not always extended similar benefits to Australia.
– Chilled meat is obtained from the Argentine.
– Quite so. I was referring more particularly to contracts for tinned and potted meats. I realize that the Argentine can beat Australia with beef, because she has enormous fields of alfalfa, and her proximity to the European markets enables her to send beef there in a chilled state. I believe that a trial consignment of chilled beef has been exported from Australia, and I sincerely hope that the experiment will prove successful. While the Argentine chilled beef is superior to Australian frozen beef, our mutton and lamb are by no means inferior. It is gratifying to learn that recently contracts have been secured for the supply of tinned meats to the British Army and Navy from Australia and New Zealand. Preference should be given to British shipping. Although the British shipping companies do not pay wages as high as those obtaining in Australia, they give seamen £9 a month, which is double the wage received by the men on many of the foreign vessels trading to Australia - nearly three times as much as Japanese seamen receive, and nearly double the wage of Scandinavian seamen. I find that, owing to the low wages paid to their seamen, the foreign companies are lifting the bulk of Australia’s wool and other produce, and they have been doing so for the last year or so.
– What a terrible waste, to pay men who serve the Empire £9 a month!
– I am not contending that the wage is too high. I should like to see double that amount paid, if possible; but how can we compete with other nations that are paying their seamen only £3 or £4 a month? The rate on French steamers trading to Australia is only £4 10s. a month.
– Order! The discussion is extending beyond the scope of the bill.
– We should give preference to the British steamship lines. I should like to see an alteration in the tariff on timber. Norwegian vessels bring dressed timber to Australia; but if the tariff were altered so that the timber would be landed here, undressed, employment would be given to a large number of people in this- country, instead of the work being done in Norway and Sweden, where long hours and cheap labour obtain.
– And protection. The honorable senator desires long hours and low wages, as in Norway and Sweden.
– That is not so. The honorable senator has a short memory when it suits him. Although a great deal of dressed timber comes from Scandinavia, Norway and Sweden take very little goods from us. I am informed that, if the word “ super “ in the tariff were altered to “ lineal,” the timber would be imported in an undressed condition and dressed in Australia. This would not mean that we would not import the timber in an undressed condition, nor would it mean that when it was dressed in Australia the cost would be materially increased. Purchasers of timber in Australia have to pay for it according to the size before it is dressed. Thus they pay for boards6½ inches by 1 inch, although when received here they are only 6 inches by inch. I am told that if we varied the tariff in the direction I have indicated, employment would be given to 1,000 men in Australia in the dressing of timber.
– Would it increase the freight cost ?
– Steamers from Scandinavia enjoy an unfair advantage over British companies. After bringing this timber here, they have been able to capture a lot of back-loading in the form of wool and other produce. Their seamen are paid only £5 a month, as against the British rate of £9. It seems to me that the reciprocal tariff arrangement with Canada gives that country the thick end of the stick. Australia’s exports to Canada in 1921-22 amounted in value to £365,000, whereas in that year we importedfrom Canada goods to the value of £3,146,000. I doubt, therefore, whether the agreement will prove advantageous to this country.
– We shall gain nothing by it.
– I do not think we shall. The activities of the United States of America in Canada are very great, since the United States of America has 700 branch factories there. The balance of trade is all in favour of Canada, which, I understand, has already imposed dumping duties on goods forwhich we are trying to find a market there. In 1924-25, our exports to the United States of America amounted in value to £9,200,000, but our imports totalled £34,556,000. The Tariff Board is doing its work well. It sifts evidence on both sides, and impartially advises the Government on matters into which it has made a. thorough investigation. Since the men on the land are responsible for 75 per cent. of the wealth of this country, one would naturally like to see their implements, sold at as low a price as possible. Nevertheless, I am a Protectionist, even in. the matter, of agricultural implements. There are 140 factories in Australia engaged in the manufacture of these implements. The works at Sunshine afford a striking example of the success that has attended this important secondary industry. A new city has sprung up,, and probably the best and most effective agricultural implements in the world are produced there. Testis mony to- that fact is afforded by the large numbed of patents, that have been taken out for various classes- of implements. I understand that the cost of this- machinery is just as- high in New Zealand as in Australia, despite the- former country’s freetrade policy. No less than 458,000 people are employed in. primary industries in Australia. Our exports of wool last year were valued at £63,000,000, wheat £34,000,000,. flour £6,000,000, butter £10,000,000, milk products £1,000,000, meat £7,000,000, and fruit £3,000,000. It was a wonderful result. Australia would be in a. parlous condition, to-day without the wool industry,, in which we lead the world, both as regards the numbers of our flocks, the excellence of our sheep, the quantity of wool produced per head, and the intrinsic value per pound. Last year our exports of wool, skins, mutton, lambs, and tallow realized £77,000,000, or just a fraction under 50 per cent. of our total exports. It must not be thought that all this, wealth, goes into a few hands. There are over 80,000 families directly interested in sheep husbandry in Australia, but there’ is room for- great expansion in the production of wool. During the last ton years the number of sheep in the world1 has-decreased by 61, 000,000, and to-day there is a world shortage of wool. As the result of high price- levels for wool in 1924, scientists burned their attention to the production or invention of other kinds of textile threads in order to cheapen the cost of textiles generally. Their researches led to the discovery of sniafil, a. wood product like rayon,, which has been wrongly designated as artificial silk. Enormous quantities of rayon are now being, used to the detriment of the genuine article. As I have stated, it is made from wood pulp, is very inflammable, and, being a vegetable matter, is a conductor of both heat and cold, does not wear well, and when wet becomes very clammy. Sniafil is in the same category. Some people erroneously speak of it as artificial wool. It is made from wood pulp, which costs only 2d. a lb.,, and as the supply is unlimited’, it is possible that, when it is produced in a more attractive form, it may become a serious competitor with our great staple industry. But, like the so-called artificial silk, it is very inflammable, it is a conductor of heat and cold, and does not- wear well. On the other hand, it may be dyed any colour, and spun into any diameter, so we cannot say definitely that it will not one clay become a serious competitor with wool. In the circumstances, it is very desirable- that every aid that sciencecan give the wool industry in Australia should be made available to our wool growers, for whilst we lead the world in wool we have yet a lot to learn in that branch of production, as well as in all our primary and secondary industries. I should like to see twice the number of flock owners in Australia. This country is capable of carrying 120,000’,000 sheep. Over 30 years ago-, when it was not developed- to the- same extent as to-day, Australia carried 106,000,000 sheep.
– The honorable senator’s remarks are interesting, but I am afraid they are not relevant to the bill.
– They are relevant, Mr. President, inasmuch as the diminution of our flocks is, in some measure, due bo ravages by dingoesand the invasion of our pastoral areas by the rabbit pest. To cope with these- difficulties we should do all that is possible to make wire netting available to pastoralists at a reasonable figure.
– Imported wire netting?’
– No ; I should like to see it all made in Australia. The industry is established in New South Wales as an important adjunct to the great steel industry, and to ensure its expansion it may be necessary to offer a bounty on production. I support the Government in the action it has taken to safeguard the people of Australia by providing protection for Australian industries.
Senator GRAHAM (Western Australia) “3.6”. - At the outset, I should like to say that, as far as possible, I am attired in Australian-made clothes.
– I have always been.
– We shall see. I propose to submit you to personal inspection.
– Order! The honorable senator will please address the Chair.
– To begin with, I do not smoke a pipe that is made in Japan, nor do I use matches that are not Australian made. During the last few months I have made it my business to inspect a number of representative Australian manufacturing industries. Has Senator Guthrie done likewise?
– I am wearing nothing but Australian-made clothes, at all events.
– Recently I visited Bryant and May’s match factory in Melbourne. That establishment uses an enormous quantity of Queensland wood, which is submitted to a special process for the purpose of match production.
– Protection for that industry is not an economic proposition.
– Well, I believe in doing all I can to encourage Australian industries, and I am a protectionist up to the hilt. All our industries should be safeguarded against unfair outside competition. Certainly the match industry should be protected against competition from Japan or any other country where sweated labour conditions obtain. I challenge honorable senators opposite, to produce their matches. Here are mine. Is Senator Guthrie prepared to submit his matches to inspection? As one who has been in close association with Australian industrial conditions for the past 42£ years, I am glad to be able to say that many Australian manufacturing concerns are to-day a pattern foi’ the outside world. Our workmen in those factories are working under model conditions. Employees of Bryant and May’s match factory, for example, might easily be mistaken for employees in some professional occupations. The girls who work- there are looked after admirably by the management. They are furnished with two suits a year, and these are laundered and repaired at the expense of the management. They are also .provided with a fine dining-room, and every morning at 11 o’clock they have cool drinks or ice cream in the summer time, and tea or coffee in the winter. There is also a large hall in which at frequent intervals concerts and dances are arranged by the management, and at these the whole of the managerial staff and employees mingle in social intercourse.
– This is all very nice, but from an economic standpoint the industry is wasteful.
– These improved conditions would be impossible without protection, and from what I have ‘seen’ I am prepared to protect every Australian industry against unfair, competition from outside.
– In other words, the honorable senator is a prohibitionist.
– Very nearly.
– But a freetrader ‘so far as Western. Australia is concerned.
– Never mind. I am prepared to speak for myself on any issue that concerns Western Australia.
– How does the honorable senator’s policy affect the gold-mining industry of Western Australia ?
– The gold mining in Western Australia would be in a better position if the Government provided the bonus for which we have asked. But lot me continue. About a fortnight ago, when I was in Sydney, I visited Bond’s hosiery factory. Again I found that the employees were working under conditions second to none in the world. I was. informed that, whilst the protection afforded was sufficient to enable them to meet foreign competition in the better grades of silk stockings, they were at a disadvantage in the manufacture of the cheaper or second-grade articles, so more protection will be necessary, and I shall be prepared to vote for it. After inspecting their silk department I visited the cotton tweed mills, and was agreeably surprised at the quality of the articles being produced there.
– Where do they get their raw material?
– I was informed that 80 per cent, of it comes from Queensland.
– How does the quality compare with overseas products?
– Most favorably.
– It is a fine industry.
– Yes; and those who have visited the factory must admit that persons who expend large sums of money on machinery to produce articles of such a high quality should be fully protected. I understand that if Bond’s receive the necessary protection they are prepared to establish mills in every city of the Commonwealth.
– What protection do they want?
– I cannot say. The information I have just given the. Senate was supplied to me by the manager.
-brockman. - T. would be prepared to do the same if imports were prohibited.
– I am speaking of adequate protection, and not prohibition. In their cotton mills, calicos of a very high standard are being produced; but I do not know if the supply is sufficient to meet the demand. They have the nucleus of a calico-manufacturing plant which is really wonderful, and is producing material which compares more than favorably with the English article. The unbleached calico they are manufacturing does not contain a large quantity of lime, such as is found in the imported article. The Australian calico, when washed, really becomes thicker, whereas the English article, which contains much lime, becomes so thin after washing that there is hardly any of it left.
– Will not the higher tariff be responsible for increasing the price of miners’ dungarees?
– Not necessarily. I have also visited the Lincoln Mills, referred to by Senator Guthrie, and it is a shame that much of the valuable plant installed there should be lying idle. The quality of the silk stockings, blankets, rugs, and other articles manufactured is of a very high standard. When in Sydney, I also visited the Australasian Glass Works, in which thousands of men are employed turning out a product of a very high quality. A glass-blower of 24 year3 of age, who was brought from Belgium - which is the home of glass manufacturing - was receiving, on an average, £S os. a week, and evidently he earns that amount or he would not receive it. Any one visiting the works and noting the. conditions under which the men are employed, particularly in the vicinity of the furnaces, must admit that they earn every penny they receive, even if it is £20 a week. It has been proved on many occasions that wc have men in Australia who are quite capable of producing goods of a similar quality to those manufactured in other countries where industries have been established for many years. Even if we obtain the assistance of expert artisans from Great Britain, no objection should be offered, because we have sprung from British stock. If we have not in Australia men who have a knowledge of a new class of manufacture we are undertaking, we must import experts to guide our operatives until they become experienced .
-brockman. - How many men are employed in the Australasian Glass Works in Sydney ? ,
– About 2,000. It is a very large concern.
– How many specialists have been imported?
– Quite a number. J. have mentioned a few of the industries I am prepared to support, and while I claim to be a good Australian, and wear and use Australian products, I should like to give the Senate a little information concerning the “make-up” of Senator Guthrie. The tweed used in the suit he is wearing, and which he claims to be all-Australian, evidently came from the Geelong Woollen Mills.
– The returned soldiers’ mill.
– In making a coat, as honorable senators are aware, canvas is used. The canvas is not made in Australia, but in Belgium or Holland. The hair cloth used in the shoulders of the honorable senator’s coat is. not made in Australia - it cannot be made here - but in France. The figured silesia used in the sleeve lining is not manufactured in Australia, butin Manchester, as also is the silesia used in making the pockets. The padding in the shoulders of the coat - it is always used to make a man look the man he is not - is not made in Australia, but in Manchester, The holland used as a lining across the back of the trousers is made in Belfast, and the buttons in Italy. Where does this “all-Australian suit” come in?
– Buttons are made in Australia.
– Those on the garment to which the honorable senator referred were made in Italy. The machine silk with which the edges of his coat are stitched is made in England. These and the trouser fittings are not manufactured in Australia, and are not likely to be for some years to come. It is interesting to listen to the utterances of those who profess to wear wholly Australian-made clothes, but in most cases only the. tweed of which the suit is made is of Australian manufacture. The only way in which Australian industries can flourish is by affording them sufficient protection, and also by increasing the population so that our products can be easily disposed of. As far as the tariff generally is concerned, the members of the party, to which I belong are free to vote as they desire ; I intend to support the imposition of high duties.
– What became of the glass works at Subiaco ?
– They went into liquidation, I think, but a new company has been formed, and is installing additional plant.
– It was forced out of existence owing to the intensive competition of the glassmanufacturing establishment which the honorable senator mentioned.
– That is quite likely. In Western Australia we have practically no secondary industries, and we, therefore, have to rely largely on the production of those in the eastern States. ‘ Adjoining the glass works in Sydney there is a large deposit of white sand of the finest quality, which I believe is sufficient to meet their requirements for the next 100 years. I ask leave to continue my remarks on the next day of sitting.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Senate adjourned at 3.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 May 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1926/19260521_senate_10_113/>.