12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In the absence of the Leader of the Government in the Senate,will the Assistant Minister indicate when the present sittings of
Parliament are likely to end and what measures are likely to be submitted for consideration ?
– I regret very much that I cannot give the honorable senator the information at present, but I may be in a position to do so later.
– I desire to ask the Assistant Minister the following questions :–
Some of the co-called bona fide unions are now nothing more than a menace to the workers, to society, and to Australia. Can the Government do anything to protect the unions and the Labour movement from domination by communists “?
– The trouble that occurred in Sydney yesterday has not escaped notice. In reply to the honorable senator’s question as to the possibility of the payment of the fares of these people to Russia, the answer is distinctly “ No “.
– In the Sydney Morning Herald this morning, Mr. President, it is reported that the whole of the staff of the Parliamentary refreshment rooms have received notice of dismissal, to take effect from the end of next month. I should like to know if that is correct, and, if so, whether you could inform the Senate if all of the men affected have been equally guilty, whatever it is they have been found guilty of, and if they have been given an oppor tunity to state their case in rebuttal of any charges that may have been made against them?
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) . - No question of the guilt of any person is involved. It is simply a matter of bringing about a more economical administration of the Parliamentary refreshment rooms. These rooms cost a great deal more than they should, and more than the country can afford. The steps which are about to be taken to-day are in accordance with a scheme which has received the approval of the Joint House Committee, and by which large savings can be made, and, it is hoped, just as efficient service rendered. There is no question of guilt on anybody’s part. It is simply a matter of the re-adjustment of the whole department of the Parliamentary refreshment rooms.
– In the reorganization of the refreshment room staff, will consideration be given to the employment of any of the existing staff who are married and have their homes in Canberra ?
– Every consideration will be given to the existing staff to such an extent as will be permitted by the scheme proposed and shortly to be made public.
– I ask if the Government has kept in mind the fact that this Senate almost unanimously on two occasions has passed a resolution in favour of giving substantial help to the gold-mining industry; whether the fact that these resolutions have been carried by the Senate has any weight with the Government, and what the Government is going to do about the matter?
– The matter of giving a bounty on gold production is now under consideration by the Cabinet.
Senator DOOLEY brought up the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed establishment of an automatic telephone exchange at Maylands, Western Australia.
The following paper was presented : -
– Has the Assistant Minister any reply to the question I asked yesterday in relation to the proposed amendments of the Sales Tax Assessment Acts?
– When the present sittings of Parliament commenced it was the intention of the Government to amend the law only with a view to correcting certain technical flaws at present existing, and, shortly after the sittings commenced, leave was obtained to introduce amending bills for that purpose. It is intended to proceed with those bills shortly. The sales tax measures were originally introduced by the Prime Minister and Treasurer (the Eight Honorable J. H. Scullin). At the present time, the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) is securing and studying information in regard to other proposed amendments of the law so that, on the return of the Prime Minister, the whole position may be thoroughly considered.
– Is it proposed to deal with the matter during the present sittings of Parliament?
– As indicated in the answer which I have just given, the matter which is now under consideration will be placed before the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) for attention on his return.
Correspondence with Commonwealth Bank.
Will the Government cause to be laid on the table of the Senate all correspondence that passed between the Government and the Commonwealth Bank Board, or the Chairman of the. board, prior to the introduction of the Wheat Marketing Bill into Parliament, or during the passage of that bill through Parliament, in reference to any proposal in respect to a guaranteed price for wheat, or to the willingness or ability of the bank to finance the compulsory pool provided for in the Wheat Marketing Bill?
– I would refer the right honorable senator to statements made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) on the 11th and 16th July, when he explained that representations were made personally by him to the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, that details of the arrangement for financing the proposed wheat pool were to have been drawn up in a formal agreement, and that no formal agreement could be entered into until the Wheat Marketing Bill had been passed by Parliament.
– The answers are -
Report by Commonwealth Statistician.
With regard to a Cabinet memorandum compiled by Mr. Wickens, Commonwealth Statistician, in which certain references to the problems of deflation and inflation are made, and which memorandum has, according to press reports, been partly quoted in public by the honorable the Minister for Health (Mr. Anstey), and upon which Mr. Wickens is reported in the press to have made a further statement - will the Government lay a full copy oil this memorandum upon the table of the Senate?
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Bill (on motionby Senator Barnes) read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As honorable senators are aware it was considered desirable seven or eight years ago to arrange for the manufacture in Australia of galvanized iron, which had previously been imported in large quantities. The establishment of this industry in the Commonwealth was assisted by previous governments in the form of bounties, which have been paid in. varying amounts for some years. The Australian manufacturers have erected a large and well-equipped plant, and are now producing the whole of our requirements.
It is proposed to amend the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act 1922-29 by adding after section 6 the following section : - 6a. Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, bounty shall not be payable under this act upon any goods manufactured in Australia and delivered from a factory during any period during which the importation of those goods is prohibited by or under the law relating to the customs, whether or not such prohibition is absolute or subject to conditions.
The purpose of the amendment is to enable payment of bounty as provided by the act to be withheld on. goods covered by the act during such time as the importation of such goods is prohibited. On the 7th October, 1930, a proclamation was issued under the Customs Act prohibiting the importation of iron and steel plate and sheet, galvanized, whether corrugated or not, unless the consent, in writing, of the Minister of State for Trade and Customs had first been obtained. The articles mentioned when manufactured in Australia are included amongst those entitled to’ bounty under the act, as it at present stands, and it is desired to exclude them from the bounty during such time ns the prohibition on imports is in force.
Under the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act 1922-29 bounty is payable on, inter alia, galvanized sheets, that is iron and steel plates and sheet, galvanized, whether corrugated or not, manufactured in Australia. The rate of bounty provided was originally £2 12s. per ton. This was increased by acts of Parliament to £3 12s. per ton from the 1st. January, 192S, and to £4 10s. from the 1st January, 1980. By tariff proposals operating from the 20th June, 1930, the duty on imported galvanized sheets was increased by £1 per ton, and in accordance with the provisions of section 3 of the Bounty Act, which requires that the rate of bounty shall be decreased by an amount corresponding to increased duties of customs, the rate of bounty was reduced by £1 per ton from the date the duty was increased to that extent, that is, there was n reduction of the bounty from £4 10s. to £3 10s. per ton from the 20th June. 1930. Owing to the introduction of primage duty of 2& per cent, ad valorem, which operated from the 10th July, 1930, the rate of bounty on galvanized sheets was similarly further reduced by 7s. per ton from that date, that is, to £3 3s. per ton. These reductions in bounty did not affect the Australian manufacturers of galvanized iron in relation to the competition which they had to meet from overseas, as the reductions in bounty were offset by the increased duties on imports. In September last, however, the Australian manufacturers, John* Lysaght (Australia) Limited, the branch company of John Lysaght of Great Britain, found that because of the general falling off in demand for their product owing to the prevailing depression, in conjunction with competition from imports from overseas, they were unable to continue production and their factory closed down with a result that some nine hundred hands were out of work.
– For how long ?
– For some time. In normal times Australia’s requirements of galvanized iron are in the vicinity of 120,000 tons per year. In the present year of depression, however, it is estimated that 70,000 tons will be sufficient to meet the demand. The manufacturers have recently duplicated their plant, and with the sixteen mills of the enlarged plant in operation, expect to produce up to 80,000 tons of galvanized iron per year. They can, therefore, meet the whole of Australia’s present requirements. Moreover, the company has definitely decided that, should the demand become at any time greater than the present capacity of the works, it will, if the embargo on imports remains in force, extend the plant to whatever size may be necessary to supply the whole of Australia’s requirements.
Before the prohibition was decided upon the whole position was thoroughly gone into with the manufacturers - John Lysaght (Australia) Limited - and to ensure that the interests of all concerned were amply provided for, certain undertakings under seal were given by the manufacturers. The matter was discussed between capable officers of the department and a representative of the company. It was agreed that there should be no immediate increase in the price of galvanized iron, if the prohibition were imposed, and that before any increase was made the company would give free access to its books to a representative of the Government, in the person of a qualified accountant, who would first satisfy himself that any proposed increase was justified. The company further undertook to claim no bounty on galvanized iron manufactured in Australia during the term of the embargo. Another feature agreed upon was that the price of galvanized iron to Western Australia should be the same as to other States. The proclamation prohibiting importation was issued on 7th October, 1930, and the amendment now proposed to the act is necessary to enable bounty on galvanized sheet produced in Australia to be withheld during such time as the prohibition on importation is in operation. The prohibition of importations was imposed in order to . give relief to the industry in a difficult situation. The company was established in 1921 with a capital of 500,000 £1 preference shares, and 436,059 £1 ordinary shares, so that the total paid-up capital was £936,059.
No dividends were paid until 1927. In each of the years 1927, 192S and 1929 the preference shareholders received a dividend of 5 per cent. In March, 1930, they were paid a dividend of 2£ per cent. The only dividends paid on the ordinary shares were 5 per cent, in 1928 and 2£ per cent, in 1929. The following is from a report made in October, 1930, by an investigating officer of the Department of Trade and Customs: -
The financial records of Lysaght’s Newcastle Works Limited hare been examined with a view to ascertaining the effect of payment of bounty, and also to show the manufacturing profit or loss, as the case may be, if bounty had not been obtainable. The following figures for the past three and a half years have been extracted from the trading account: -
It will therefore be seen that under recent tariff schedules the company could not have carried on without the assistance received from the bounty.
Notwithstanding the receipt of the bounty, the net profits derived from trading have been so small, that adequate provision could not be made for depreciation on plant, machinery and buildings.
Finally, I wish to emphasize the fact that, with the closing down of Lysaght’s works, the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act, so far as galvanized iron is concerned, ceased to operate. The prohibition of the importation of galvanized iron is not, therefore, an abrogation of the act, and any contention that the Government has, by executive act, flouted the expressed will of Parliament, is incorrect.
It is the will of Parliament expressed first in 1922, confirmed in 1927 and again in 1929, that this industry should be carried on in Australia. The means chosen was a bounty. That means failed. The prohibition has enabled the industry to be continued and the will of Parliament is still being carried out. The prohibition was the only constitutional means available to the executive and it is the only practical course open to the legislature. I do not think that any honorable senator opposite will advocate the alternative - an increase in the rate of bounty. Financial circumstances preclude any proposition of that nature.
It may- be said that a burden is being cast on the primary producer. Does any primary producer desire to sack Australian workmen to give employment in low-wage countries abroad? In return for cheap iron he must supply cheap wool and cheap wheat. The low-wage country must be a country of low purchasing power, and to foster industries in such countries is to perpetuate low prices for our primary produce.
– Cannot we reduce costs of production?
– Costs in connexion with the products of this industry will not be increased without the consent of the Government.
– They should be coming down.
– The prohibition of importations of galvanized iron will mean the saving of considerably over 100,000 a year in bounty payments.
– But the primary producer will be saddled with the payment of that amount in the way of increased charges.
– The Government takes the view that the industry should be assisted in the manner indicated. Previous administrations, as I have pointed out, introduced legislation providing for the payment of bounties in order to safeguard the industry, so we must assume that they considered it of some importance. I think it is generally agreed that it is of value to the Commonwealth, and that it should be assisted further. The steps now being taken are merely in furtherance of the policy of previousgovernments for the encouragement of the iron and steel industry with’ the object of making the Commonwealth a selfcontained nation.
– That policy does not seem to have done much in that direction up to the present.
– That may be the honorable senator’s view. I disagree with him. I believe that the general public of Australia is anxious that industries such as this should he given every oppor tunity to develop. The Government will take all precautions to prevent monopolies exploiting the people. Even during the present period of depression, Lysaght Limited will employ 900 people, while in normal times the number will be doubled. That is a most desirable state of affairs, particularly to the locality in which the works are situated. A further advantage will be that the people of South Australia and Western Australia will be able to obtain galvanized iron at the same price that is charged in the Eastern States. I, therefore, fail to see why Senator Lynch and his colleagues can claim that their constituents will be victimized. If any one could be victimized it would be the consumers in the East.
– Why should anybody be victimized’?
– I agree that none should be, and this Government will do its utmost to prevent that being done. The fostering of this industry is most desirable, particularly in the difficult times that we are now experiencing. I commend the measure to the Senate.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.33]. - This bill furnishes an example of the dangerous abuse of the embargo powers that are contained in our customs legislation. Those powers were originally intended for Use only in emergencies, principally for quarantine purposes, for the protection of the health of the community. Prior to the advent of this Government they were used only in that manner, except in connexion with the sugar industry. When this Government came into office it began to impose embargoes ad lib. In October last it introduced this particular one in favour of the firm of Lysaght Limited.Had it not been thatthe Government desired to repeal the bounty on galvanized iron Parliament would have had no say in the matter. Even now honorable senators are afforded the opportunity toexpress an opinion on the proposal only indirectly, becausethe bounty is linked up withthe imposition of the embargo..
The issueraisedby the bill is a perfectlysimple one. Under the bounty the taxpayers of Australiawere called upon to contribute to the maintenanceof this industry to the extent of £3 10s. on each ton of galvanized iron manufactured here. Under the proposals now before the Senate only the users of galvanized iron are to bear the impost. The taxation is to be’ shifted from the general taxpayer to the users of galvanized iron. We have to ask ourselves who are the principal users of galvanized iron in Australia. They are not the city dwellers, as their buildings are usually roofed with tiles; they do not even use galvanized iron tanks. The commodity is used principally in the country, so that the tax is to be taken off the general taxpayers and now placed on the primary producers and country dwellers. That is what we shall do if we vote for the bill.
Some merit is claimed for the measure on the ground that Lysaght Limited have entered into an undertaking that they will not increase the price of galvanized iron to the consumer. I reply, “ Thank you for nothing.” The cost of every other commodity has dropped; that of galvanized iron is to be stabilized. Why is it that this specific commodity is not to undergo a decrease in price, when the raw materials used in its manufacture have come down in price ? This imposition of embargoes by ministerial edict and the subsequent negotiation and arrangement with private firms is a most dangerous practice to introduce into governmental administration. It exposes the Minister concerned to very grave suspicion, and should not be tolerated.
It is well known that the firm of Lysaght Limited is allied to another firm in Great Britain, which manufactures galvanized iron, and that it is an importer of that commodity. I am informed that in January last, Lysaght Limited imported 2,898 tons of galvanized iron, in February, 2,219 tons, in March, 2,395 tons, in April, 1,024 tons, and in May, 1,882 tons, or a total of 10,418 tons of galvanized iron in five months. This firm, in co-operation with its British associate, flooded the Australian market with imported galvanized iron and then approached the Government and asked for an embargo with the right to stabilize prices. I am also informed that some time before theembargo was granted Lysaght Limited increased the price of their imported galvanized iron by30s. a ton. Thefirm stated in a letter written tothe Melbourne Argus that they use 11,500 tons of zinc annually. The price of zinc has fallen during the past twelve months from £25 to £14 a ton, a reduction of £11 a ton, with a resultant saving to the company of no less than £126,500 per annum, or a gain to the company of £4 on each ton of galvanized iron. The saving has not been passed on to the community. The saving of £126,500 per annum is . based on the low output of from 28,000 to 30,000 tons of galvanized iron each year, whereas from this time forward the company will be capable of producing 60,000 tons of galvanized iron a year and the advantage it has gained from the huge drop in the price of spelter will apply also to the increased production. The company uses a considerable quantity of coal, which is now at least 2s. 6d. a ton less than it was before work ceased on the coal-fields. The company will not, however, benefit by .the reduction because it is under contract to pay the higher rate. Some months ago, the Government reduced the bounty on galvanized iron from £4 10s. to £3 10s. a ton, and increased the duty from £1 to £2 a ton. About the same time the price- of galvanized iron was increased - another evidence that when duties are employed instead of bounties, the consumer is re=quired to pay more. The report of the royal commission on the coal industry shows, that, when galvanized iron cost £13 2s. 6d. a ton in Great Britain and £16 6s. 8d. in the United States of America - in which latter country at least there are no low wages - the prices in Australia was £22 10s. a ton. It is now £24 10s. a ton. I have information which shows that the reduction in the price of steel is not due to the competition of Australian manufacturers; the drop in price is world wide.
I shall not delay the Senate further. The facts that I have given convince me that the right course to adopt - I speak for myself - is to vote against the bill. If a majority of honorable senators are of the same mind, the bill will be defeated and the bounty will remain. Our vote will indicate our desire for the removal of the embargo. Should the Government desire to be relieved from the payment of the bounty, it could then introduce legislation not associated in any way with an embargo or an agreement with any private firm, and test the Senate. I am opposed to the agreement that has been entered into and also to the embargo, and in order to show my disapproval I shall vote against the second reading.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [3.43]. - I shall not repeat the arguments of Senator Pearce. I desire to direct the attention of honorable senators to. the section of the Customs Act under which this embargo is imposed. Any one who reads that section can come to no other conclusion than that its use to prohibit ordinary importations is a gross abuse of the power of the executive. The section gives a list of ‘prohibited imports, all of which are of an objectionable nature. It includes false money, blasphemous, indecent, or obscene works or articles; goods manufactured by prison labour; oleo margarine; butterine; all goods having any false suggestion of any warranty or guarantee; mineral oil and mineral spirits unless imported under and subject to such restrictions as may be imposed by proclamation. Then follows a line which reads, “ All goods the importation of which is prohibited by proclamation.” The list of prohibited goods given in the section is a clear indication of the kind of importations which Parliament considered might be prohibited by proclamation. Had it intended that a government should, have unrestricted power to prohibit the importation of goods there would have been no enumeration at all. The effect of the section is to give the Government of the day supreme power over importations. It is extraordinary that, in what is supposed to be a democratic country, the Government, without reference to Parliament, can do what no government in any other part of the world can do or even attempt to do. I know of no other case in .which a government has the power even to increase customs duties by more than a certain percentage without having first obtained the approval of Parliament, but here not only does the Governmentarrogate to itself the right to increase customs duties as it likes, and to take from Parliament the power to review those duties by extending its sessions over months and years, in clear defiance both of the spirit and the letter of the Constitution, hut it also uses this provision of the Customs Act to prohibit the entry of goods without any reference to the representatives of the people. How a system of that kind can continue in what is supposed to be a democratic country passes my understanding. It is not done in any other country in the world. Some day the Australian people will realize that, instead of living in a democracy, they are living under the most complete despotism.
In dealing with this question I shall base my remarks largely on extracts from correspondence with the firm of Lysaghts, some of that correspondence being addressed to honorable senators generally, some to business houses, and. some to myself personally. The circular which has been addressed to honorable senators generally, commences by asserting that before the industry was established in 192.1, a definite promise was given by the Federal Government that the industry would receive adequate protection. I do not question the right of the then Government to make that promise, although it would have been better if its exact terms were made clear. The circular goes on to say that after full consideration, the Tariff Board recommended a protection of £5 10s. a ton, either by way of a duty or a bounty. If that promise was made, why not stick to it? What reason is there for going further? The company’s own statement shows .that the average wages paid in the steel industry in Australia are £6 5s. 6d. a week, whereas in England, they range from £3 to £3 3s. a week; in Belgium they are £1 15s. 5d. a week, and in Czecho Slovakia, £1 10s. 5d. a week. It is significant that the circular makes no comparison with wages in the United States of America, which are very much higher than they are in Australia. The point we have to consider is not so much a comparison between the wages paid in the galvanized iron manufacturing industry in different countries, but a comparison between their wages and the earnings of those who use the commodity they make. The users of galvanized iron comprise, to a great extent, people who are denied the comforts and facilities of thickly populated communities. Why are they to be ground down in order that a favored few may receive £6 5s. 6d. a week? There is no justice in such an arrangement; it is not even a decent caricature of justice. It is a monstrous extension of preference to one favored section of the community at the expense of others. The circular goes on to say that when the industry was started housing accommodation in the district was almost unobtainable, and that the company, therefore, erected 80 brick cottages, which its employees may obtain at low rentals. It is a good thing that the company treats its employees well. But in this case it is piling up on top of the favored wage of £6’ os. 6d. a week, good homes at cheap rentals. Even that would be all right if the company itself provided the cottages; I should say all honour to the company for its interest in its employees. But why should the toiler in the bush, who probably dwells in a cottage not half so good as that supplied by the company, be compelled to pay for the roof of that cottage more than these favored employees pay for their comfortable houses ? The arrangement is not just, ns between one section of the community and another.
– There is nothing very grand about a wage of £6 5s. 6d. a week, for the work those men have to do.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.If everybody was getting that wage, I should say “well done”, but is it fair that a specially protected industry should pay its employees a great deal higher wage than can be earned by the people engaged in the other industries that have to pay for this monopoly? In 1920 the world price of galvanized iron, 26 gauge, was £41 6s. In 1925 the price had come down to £19, and the average price for the present year is £12 lis. 9d. It is the world’s price and has not been affected in any way by the starting of these works in Australia. The decrease has been brought about by influences entirely apart from Australia, and it is ridiculous to suggest that Lysaght’s works at Newcastle have in any way contributed towards making galvanized iron cheaper in Australia.’ In a letter forwarded by Lysaght’s to wholesale sellers of galvanized iron in Victoria, I find the following : -
In the first place, you will realize that, now wo are manufacturing, our Victorian requirements in galvanized iron at our Newcastle (New South Wales) works, which, as you know, is a customs protected industry, we may be called upon to quote buyers outside the general run of genuine distributors, and to cope with this phase of our business, a sliding scale of deferred discounts has been evolved so that while we may quote outside the wholesale houses, you will still be able to secure the trade to yourselves owing to the sliding scale of deferred discounts.
In this connexion, it has been decided that where we are called upon to quote large manufacturers or any Government departments, such quotations will be based on our current prices, less 5 per cent.
The scheme outlined has been very carefully considered with the object of maintaining the distribution of our products through wholesale houses whom we have consistently supported for half a century, and wo feel it is only by manufacturers definitely supporting wholesale houses that such houses can maintain their position in the community.
In regard to your distributing prices, while we do not desire at any rate at the present time to nominate what these prices shall be, we expect you to keep them at such a level hh will secure us and, of course yourselves, the bulk of the galvanized iron trade in Victoria, but nevertheless we consider it to be in the interests of all concerned that there should bc definite distributing prices and that all should adhere to them, and while we are satisfied with the distributing prices, we shall use our best influence to sec that they are maintained.
What does all this mean ? It means that, a monopoly having been granted, this firm is determined that it shall be so used that the firm and the distributors shall do well out of it at the expense of the people who. have to buy the iron. I have had a letter addressed to myself, and in referring to it I wish it to be understood that I make no charge whatsoever against Lysaght’s. All I say is that it is entirely improper that any firm should be placed in the position in which Lysaght’s has been placed. The letter says -
The high cost of our product is due entirely to the rates of wages ruling in ‘Australia, not only the wages directly paid in our own works but in ‘the- establishments from which we purchase our raw materials and services.
That is what other industries of this country have to carry on their backs - rates of wages and conditions of labour in a sheltered industry which it is impossible for the .basic industries of Australia to pay or give. When the Minister was moving the second reading, I interjected that the policy about which he boasted so proudly has not done much good to Australia. Is it not patent to all that it has almost entirely brought Australia to ruin, or, at any rate, into such a position that not one of its industries can export at a profit? If we continue bolstering up a few favored industries to such an extent that others which have to pay for that bolstering up are obliged to go out of business, there will be nothing left for any one soon. The communication addressed to all honorable senators, contains the following cynical paragraph -
Some few importers perhaps naturally desire to continue importing galvanized iron and are therefore raising objections to the embargo.
Fancy the galvanized-iron impudence of those importers wanting to be allowed to live ! It is not so very extraordinary that a man carrying on a lawful business under, and in accordance with, the laws of his country, and desirous of earning a livelihood, should voice a protest against the action of the Government in saying, without any reference to the elected representatives of the people, “ You shall go out in order that some of our favoured supporters may get £6 5s. 6d. a week, work short hours, and live in nice cottages “.
– The honorable senator does not raise any objection to the Government having power to deport citizens.
– I have always objected to the exercise of that, power by the Government. I am as strongly against it as is Senator Rae.
– What country would be affected by the embargo?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Chiefly England.
– The honorable senator should have said, “ Chiefly Germany “.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.The letter addressed to me- personally by Lysaght’s contains the following paragraph : -
We desire to state that we have already made mutually satisfactory arrangements with the largest and most important galvanized iron importers in Australia to keep them fully supplied with Australian galvanized iron during the temporary embargo, so that they may keep their organizations and staffs intact, and working as profitably as hitherto. “ Mutually satisfactory arrangements v with certain importers! Having shut out the importer, it is obviously an easy matter to make a satisfactory arrangement with any one, seeing that there is no one to compete with you, no one to say you nay.We have in another paragraph something of the same sort as that referred to by the Minister in moving the second reading -
Notwithstanding that Western Australia generally has always considered herself at a disadvantage by reason of the protection given to industries in the Eastern States, and in consequence resents any such protection, th is does not seem a sufficient reason for the unfair attacks upon our good name.
I do not know who has been attacking their good name -
Under the embargo, we have arranged to sell in Western Australia at the same price as in other States, notwithstanding the tremendous difference in freight, and Western Australians should give us credit at least for this action.
We all know that these tremendous freights are due to the extraordinary provisions of the Navigation Act, and that it costs more to convey galvanized iron from Newcastle, where it is made, to Perth, than to convey it from England to Perth. But this firm can bear all that and charge the people of Western Australia nothing extra, because it has been given a monopoly, and can exploit the consumers in Victoria and New South Wales to such an extent that it does not matter if it loses the very heavy cost involved in paying freight on the iron to Western Australia. In Western Australia, we object to our own people not being allowed to import iron, thereby doing away with both exploitations.
SenatorRae. - Do not importers ever form a ring!
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Several of the importers complain. It is true that, by a mutually satisfactory arrangement, most of the big importers of galvanized iron have been silenced for the time being. I do not suppose it matters much to them where they get their money, so long as they get it. The effect of imposing this prohibition in lieu of the previous bounty and duty will be, on the ordinary consumption in Australia, a total cost to the community of £252,000 per annum, which will fall entirely upon the primary producers, the people who are least able to bear it, and who, in the interests of this country,need most assistance.
Assuming that the average annual quantity of galvanized sheet used in Australia during the next three years is 80,000 tons, the total extra cost to the consumer on account of the embargo, assuming the duty of £2 per ton had been allowed to stand, will be £252,000. Without the embargo, it is safe to assume that of the estimated average annual quantity of 80,000 tons, approximately 25,000 . tons would be imported, so that at the rate of £2 9s. 6d. a ton, duty and primage duty, the loss of customs revenue would be £61,875. To keep 900 men in employment, the cost to the country will therefore be in the neighbourhood of approximately £313,875, which averages, approximately, £348 per man per annum, or within a few pounds of £7 per week per man employed in the manufacture of galvanized iron. The Minister spoke of the benefit of building up industries. How many industries can Australia build up at a cost of £7 per man per week? How long can we continue to do that? The most prosperous country in the world could not do it for long, and Australia is reaching that stage when it cannot continue this policy any longer. There is only one course open to the Senate. If it votes for the bill, it votes for the prohibition. It is useless to say that by passing the bill we are relieving the Government of the payment of the bounty. We have no other opportunity to express ourselves in regard to this prohibition, and without hesitation I say that in the minds of the people every honorable senator who votes for the bill is voting for this prohibition. For that reason, I shall vote against the measure.
– I am not at all amazed at the attitude taken up by Senator Sir Hal Colebatch. He has often declared his attitude towards the cultivation of an Australian sentiment and protection of Australian industries. He is one of the high priests of conservatism and low wages. Any country is good enough for him except that country which has sent him to its National Parliament. A few moments ago, he quoted extensively details relating to the industry in various countries such as England, Germany, and Czecho-Slovakia.
– I did not quote them. Lysaght’s did so.
-The honorable senator read what others had said, but his whole argument was that because various continental countries, including Germany, were prepared to send galvanized iron to Australia, everything was all rignt. An expression of keen admiration could be seen in the eyes of Senator Guthrie while Senator Colebatch was preaching the doctrine of freetrade. Are we to assume that Senator Guthrie looks with admiration upon his woolsheds or other station or farm buildings, when constructed of iron manufactured under aheap labour conditions in Germany? Apparently, the honorable senator thinks it wrong for an Australian firm to producesimilar goods and pay its workmen £6 5s. 6d. a week. Does Senator Colebatch wish the workers of this country to live in “miamias” like blackf ellows ?
– The fiscal policy of the Government which the honorable senator is supporting will bring them down to that. At present 200,000 men are not working at all.
– When Senator Colebatch was discussing the financial statement presented by the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons), he said that he had assisted in the recent New South Wales election, and, at times, had been hooted. Is it any wonder that a section of the community should treat him in that way when he intends to vote against the second reading of a measure placing an embargo upon the importation of galvanized iron manufactured in foreign countries ?
– No one hootedme.
– If the honorable senator expressed himself at Newcastle as he has this afternoon he would not only be hooted, but would be well booted.
– But the people of Newcastle are not savages.
– No ; but they would
Rat the honorable senator. While we are prepared to respect the opinions of Senator Colebatch, we are not likely to go, cap in hand, to. him and those with whom he is associated, with respect to the protection of Australian industries. While the honorable senator was referring to the products of continental countries, his remarks were being closely followed by some of the consuls for those countries. The Labour party’s policy of the New Protection is no new thing; it was initiated many years ago by such men as Senator Pearce, Senator Ogden and Senator Lynch, when members of the Federal Labour party.
– This is not protection.
– It is complete protection.
– It is monopoly.
– If it is said that the Government is assisting to establish a monopoly in Australia all I can say is more power to the government which will give a monopoly to Australian manufacturers in preference to German manufacturers. Before Senator Cooper, who is a returned soldier, votes against the bill he should allow his memory go back a few years. I quote the following paragraph from the Sydney Morning Herald : -
Production Costs of Steel
A record amount of unemployment prevails in the ranks of the Ironworkers Assistants Union. It was announced yesterday that 4,000 names appeared on the unemployment books.
The organizer of the union (Mr. H. Denford) said yesterday that many employers had informed him that banks had been responsible for the dismissals, having instructed the employers to reduce production costs. As a result of the attitude of the banks, hundreds of men, who had been rationed, were dismissed. Refuting the contention that labour costs were increasing each year, Mr. Denford quoted the following figures showing the cost per pound of steel produced by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company : - May, 1923, £15 16. per ton: 1924, £101s. 4d.; 1925, £9 10s.; 1920. £911s.; 1927, £9 9s. 10d.; 1928, £8 17s. 9d.; 1929, £8 9s.1d.; 1930, £9 8s.1d. The increase in 1930 had been explained by the increased price of coal during the dispute on the northern coalfields.” These figures prove that in the production of steel, at least, the employers have been able to decrease costs, in spite of the supposed burdens of high wages and shortened hours.”
In Germany and other continental countries, the workers are receiving only 30s. a week. Notwithstanding the statement that those engaged in the Newcastle industry are receiving high wages and are enjoying exceptional conditions, the cost of producing steel at Newcastle is being steadily reduced. John Lysaght Australia Limited has expended £700.000 on buildings and plant, and with the completion of its additional mills will, when working at full capacity, produce more than 70,000 tons of galvanized iron per annum, which is considerably more than Australia’s present requirements. Although an embargo has been placed upon foreign importations in order to assist an Australian industry, that embargo can, if necessary, be removed; but I believe that Lysaght’s, in common with other Australian manufacturers, are prepared to play the game. At present this firm is employing over 900 men at the works, but it is anticipated that that number will be increased to more than 1,000 persons, and when fully staffed will provide employment for approximately 1,500 men. Yesterday Senator Guthrie deplored the position of the Australian wheat-growers; but the imposition of this embargo, to which he is opposed, will not, as some suggest, involve any additional cost to them.
Lysaght’s, as I have said, are directly employing over 900 men at the works, which number will be increased on full production to more than 1,000. As fully 1,500 men will be engaged in the production of the 75,000 tons of steel, 11,500 tons of zinc, 3,500 tons of acid and 200,000 tons of coal used, it can safely be said that 2,500 men in all are directly or indirectly dependent upon this industry for employment, and receive in wages a total of over £750,000 per annum.
We can assume that no fewer than 2,500 men, receiving £750,000 per annum, ‘ will be directly and indirectly employed. As this large number of employees will require food and clothing and other necessities for their families, a wider home market will thus be created for our primary producers, and other Australian industries will also benefit. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) expressed his personal, opinion of the bill, and said that he intended to vote against it, which means that his caucus followers will also approve it.
If this measure is defeated the firm of John Lysaght (Australia) will have to cease manufacturing, and then we shall be compelled to use German iron of which Senator Colebatch apparently has such a high opinion. The opposition to this proposal is nauseating. Measures such as this are freely discussed over coffee and pies by those political half-wits who are members of the Constitutional Club in Sydney.
– I ask the honorable senator to discuss the bill.
– Honorable senators opposite castigate the Government because it believes in the protection of Australian industries. That policy does not suit Senator Colebatch, who preaches the doctrine of freetrade. But there is one thing that I can say about Senator Colebatch, and that is, that in his tirade against our system of protection, he is at all times consistent. As several other honorable senators wish to speak, I do not intend to say more at this stage, except that I am surprised that Senator Colebatch, who would have us believe that he stands for British justice and, in fact, for everything British, should now be nutting over a sob-story urging us to cultivate a taste for German steel products.
– The honorable senator knows that that statement is untrue.
– This appears to me to be a first-class scandal - a first-class swindle
– Order ! The honorable senator must not use those words.
– I presume that I shall not be out of order if I describe the bill as a first-class scandal.
– I take very strong exception to the language employed by Senator Guthrie, as applied to the provisions in this bill, or to any action of this Government.
– I should like to impress upon honorable senators the unwisdom, at any time, of using objectionable terms in their references to legislation or other honorable senators. If the bill is to be considered as it should be, judicially and calmly, the use of objectionable terms by honorable senators on either side must be avoided.
– Then I shall say that, in connexion’ with this bill, the
Government has done four wrong things. In the first place, it has entirely ignored the Tariff Board, which was appointed to inquire into and report upon all requests in relation to tariff matters. Members of the board are paid for their job and they are doing it well, but the imposition of this embargo was not recommended by them. In the second place, the Government has ignored Parliament; it has given a monopoly to an established firm without having raised the matter in Parliament at all. Apparently it takes the view that, in industrialmatters, it can do as it likes. Accordingly, it has given a monopoly to this Newcastle firm withoutin any way consulting Parliament. Thirdly, in doing this it has penalized the whole of our primary producers and the poorer sections of our people. All of our farmers and the majority of people living in country districts must use galvanized iron for their dwellings, woolsheds and outbuildings. The poorer classes in suburban areas also are large users of this material. Our primary producers are in a desperate situation. They are struggling bravely against the burden of high tariffs, high freights, high labour costs, and excessive charges for all their requirements, and now they are denied the opportunity to purchase galvanized iron, except from this Newcastle firm. The wealthier people, and especially those who live in palatial homes in the better-class suburbs of all our capital cities, escape this burden of higher costs for galvanized iron, because their homes are roofed with tiles and their outbuildings are constructed of other material. Very little galvanized iron is used by them. It would appear that this burden has been placed on our primary producers merely to enable a few men in Newcastle to continue in employment at high wages. In the circumstances, it is not to be wondered at that Senator Dunn said, a few minutes ago, that if Senator Colebatch went to Newcastle and delivered there the speech which he delivered here this afternoon, the workers would kick him to death and then eat him
– Bunkum !
– The Government is hitting the poorer people and our primary producers at every opportunity. My fourth objection is that by it proclamation prohibiting the importation of galvanized iron, and the granting of a monopoly to the firm of Lysaght, it has relieved the wealthier classes - suchas those who live in suburbs like Toorak - from any financial responsibility in respect of the duty and bounty; that prior to the embargo, the duty, plus the bounty, was paid by the people as a whole, whereas now the burden has been shifted to the shoulders of our struggling farmers, principally, and the poorer people living in country towns and the industrial suburban areas. The position might not be so bad if this wealthy English company, which has established its works at Newcastle, had some competition to keep it honest. Unfortunately, it has been given complete control of the Australian market, so may do as it pleases. The world’s price for galvanized iron is£12 a ton, while the price in Australia is £24 10s. per ton.
– And we have abundant raw materials easily available.
– That is so, and this Newcastle concern has this added advantage: Prices for zinc, spelter, and all the other raw materials used by it for the manufacture of galvanized iron have fallen over 50 per cent. Of course, I am not surprised that Senator Dunn should make such a fuss about the 600 men employed by Lysaght’s at fictitious wages-
– Lysaght’s employ 900 men.
– The honorable senator endeavoured to persuade us that the 600 or 900 men employed by Lysaght’s would be great consumers of primary products. But Senator Dunn and his Labour colleagues will not allow us to impose a sales tax on flour, so that it will be possible to obtain, from these spoon-fed employees at Newcastle and their satellites, a little more for flour, and so make possible the payment of an additional 6d. a bushel for the farmers’ wheat. At present prices the quantity which they would consume might just as well be consumed inRussia or any other foreign country, because the farmer is losing heavily on every bushel reaped. All he can expect to get is about1s. 6d. ex silo, and1s.11d. ex bags. In all the circumstances, I would not be surprised if the workers of Newcastle, who, Senator Dunn said, would kick to death and eat any honorable senator who spoke in Newcastle as Senator Colebatch spoke this afternoon in the Senate-
– Who said they would kick him to death?
– The honorable senator said that.
– On a point of order, Mr. Deputy President, I object to the statement made by Senator Guthrie. 1 did not say that the workers of Newcastle would kick any honorable senator to death. What I did say was that if Senator Colebatch went to Newcastle and delivered there the speech he delivered here this afternoon, the workers would hoot him and boot him.
– And eat him. However, if Senator Dunn assures me that he did not say that the workers would kick Senator Colebatch to death. I shall withdraw that portion of my statement, but the honorable senator did say that if Senator Colebatch went to Newcastle, the workers would hoot him, and boot him, and eat him.
– He did not mean it, so it does not matter.
– Probably the honorable senator did not mean what he said, so I shall leave the matter there.
I again protest against this latest proposal of the Government to place one more burden on our primary producers, who are struggling against fearful odds, and, so far, have not had assistance from the Government to improve the market price for their products. They have to sell at world’s parity, which to-day is very much below the actual cost of production. The Government and its supporters overlook the fact that 98 per cent, of our total exports represent the work of men and women on the land.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of importing German steel into Australia?
– Certainly not; but I believe in something like fair play to all sections of the community. Also, I am opposed strongly to a monopoly of the Australian market being given to any firm. At a time like this we should be striving to reduce the costs of commodities, so as to give our primary producers a chance to exist. As the result of this prohibition of the importation of galvanized iron, the Newcastle firm will be able to charge what it likes. In view of the substantial fall in the price of all raw materials, why should the price of galvanized iron be any higher in Australia than it is in England or America? Certainly it cannot be argued that wages costs in this country are above those ruling in the United States of America, and yet the price of galvanized iron here is double that in America. The Government is putting the “ boot “ into the primary producers with a vengeance. Instead of taking steps to reduce the cost of living, the Government has gone tariff mad. Production costs for everything in Australia have doubled in the last fifteen years. It is now costing twice as much to produce wool, meat, or any other primary product, with the result that world’s parity is about 50 per cent below the cost of production. Why has the Government given Lysaght’s a monopoly of the Australian market? Recently this firm imported 10,400 tons of galvanized iron and then, when the embargo was placed on imports, up went the price to the Australian user. If that is not a swindle, I do not know what it is. After importing 10,400 tons of galvanized iron Lysaght Limited saw that the door was closed, and that nobody was allowed to bring in another sheet of galvanized iron. They then increased the price of the commodity to the consumer by 30s. a ton. That meant a comfortable profit of £15,000 on the transaction. Zinc is one of the principal constituents of galvanized iron and it has fallen from £25 to £14 a ton during the past twelve months. That alone has resulted in a saving to the manufacturers of £4 on each ton of galvanized iron, or of £126,000 per annum on the output of Lysaght Limited. Even that was not a sufficiently good start for the firm. They must have a monopoly. Accordingly they approached the Government, which granted the monopoly, and thereby proved itself to be the enemy of the poor. Lysaght Limited claim that they will double their output. If they do they will effect an annual saving of £252,000 from the reduced price of zinc alone.
The whole thing is extraordinary. First of all, the Government ignored the Tariff Board, then it ignored Parliament, and finally it penalizes the poor and favours the rich. What guarantee will the Government have that Lysaght Limited will not put up the price of galvanized iron? I know that the firm have promised not to do so. I should think they would not. I marvel why they do not reduce its price. Lysaght Limited claim that they are not making a profit. What commercial undertaking is making a profit these times? What guarantee has the Government that the firm is not heavily over-capitalized; that it is not inefficiently managed; that the managingdirector and his satellites are not drawing exorbitant salaries? What proof has it that, having obtained a monopoly, the firm will make any endeavour to reduce its prices in conformity with the ruling prices for galvanized iron in the world’s market. Further, what proof has it that the people of Australia will be supplied with a reasonably good article? The Government has no control in the matter. Having no competition, Lysaght Limited can turn out galvanized iron of poor quality, if they care to. The people will have to buy their product, as there will be no other available.
The prices of all commodities are falling, with the exception of those which are essential to the cottager. They are increasing in price. The Government is inflating the price of iron roofs, the shelters of the people. It has increased the cost of timber through its absurdly high and anomalous tariff, and it has increased the price of window glass by granting what is the equivalent of a monopoly. Evidently it thinks that farmers should not have an iron roof, a wooden floor or windows, that they should be content with bark roofs, hessian walls and open windows. Its main concern is to pamper the spoon-fed city dwellers of Newcastle and Sydney, so that they may reciprocate when an election comes along. I am a protectionist, but am opposed to any monopoly. . I know that we must encourage our secondary as well as our primary industries, but that should not be done by granting monopolies.
– Did not the honorable senator suggest that this Government prohibit the importation of artificial silk?
– No ; I said that a higher duty should be placed on it. However, that is a totally different thing. Artificial silk is a miserable commodity that competes with one of our primary products, wool, and I cannot understand why the Government should place an almost prohibitive duty on women’s dress goods that cannot be made here.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Plain). - Order! We are now dealing with the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Bill.
– Artificial silk is composed of 40 per cent, wood and 20 per cent, galvanized iron, so that I do not think I am wholly out of order in referring to it. This is a wicked and cruel imposition which penalizes the poor people and grants a monopoly to the rich. The Government is doing nothing for the wheat-growers, who are getting less than 2s. a bushel for their grain, but it pampers the dwellers of the city.
We should be bending our energies towards effecting a substantial reduction in the price of building materials and towards decreasing the cost of living. The Government is going the wrong way about its task. Costs are being reduced in dribbles, instead of by junks. Practically everything we need could be produced in Australia as we have the raw materials in abundance. Yet half of our people are in straitened circumstances! How can we expect the owners of houses to reduce rents when the prices of galvanized iron, timber and glass are inflated ?
I am very suspicious of a government that grants monopolies. How could one be otherwise? What necessity is there for this monopoly? The manufacturers of galvanized iron here have the raw materials readily available - at their very door - and should be able to compete with the products of other countries. Give them a duty, but do not shut out competition. But these are the Government’s capitalistic pets.
– I predict that the honorable senator will join the Re( Internationale, as he has such an utter detestation of capitalism.
– I have, when it is used as a monopoly and a cruel weapon with which to. exploit the people, and, particularly, the poorer classes. We have slammed the door in the face of the Mother Country, to which we went only the other day, cap in hand, seeking preferential treatment for our dried fruits and wine, and a quota for our wheat. How can we expect preference when we say to Great Britain, “ We want no more of your galvanized iron “ and close the door in its face. In the circumstances is it strange that the Government did not get anything from their comrades in the Old Country, that a deaf ear was turned to their supplications ?
Monopolies encourage inefficiency. Those who are given a monopoly can slum along anyhow. They have no incentive to become efficient. Nationalists are protectionists, but they do not believe in that sort of thing. It is no wonder that this Government is killing the confidence of those overseas. It is not indulging in fair play when it imposes such ridiculously high tariffs, and prohibits trade. Nobody wants real wages to come down; but this proposal would reduce real wages, because it would cripple the purchasing power of those who live in cottages and draw wages. It is merely penalizing the consumers. For those reasons, and, more particularly because it means the granting of a monopoly to the capitalistic pets of the Government, I shall not countenance the proposal for a moment. I shall vote against it.
Senator DALY (South Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council [4.47], - I desire to make one or two observations in order that honorable senators may appreciate the true significance of this measure. I should like them to realize that whatever may be their personal opinions about monopolies, capitalists, and their satellites, they must not forget that this bill is part and parcel of the financial proposals of the Government. Honorable senators opposite may disagree with the policy of government by proclamation. They may feel, for example, that the issue of a proclamation involving the imposition of an embargo is an abuse of the powers invested in governments to legislate by form of proclamation. But whatever their views may be, if this bill is rejected the onus is upon the Senate to decide as to how the Government shall raise the £120,000, which the payment of the bounty involves, in extra taxation.
– Where does that come in?
– The financial policy of the Government has been placed before Parliament, and it includes the possibility of discontinuing this bounty on galvanized iron. The bounty was not conferred upon the industry by this Government, but by its predecessors, of which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) was a prominent member. The manufacture of galvanized iron would not have begun in Australia had it not been for the promises of the Hughes Administration, of which the Leader of the Opposition and his followers were either members or prominent supporters.
– Does the encouragement of that industry cost the country £120,000 a year?
– It does. I have heard honorable senators raise arguments in connexion with bounties similar to those advanced to-day. However, whatever their views may be as to whether there was an abuse by the Government of its powers of proclamation, the question now before the Senate is whether it is prepared to relieve the Government of the responsibility of meeting that bounty out of general taxation, and of meeting it by giving the industry an opportunity to continue - not to sell .this commodity to the consumer at an increase, but at the same price - without compelling the taxpayers to pay a bounty in order that that might be done.
– How could we safeguard that?
– That is a difficulty associated with all tariffs and bounties. The declared policy of Australia is one of protection, and if that policy is to remain we must take it with all its imperfections.
– What is to prevent the Government from imposing a duty of £5 10s. a ton on British iron and a higher duty on importations from foreign countries?
– I may be wrong in my conception of the position, but I understand that the bounty was first granted on the recommendation of the Tariff Board. In that case, I do not think that even Senator Colebatch would say that this Government would dare to cut out a bounty which had been granted at the instance of the Tariff Board, without a further inquiry.
– The arrangement was that there should be a protection of £5 10s. a ton, either by means of a duty or a bounty. What is there to prevent the imposition of a duty of £5 10s. a ton, British, and as much higher foreign duty as the Government likes?
– There is nothing to prevent it. Should the Senate disallow the embargo, the Government could impose a protection which would, in fact, be an embargo.
– By that means the country would derive the same revenue.
– This action has not been taken in order to obtain more revenue from importations.
– I take it that the desire is to reduce importations.
– I was proceeding to that point. The economic position is such that the Government must have regard to the balance of trade, and where it can avoid the necessity to establish credits abroad for the purpose of purchasing goods in other countries, it is its duty to do so. Here we have an industry which, however, much we like or dislike it, was brought into Australia at considerable expense to the taxpayers, an industry moreover, which is capable of meeting the Australian demand for galvanized iron. We also have the banks struggling to marshal credits and to hold them for the purposes of the nation to pay interest. In such circumstances, what could any government do but try to force the people to buy Australian goods, and so render it unnecessary to establish credits outside, which diminishes our chances of meeting our interest commitments?
– Was this action taken at the request of the company?
– If any honorable senator believes that the Government has abused its powers by issuing this proclamation, he has an undoubted right to object; but there is a way of doing so. To do it in the way now proposed would be to harass the Government in its conduct of the finances of the country.
Senator Colebatch referred to the prohibitions of importations set out in section 52 of the Customs Act, but cm reflection he will see that there is nothing unique in the action of the Government in issuing a proclamation prohibiting the importation of certain goods. In Volume 1, of the Acts of the Commonwealth 1901 to 1911, there is on page 184 the following footnote to section 54 of the Customs Act -
The goods, the importation of which 1ms been prohibited’ by proclamation, up to 1st January, 1913, are as set OUt hereunder. In some cases, the prohibition is absolute, in others it is subject to the conditions and restrictions specified in the proclamation. The proclamations containing these prohibitions were all in force at 1st January, 1913, but are liable to be revoked at any time. The date and page numbers in the following list are those of the Gazettes containing the respective proclamations. The goods are: Beerineessence of lager beer; appearine; opium; eggs; hop aromas; hop bouquets; hop essences; hop extracts; hop flavours; and hop oil. . .
The prohibition of those items created the very monopolies to which Senators Colebatch and Guthrie have referred. That form of legislation was adopted by our predecessors in office, possibly because they felt that otherwise the- industries of this country would not be adequately protected.
– Nearly all of those prohibited items are deleterious chemical substances.
– That is similar to saying that mining is metalliferous. It sounds well. In the case of hop essences, for instance, the prohibition was issued, not because they were regarded as deleterious, but because similar essences could be produced in Australia. The list contains many items which are certainly not deleterious, such as corn sacks and eggs. It also includes goods manufactured by prison labour, birds of paradise, goura pigeons, and ospreys, and imitation bank notes. No honorable senator would say that leather is a deleterious article; yet, “leather or manufactures thereof, whether for human wear containing any proportion of barium sulphate or other barium compounds “ comes within this list of prohibitions. I repeat that there is nothing unique in this form of legislation. Should the Senate accept the advice of the Leader of the Opposition and defeat this measure I can only repeat that it will accentuate the present serious financial difficulties confronting the Government.
– Should the bill be rejected, would the Government still be bound to pay the bounty?
– Yes; and the industry would still have protection.
– There would be an embargo.
– There would be practically an embargo. If, instead of placing an embargo on the importation of galvanized iron, an additional duty of £20 per ton had been placed on galvanized iron, honorable senators opposite would not have objected.
– Would they not?
– Then, why did honorable senators opposite say that instead of an embargo the Government should have imposed extra protection? The Government feels that, for the present, at any rate, it should not be asked to provide money in England or elsewhere for the purchase of galvanized iron; that our money should be sent abroad only for the purchase of articles which cannot be produced in Australia. It takes that view because of the necessity for providing against possible default in the payment of interest, or in meeting the demands of private creditors, who must make purchases abroad. Even if the embargo is disallowed by the Senate, the Government cannot allow the industry to close down. Too much Australian capital has been invested in it to allow that to be done. The rejection of this measure would mean that the taxpayers of Australia would have to find £120,000 by additional taxation to keep the industry going. If honorable senators vote against the bill I remind them that they must then accept the responsibility for establishing credits, by means of wheat and wool at deflated prices, to purchase abroad galvanized iron which can be made in Australia and paid for with our own currency. Honorable senators, if they feel strongly on this matter, could move the adjournment of the Senate asa protest against legislation by proclamation.
– And the Government would take no notice.
– Constant dripping will wear away a stone; and repeated motions for the adjournment of the Senate would, in time, wear down any government. But turning down this proposal will not give the Government a smack on the legs for legislating by way of proclamation as some honorable senators believe it would. I say respectfully to honorable senators opposite that to vote against this measure would be equivalent to cutting off their noses to spite their faces.
– Can the Minister give the Senate any assurance that the consumers will be protected if the embargo remains?
– I remind the honorable senator that as the Government has issued the proclamation, so it can withdraw the proclamation at any time.
– That is impracticable; the Government could not treat the firm in that way.
– So long as the company . acts squarely, keeps its men employed, and assists the Government to balance trade-
– What about the price of galvanized iron?
– The Government has obtained from the company the only promise that it was competent for it to obtain, namely, that there will be no increase in the price of galvanized iron. The removal of the bounty forces the company to produce galvanized iron at not more than a certain price. There will be no increase in the price of galvanized iron until such time as there has been an investigation by a government authority. What the Government would do if the company decided to increase the price of galvanized iron three months hence, I do not know. I can only say that the company knows that the proclamation could be withdrawn as easily as it was issued.
I give the Senate an assurance that the Government will do its best in all the circumstances to protect the primary producers from exploitation. This measure forms a part of the Government’s financial proposals and I ask honorable senators to accept it.
– I do not think that the Minister was justified in saying that members of the Opposition desired to harass the Government, or to slap it in the face.
– I did not say that.
– I am not at the moment concerned whether or not the Government acted wrongly in issuing this proclamation; previous governments have legislated by proclamation, and I suppose that future governments will do the same. At times it may be necessary to do so. But the Minister did not make out a very strong case for the action taken by the Government. He said that if honorable senators voted against this bill, they would be interfering very seriously with the Government’s financial proposals. It is a stretch of imagination on the part of the Minister to say that this measure forms any part of the Government’s financial proposals.
– According to Senator Daly, the embargo relieves the Government of the payment of a bounty amounting to £120,000 a year.
– On the other hand, Senator Colebatch says that, if the Government is committed to the protection of this industry, it could substitute for the bounty a duty of £5 10s. a ton British, and a still higher duty against foreign galvanized iron. In any case there is no guarantee under this bill that the price of galvanized iron will not be increased at a time when there is every need for a substantial reduction in prices.
– Is not the honorable senator aware that the higher a tariff is the higher prices generally are?
– That is the first admission we have had from any Minister that an increased tariff means an increase in the cost of living. The Government has been ill-advised to bring forward this proposal at a time when we are expecting a reduction in the cost of living, and when the value of the primary products, to which the Government looks to balance the country’s trade overseas, has fallen at least 50 per cent. The Government must recognize that the placing of embargoes upon importations must offend some of Australia’s best customers overseas. For instance, Great Britain is a manufacturer of galvanized iron, and in the past has exported large quantities to Australia. How can we expect reciprocal trade with that country when we are not prepared to admit its manufactured goods? In regard to the Minister’s remarks about this being an attempt to balance our trade with overseas countries, . the removal of this embargo would, in my opinion, rather tend to increase our export trade, and thus more than compensate us for any importations that might result. It is better to have an increased duty than to impose an embargo. The Government has taken the wrong course, and, fully recognizing the consequences of my action, I shall vote against the bill.
SenatorLYNCH (Western Australia) [5.10]. - The question we have to determine cannot be decided in an offhand way, because the expedient of embargoes is not the creation of this Government. The Hughes and Bruce Administrations, ostensibly and really to encourage the sugar industry of Queensland and New South Wales, imposed an embargo on the importation of sugar, and it is questionable whether the production of sugar is entitled to any more tender care on the part of the Commonwealth Government than the manufacture of galvanized iron. Previous governments having been driven to the necessity for imposing an embargo, there is nothing outrageously wrong in another government doing the same thing; but it places in a rather awkward position those who supported the sugar embargo, or remained silent when it could have been removed. It is, therefore, not simply a case of “Vote against the embargo, and damn monopolies, and the thing is done.” The Minister has referred to the need for enabling the Government to carry out its financial policy. If that policy means, as it certainly does, the cutting out of all galvanized iron imports, and the consequential effect of raising the price of galvanized iron, the people’s purchasing and productive capacity will be lessened, and it will not have the effect that the Minister hopes it would have in helping to right the exchange position. It is certainly a terrible and serious strain upon the financial resources of Australia to have to meet our commitments overseas in face of the adverse exchange, but it should bc the first care of the Government that, consistent with the need to ease the burden on production, action is taken to meet those commitments. In this case we have to choose between barring out imports and possibly increasing the price to. consumers, and to that extent paralyzing their efforts to produce.
– That is a strong argument against the sugar embargo.
– It is. The sugar embargo, of course, impinges very heavily against the cherished White Australia policy. Senator Barnes would say, “It does not matter what it costs; every one must vote for it.” I think that that policy can be carried to excess, even to futility, especially when we recall the very generous, patronizing attitude of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions towards the foreigners with which it is associated in the Pan-Pacific Secretariat.
Coming back to the question of monopolies, I ask myself if this is the right time to encourage them. We have strain upon strain in our personal and civic endeavour to make ends meet, and to try to pull this country out of the morass into which it has got. Is it, therefore, a time to create one of those things which, above all else, aim directly at paralyzing the country’s efforts to get out of its present trouble? I cannot imagine the Labour party being associated with the giving of a monopoly. One might speak of a white blackbird or a boiling iceberg, or something equally incongruous, as associate the Labour party with a monopoly. It ought to be the world’s tenth wonder. If Senator Barnes, who lives in Ballarat, were compelled to huy even his shaving soap at a store hold.ing an exclusive monopoly for the sale of that article, he would, if I know anything about him and his makeup, and the fire that he can generate against all forms of social iniquity and injustice, don a red shirt and head a revolution in his home town to right such a manifest wrong. He would think the world had come to perdition and ruin. If he were a wheatgrower in the frizzled Mallee country of his own State who had had three successive crop failures, how would he like to be compelled to buy his galvanized iron from a monopoly and pay an extra price for it? A man cannot claim for himself that which he would not extend to others. That is the spirit of true liberty. When I bought galvanized iron in Western Australia some time ago I paid about £23 a ton for it. At that time, on the basis of last year’s wheat values, the price of a ton of galvanized iron was about 44 bags of wheat. On the basis of present-day wheat values, it would cost 75 bags of wheat. If I bought a ton of galvanized iron to-day and brought along 44 bags of wheat, would Lysaght’s accept them in payment? If I have not an exclusive market for my wheat, I positively object to any other person having the privilege I cannot enjoy.
– It is said that the firm does not intend to increase prices.
– Perhaps not. If I were to produce 44 bags of wheat in payment of a ton of galvanized iron, I. would immediately be told that, in view of the reduced value of wheat, I must tender at least 75 bags. Why should this Parliament allow the firm to retain the present price, particularly in view of the figures given by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) on this matter.
Any honorable senator, who studies the commercial columns of the daily newspapers, or the numerous trade journals available in the parliamentary library, will see that the prices of the commodities required in producing galvanized iron have decreased. Moreover, the quality of the product is not in any way comparable with that which was available ten or fifteen years ago. It can readily be bent with one’s fingers. The same can be said of the quality of wire manufactured at Newcastle, which, in view of the protection afforded to the industry j is a positive disgrace. This I can prove from personal experience of the stuff I got some years ago. It is time these manufacturers produced goods of bettor quality. If
Lysaght’s and others, who are championed by the Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes), were compelled to purchase coal or other commodities they required from one source, how would they like it? I venture to say that if this firm had to rely upon one source of supply for its spelter or steel, or any other commodity required in the production of galvanized iron, it would immediately contend with
Et 11 the force at its command that it required a free market, and should not be compelled to purchase from any monopolistic source. Further, why should the 900 employees in this sheltered industry be receiving £6 a week and enjoying conditions superior to almost any other class of workmen in Australia while poor beggars in the back-blocks are working for 30s. a week, and in many cases, without any return at all for their effort? I would not mind if they were being paid £16, £26 or £60 a week, provided they earned it. Oan industry in this country afford such conditions’? If Senator Rae, for instance, was displaying some activity in developing a piece of waste land in the backblocks, and was paying £6 a week to those who were assisting him to bring it to a state of productivity, it would not be long before he became bankrupt. Those engaged in this sheltered industry, which is being coddled and fondled, and petted out of all reason, are living at the expense of those who toil from daylight till dark on the wheat farms of this country, who live on “tinned dog” - live anyhow, in fact - and in many cases, work without any return at all. It is positive humbug to contend that one section should receive £6 a week while others are receiving 30s. a week and less. Where is the equality?
– I remind the honorable senator that it is not usual or desirable for an honorable senator to refer to his fellow senators as humbugs.
– I do not think I did. What I intended to say was that the members of a party which supports a policy under which one section of our citizens receives £6 a week at the expense of impoverishing it3 fellows, while others, owing to circumstances over which they have no control, are compelled to receive 30s. a week, are political humbugs. I do not know, sir, if that is parliamentary language, but it is the plain truth all the same.
What is this Government doing to assist the men who are at the very foundation of the prosperity of this country ? If our primary producers were not slaving as they are to-day, those individuals, who are giving so much “ cheek “, and enjoying such easy conditions, could not exist. We speak of fair play, but is there any indication of it? A few months ago, we sent an Australian team of cricketers to Great Britain, and the efforts of Don Bradman, its leading batsman, were applauded in Australia, in England, and in fact everywhere. Why did Bradman receive such commendation? Because he put forth his best efforts; because he did not slacken. It is a pity we cannot have more of the Bradman stroke in industry. Those whom honorable senators opposite support should visit some of the wheat-lands in this country where poor struggling farmers with their hair poking through their hats, and, in some cases, without socks on their feet, are working from sunrise till sunset. What protection or assistance, or even sympathy, do those men. receive ? They are not workers, they are slaves. Why do not honorable senators opposite, who advocate a 44-hour week, face the facts? One section of the community in Australia is living at the expense of the other.
– Hear, hear!
– I suppose the honorable senator is referring to those drawing interest on capital invested in Government securities; but I am thinking of those secondary industry slackers who, while taking all they can, will not concede anything to the other fellow.
This is not the time for monopolies to be established by any party, and particularly by the Labour party, which has a plank in its platform specifically providing for the extermination or general destruction of anything in the form of a commercial monopoly. Notwithstanding that plank, this Labour Government is establishing a monopoly for the sole benefit of those engaged in it and to the absolute detriment of other and more worthy sections of the community. Fair play is bonny play, but it is anythingbut fair play to give a monopoly to this orany other firm, especially at a time like the present. If monopolies could be given to all other industries we should have to deal with the matter from a different standpoint; but as that is not being done, and cannot be done, I intend to oppose the bill. Of course, I will be reminded of the fact that on a. previous occasion I supported the imposition of an embargo upon foreign-grown sugar; but that proposal was closely associated with our White Australia policy. This proposition is in essence, and has all the ingredients of a great social injustice. The Government is providing for the establishment and maintenance of a commercial monopoly which it is protecting with a stone wall topped with jagged-edged broken bottles. . Why should those engaged in this industry be so highly protected, while those in a much more important industry are left to the wolves ? What is the Government doing for the poor wheat-growers? I have even seen in the backblocks scanty bedding made up on a sheet of galvanized iron. I am surprised that a Labour Government should be associated with the establishment of an industry of this kind, while others are “ scratching gravel “ in a desperate endeavour to pull this country out of its present trouble. I oppose the bill.
.- It is not my intention to attack the company particularly interested in this measure, because I realize that it has rendered good service to Australia. I am prepared to accept its figures with respect to the very small profits it has made since it has been engaged in the galvanized iron industry in Australia. I shall, however, attack the Government for failing to recognize the writing on the wall. We should not assist in maintaining exceptionally high costs of production; but should endeavour to place all industry on the same basis. Australia is confronted with such financial and economic difficulties that if we are to get out of the tangle, production costs must be reduced. The imposition of an embargo upon galvanized iron does not appeal to me. I do not believe in the imposition of embargoes, particularly in a country which disposes of large quantities of primary products in overseas markets: What justification is there for this policy under which those engaged in this industry are to be the chosen people of Australia ? Senator Lynch has, on more than one occasion, graphically described the unfortunate position of those engaged in primary production in Australia. Surely it is not in the best interests of the Commonwealth to give effect to a policy under which those employed in secondary industries receive good wages and enjoy a high standard of living while country workers have to be content with whatever they can get. Such a policy cannot, remain in operation indefinitely. If the Government had been wise; if it had intended to act in the interests of the people, Parliament would have been consulted about this particular matter early in October. But for reasons best known to the Ministry, the meeting of Parliament was postponed until late in October, after the general elections in New South Wales. If, as had been intended, Parliament had been summoned to meet earlier in October, we should have been in a position to deal with this proposal before the proclamation was issued.
– Parliament might not have been consulted even then.
– I think it would have been. Now we are expected to endorse the Government’s action, which places a heavy burden on all country dwellers, and particularly on our primary producers.
– Only a day or twoago the price of galvanized wire was increased by 2s. 6d. a cwt.
– That is so, and recently the price of another important commodity, used by our primary producers, was increased from 25 to 30 per cent., not because of the increased cost of production, but as the result of the imposition of what amounted to a prohibitive duty. Lysaght’s have been operating successfully for some years. It should be able to reduce its overhead costs if it placed its employees more on a level with employees engaged in other industries. Until there is a more general disposition to face this phase of the industrial situation, we cannot hope to turn the corner.
– Can the honorable senator say that that has not been done?
– We know that it has not been done. The statement concerning the firm’s operations shows that the average wage paid is £6 5s. a week. If we take into account the provision made for the housing of its employees - I believe the company operates in much the same way as the Mount Lyell Company in Tasmania, and provides cottages for its workers at approximately one-half the rental paid by employees of other establishments - the average wage paid in this industry is in the neighbourhood of £6 17s. 6d. a week, so its employees are in a much better position than employees in other concerns.
– The wage paid in the industry has been made possible by the bounty. Senator PAYNE. - That is so, and the embargo on importations, now in force, is equivalent to the bounty.
-I should say it is better.
– Possibly it is. Instead of discussing schemes to increase costs of production, we should be giving our attention to proposals calculated to bring down costs. We shall never get out of our present difficulties if we endeavour to maintain, at any price, what is falsely called our high standard of living. This standard of living should be represented, not by the rate of wages paid, but by the margin which an employee has after he has met all expenditure at the end of a week.
– I agree with the honorable senator.
– Then does not the honorable senator agree that it is time we took steps to put our house in order ?
– There is no standard of living for the unemployed.
– That is so. And because of our unemployment problem this Parliament should be invited to consider proposals to reduce all costs, including that of dwellings, so that our workers may be housed more cheaply than at present.
– Kill this industry and there will be another 2,500 persons to be provided for.
– No one wishes to do that. All we are urging is that the company should be able to carry on successfully if its overhead costs are reduced.
– It will be able to carry on if this bill is passed.
– It will be able to do that if we remove, in part, the artificial restrictions which we have placed on industry generally. If Parliament does not do something in this direction before long, the people will insist on action being taken. I hope that the Government will, at an early date, submit proposals which will make it possible for the Commonwealth to turn the corner and be placed once more on the high road to prosperity.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [5.43]. - I am not at all favorable to the creation or the maintenance of monopolies; but I venture to say that honorable senators opposite, in their criticism of the supposed iniquity of this alleged high wage to a favored section of workers, are ignoring the fact that the defeat of the bill will not mean a reduction of wages to the level desired by them. This, I think, is a phase of the subject which, hitherto, has not been considered. The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat (Senator Payne) said he was prepared to accept the company’s figures relating to its present margin of profit. If that is so, then it is clear that, if we withdrew the protection which it is alleged to have enjoyed hitherto, it could not exist. But I am not going to argue that an embargo is a better method for the assistance of such industrial concerns. For my part, I believe it would be a good thing if the State established industries such as the one in question. I totally disagree with those who argue that no industry under State control is wisely managed. I know of many such, and I know of one method by which they may be managed as well as under private control. I am aware, however, that I should be violating the Standing Orders if I enlarged upon that subject in the discussion : on this bill. The purpose of this measure is not to create a monopoly, but merely to maintain the measure of protection hitherto enjoyed by an established industrial enterprise.
– But importations of galvanized iron have been prohibited.
– The bill enacts that the industry cannot expect a bounty, and, at the same time, have the protection of an embargo on imports. While the embargo remains in force, no bounty will be paid. Consequently, the Government will be relieved of financial responsibility to the amount of bounty which, without the embargo, would have to be paid. From this it is clear that the Government is not striking out in a new direction or taking action which can be regarded as unconstitutional. All that it is doing is to apply to one industry a principle which has operated previously in regard to a number of others. I suggest, therefore, that, although we may not justify the action of the Government on that ground, there is no reasonable excuse for attack.
– Is it not a fact that the embargo will remain, even if the bill is defeated?
– Yes; but, in that event, the Government will be compelled to remove the embargo and either to impose a heavier duty on imported galvanized iron or continue the bounty. There is provision in the law for the issue of a proclamation prohibiting the importation of certain commodities. The Government has operated this provision and, the embargo having been imposed, the Commonwealth is relieved of all financial responsibility in connexion with the bounty. But this is only a temporary measure. There is nothing to bind the Government to continue it for an indefinite period. Honorable senators opposite imply, by their objection to the embargo, that it would be better to assist the industry by further protection. I fail to see the difference between the two forms of assistance. They must be aware, that, if the protection is to be effective, it must be increased to a point which will practically shut out overseas imports, so the added burden on country dwellers would be as heavy as under the embargo.
– The Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) argued that the proclamation prohibiting importation of galvanized iron was intended rather to assist the finances of the Government.
– No. The point is that the original measure was to help industry, either by a bounty or a duty. If one was raised the other was lowered, and vice versa.
– The difference is that the general taxpayers provided the bounty, whereas the consumers alone will have to meet the cost of the embargo.
– We should clear up point by point in these matters, until we arrive at finality. It appears to me that, under the original measure, either a bounty was to be provided or a heavy duty imposed. The amount involved is immaterial to the argument. If a duty is to be effective it practically amounts to an embargo on the foreign product concerned. I, therefore, cannot see why any honorable senator should quibble and hold up his hands in holy horror over the action of the Government in imposing this embargo.
– I have pointed out that the general taxpayers bear the cost of a tariff, but that in this case the consumers will have to meet the impost.
– As a rule, the honorable senator is logical. If a tax is placed on tobacco, does the non-smoker pay it? Certainly not. Only those who consume the dutiable article pay the tax. If a duty is to be effective it must act similarly to an embargo.
– It depends upon the rate of duty.
– Precisely; but the extent to which a duty is effective is merely that to which it protects dutiable products from coming into the country. To be effective, it is equivalent to an embargo.
– This duty was not effective, and the bonus was imposed to compensate the company. It was paid by the public.
– The only way to protect any industry is by penalizing the competitors in that industry. If that causes a rise in prices, the consumer has to pay for the protection afforded the industry.
I object to the statement that the 900 men employed by Lysaght Limited are specially pampered by this proposal. When Senator Lynch was speaking I interjected to the effect that the wages paid to those men are not excessive. Notwithstanding the existing depression, there are thousands of other employees who are obtaining good wages.
– The position is not analogous. It all depends whether the industry can afford to pay the wage.
– The honorable senator has no right to assert that this Government sets out to pamper certain people. Like a lot of hot air that emanates from the honorable senator, that charge will not stand investigation.
– I wish the wheatgrowers were receiving as much attention from the Government.
– The honorable senator knows that the Government offered the wheat-growers a guarantee of 4s. a bushel for their grain, but that he and his colleagues defeated the proposal.
– The Government will not advance the growers 6d. a bushel now.
SenatorRAE. - Honorable senators opposite rejected that golden opportunity, and they should not now deride the offer. If there is to be any alteration in wage rates, it is my desire to level upwards, andnot downwards. Honorable senators opposite have declared that we must bring down the price of the products of the city industries to a ‘ level which country dwellers can afford to pay.
– Or else level up the monetary returns of country people.
– If honorable senators opposite will endeavour to effect that I shall assist them to the best of my ability.
– What about imposing a £7 10s. sales tax on each ton of flour that is consumed in Australia?.
SenatorRAE. - I consider that that is a most inequitable proposal. However, the honorable senator knows that I cannot debate that subject when dealing with this measure.
– The honorable senator will do everything for the farmers, except help them.
SenatorRAE. - That is an unworthy gibe. In his numerous speeches, Senator Lynch never wearies of gibing at honorable senators on this side of the chamber. I’ can assure him that I have toiled in the country for the greater part of my life, and suffered just as great hardships as has the average man on the land. While I have no desire either to create or to bolster up a monopoly, I contend that we must deal with existing conditions. It is not a matter of instituting a new monopoly, but of dealing with certain conditions laid down in an act of Parliament for which this Government is’ in no way responsible. The Government must either pass the bill as it stands, or provide £120,000 per annum to meet the bounty on iron and steel which was instituted by another Government.’ In the circumstances, I consider that it is a narrow party quibble to contend that there is any real difference between embargoes and tariffs. Whichever policy we adopt, it is with the desire to assist an industry that otherwise could not survive. If this measure grants, or extends, a monopoly, it is one for which, this Government is not responsible.
.- I have listened with considerable interest to most of the speeches that have been made during this debate, and have found myself in somewhat of a difficulty in deciding which way I should register my vote. But when I set aside the speeches of honorable senators, and analyse the bill itself, I find that it provides that during the period of the prohibition or an embargo, with, or without conditions, no bounty shall be payable. I do not wish to see the Government forced into a position which will allow an embargo or prohibition to operate, and still permit of the possibility of a manufacturer claiming a bounty.
– There is a good remedy for that - to gazette out the proclamation.
– I am aware that that would end the proclamation. I do not know that this debate opens up the whole question of our tariff policy, including prohibitions and embargoes. The proclamation of an embargo is an executive act for which a government has to assume full responsibility before the country; an executive act for which a government is primarily responsible to another place which makes and unmakes Ministries. If it can obtain the support of the majority of members in that other place for a proclamation, it has an endorsement of its policy.
– That other place is only one branch of Parliament.
– As I conceive it, this is not the place where governments are made and unmade. We can criticize the general policy of issuing proclamations, or move the adjournment, to protest against the executive acts of governments, but, as a matter of fact, this chamber is powerless to determine the fate of a Government. It can help to mould public opinion,. It can inform the public mind. But it is not this place which has a right to determine whether a government shall continue upon the treasury bench.
– It can, and has, rejected public policy.
– It can reject government bills. This House, subject to certain limitations, has co-equal authority with another place with regard to the passage of legislation, but it cannot affect the administrative acts of a government. A government is responsible to the people, and to another place for its executive acts.
– Did not the Senate prevent the Government dealing with transport workers’ licences ?
– The interjection of the right honorable senator is quite timely. That was because in the passage of that measure a certain power was reserved to this chamber with regard to the disallowance of proclamations. Where that power exists it is because of the existence of a particular statute. But the general principle remains unaltered, that, although the executive acts of governments may be criticized and called into question in the Senate, they cannot be affected by the decision of the Senate. It therefore seems to me that the question whether protection to an industry can best be given by a bounty or a duty does not come into issue in the consideration of this bill. The Government says, “We have issued an embargo”. I may say that I do not like these negotiations between governments, or the representatives of governments, or Ministers of the
Crown, and private companies. They are dangerous. I do not suggest that in this case there has been any impropriety; I do not know the circumstances. But I do not like the principle. In order either to preserve continuity of employment to those engaged in the industry or to save the industry itself from disaster, the Government issued a proclamation providing for an embargo on the importation of galvanized iron. In return it secured from the company an undertaking that prices would not be increased. The Government’s power to enforce that agreement consists merely of its right to withdraw the proclamation if it has reason to believe that, the agreement is being infringed. The bill provides that so long as the embargo exists no bounty shall be paid. It does not ask us to confirm the Government’s action in placing an embargo on importations. I ask the Minister whether he has carefully investigated the legal position, and whether, in the event of this legislation not being approved by the Senate, and the embargo remaining, there would still be a liability on the Crown to pay a bounty on manufactured goods.
– Certainly there would be.
– But that could be obviated by a further agreement.
– That is so.
– I also ask the Minister whether there is in existence any agreement with the company that, during the operation of the embargo, it will make no claim for a bounty? I do not want to labour the matter; but I do not wish to be placed in the position now of having to decide in regard to the general question of bounties or the tariff policy of the Government. If there is to be a prohibition of importations, I want to be certain that the company will not be entitled to claim the bounty.
– -From this discussion one or two considerations have emerged which have occasioned me considerable thought. The suggestion that the Government has acted unconstitutionally in imposing the embargo may or may not be well founded. It is clear that the proclamation prohibiting the importation of galvanized iron has conferred a monopoly on Lysaght’s. While there was a duty supplemented by a bounty, there was no opportunity for any manufacturers to express themselves as Lysaght’s have done in the circular read by Senator Colebatch. The passing of this legislation will mean that whereas in the past the bounty fell upon the shoulders of the general taxpayer, it will now fall on the users of galvanized iron. With that shifting of the burden I do not agree, and, therefore, in the interests of those who would suffer as against the interests of those engaged in this sheltered industry, I shall vote against the measure. I shall vote against it on principle, although it only very obliquely commits us to a policy of embargoes.
– It is amazing that there has been so much opposition to this bill from honorable senators who were responsible for the establishment of this industry in Australia. Before Lysaght’s established their works in Australia, the Tariff Board made an investigation and recommended a protection of £5 10s. a ton on galvanized iron, roll owing that recommendation, legislation was introduced, hot by a Labour Government, but by a Nationalist Government, which resulted in the industry being established here. The industry, therefore, is the child of the Nationalist party- a child nine years old. The members of that party now propose to desert their own child.
– The present Government has adopted another child in its place.
– The Government has taken every precaution against the creation of a monopoly. Should the company attempt to take advantage of the people of Australia by increasing the price of galvanized iron, the Government will come down on it like a sledge hammer in the hands of Senator Lynch. The Government will protect the interests of consumers. I am particularly amazed that the Leader of the Opposition (SenatorPearce), who was one of the gentlemen primarily responsible for the establishment -of this industry should desert it now. I trust that the Senate will agree to the measure.
Question- That thebill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till
Wednesday, 3rd December, at 3 o’clock p.m.
It is probable that there will be no business for the Senate to transact to-morrow, although on the following day some business may reach us from another place. I am confident that when the Senate has business to transact honorable senators will give it their earnest consideration; but I feel that their convenience should be considered. Accordingly I suggested to the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition ‘ (Senator Pearce) that, instead of honorable senators remaining in Canberra this week to transact the small amount of business which will come before the Senate, we should adjourn until Wednesday of next week, by which time there should be ample business for us to transact. With that suggestion he concurred.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at6.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 November 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19301126_senate_12_127/>.