12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Conference with Federal Labour Party.
. Is it a fact that a conference is being held in Sydney this week between certain members of the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures and representatives of the Federal Labour party?
If so, will the Minister inform the Senate of the purpose of such conference?
– I have no knowledge of any such conference. In any case, the honorable senator’s questions would not appear to relate to a matter of public business or administration.
Deposit of Commonwealth Stock
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
In the event of the New South Wales Government agreeing, through the Commissioners of the Government Savings Bank of that- State, to lodge £30,000,000 worth of Commonwealth stock as security, will the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, the Honorable E. G. Theodore, instruct the Commonwealth Bank Board to advance a sum of £10,000,000 to the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales with a view to assisting the old depositors of that bank, and thereby reviving trade and industry?
– Under the Commonwealth Bank Act, the Treasurer has no power to issue instructions to the Commonwealth Bank Board.
asked the Leader of the
Government in the Senate, upon notice -
- Referring to the reply to Senator Rae’s question concerning the sentence of death passed by the Chinese courts on an alleged communist named Noulens or Van der Cruyssen, in which it was stated that this man not being a British subject, the British Government could not take action -
1 ) Is it a fact that Noulens was arrested. by British troops or police?
Was he handed over by them to the Chinese authorities?
Is it a fact that similar action wast taken in respect of a number of Noulens’ companions?
Is it a fact that the number and names of those arrested have not: been disclosed ?
– The alleged statement upon which the honorable senator’s questions purport to be based did not form portion of my reply to his questions of the 30th October. I invite the honorable senator’s, attention to part 2 of that reply.
Prices Charged in State Capitals.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon. notice -
What are the actual prices charged by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited for sugar delivered in the State capitals -
to manufacturers, for processing fruit for sale or use within the Commonwealth ;
for making jam, or otherwise processing fruit for export?
–The answers are : -
Statement by SIR Thomas Henley, M.L.A.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– It is not the practice to make statements in regard to matters of government policy in reply to questions.
Lease to Private ENTERPRISE
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Have any proposals been made to the Commonwealth Government for the leasing of Cockatoo Island Dockyard to private enterprise; if so, what are the terms of the proposed lease of the dockyard, and what are the names of the persons or companies interested in the negotiations ?
– Tenders for the leasing of Cockatoo Dockyards, returnable on 30th March, 1929, were invited by public advertisement, but none was received. Offers to lease the dockyard were, however, made in May and July, 1929. No action has been concluded on the offers.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to -
That two months’ leave of absence be granted to Senator Sir John Newlands on account of ill health.
Debate resumed from the 5th November (vida page 1486), on motion by Senator Daly -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The adjournment of the debate on this motion yesterday having necessitated a break in my speech., 1 should like briefly to recapitulate what I said yesterday in order to connect up my remarks. I set out yesterday to show, and I think I did, that protection is Australia’s national policy, and that under its operations all sections of the community, including nearly all classes of primary producers, have benefited. Indeed, as I pointed out, had not the primary producers benefited equally with other sections, our protective policy could not be regarded as being national in character, and I could not support it. As a protectionist, I rejoice in the fact that that policy has been of benefit to practically all sections of the community. I have shown that manufacturing industries are of such vital importance to Australia that we cannot afford to take any risks with them in the future. On many occasions I have defended Australian manufacturing industries against attacks made against them in this chamber, in another place, arid through the press.
Honorable senators know that, in his private capacity, the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) is opposed to high tariffs, and, indeed, to tariffs of any kind. Yet he was a Minister in two governments which introduced tariff schedules which, at the time of their introduction, were regarded as excessively high. Notwithstanding that both the Massy Greene and the Pratten tariffs came in for a good deal of criticism, and caused considerable resentment in certain quarters, the right honorable gentleman, not only supported them in general, but he also voted for nearly every item they contained. Probably he did so because lie was a member of the governments which introduced them. Now he states that he is opposed to tariffs. “With his sentiment that we should trade more with. Great Britain, and less with the United States of America, I heartily agree. In my opinion, it would be a good thing if our trade with the United States of America were diverted to the Mother country; and J see no reason why that should not be done. But that object cannot be achieved without a tariff on American goods high enough to cause the people of this country to buy British goods in preference to them. It is not sufficient to rely on an appeal to the people to purchase only British goods, so long as they can obtain similar goods from tha United States of America at lower prices.
The right honorable gentleman quoted from reports of the Tariff Board in support of his contention that the introduction of tariff schedules had increased the cost of production. We must all admit that, for a time, that is the effect of increased duties. Nevertheless, it is well to remember that, generally, the Tariff “Board is in favour of tariffs, and that, very largely, the duties now in operation are based upon its recommendations.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the present tariff schedule embodies the recommendations of the Tariff Board?
– I say that, generally, our tariff is based on the recommendations of the Tariff Board, although it is true that in this schedule the Government has departed from the hoard’s recommendations in a number of instances. In those cases I shall expect the Government to justify its action. It is, nevertheless, a fact that the Tariff Board is in general agreement with the duties that have “been imposed, notwithstanding that they have increased the cost of production in certain directions.
– How can the honorable senator say that, seeing that the Tariff Board had not reported on one-half of the items in this schedule?
– Generally, the Tariff Board supports a policy of protection; in many instances it has reported in favour of high protection.
– There is no necessity to go to the Tariff Board to justify this schedule ; it is sufficient for us to exercise common sense.
– That is what we shall do. The composition of the Senate is such that honorable senators, unlike members of another place, will be able to exercise common sense in dealing with the tariff.
The Leader of the Opposition also referred to the iron and steel industry. Although the actual process of manufacture in this industry is chiefly confined to New South Wales, the iron and steel industry is a truly Australian industry in that it obtains its supplies from all over Australia. The industry i3 not confined to Newcastle and Port Kembla; its ramifications extend .to Tasmania, South Australia, and even to Western Australia.
– Is not every industry in this country an Australian industry?
– I differentiate between those industries which are to be found in all the States and those which are confined practically to one State. It is unfortunate, that in dealing with the subjects which come before us, the judgment of some honorable senators ia affected according to whether or not an industry exists in the State from which they come. The Great War demonstrated clearly that the iron and steel industry is vital to Australia. We then learned that we. must never be dependent on other countries for our supplies of iron and steel. Whatever the cost of developing that industry, it must be paid. Whether wo are now paying too much for the maintenance of this industry is open to question ; but there can be no difference of opinion regarding the necessity for developing the industry in this country.
– What about wool?
– The woollen industry is in the same category as the iron and steel industry. We should never be dependent on other countries for our supplies of woollen goods. Australia can produce better woollen materials than can be produced elsewhere. The members of the Australian Imperial Force. who were clothed in garments made of Australian wool, were admitted to be the best equipped soldiers in the field. If we had had to depend on other countries for the supply of woollen materials for our uniforms, underclothing and the like, we should have been in a parlous condition. We might have been reduced to the necessity of adopting the same devices as some other countries to provide our needs if we had not had a good supply of wool. The iron and steel industry and the woollen industry are in much the same position in relation to the tariff. Senator Pearce blamed high wages for the present position of the iron and steel industry. It may be that the wages generally in our iron and steel industry are higher than those in this industry in most other countries; but when one considers the arduous nature of the work that has to be done in this industry, one must admit that high wages are well earned. I consider that the wages being paid in this industry are in keeping with the heavy nature of the work and the degree of responsibility which the workers have to bear, and are not unduly high in comparison with those paid in the iron and steel industry of the United States of America.
– The honorable senator did not show the same sympathy a few nights ago with the workers in the tropical areas of Northern Queensland.
– I remind the honorable senator that I have supported the sugar industry almost as strongly as he has done. I voted as I did a few nights -ago because I considered it right that before the people of Australia were bound by any agreement, Parliament should be given an opportunity to consider it. I am not a prohibitionist. The iron and steel industry is operating under a duty and not under a prohibition. If it is found that this industry cannot successfully carry on its operations under the existing duties, we must make the conditions such that it will be able to do so, for the production of iron and steel in Australia is absolutely essential to an adequate defence policy.
– The industry is being handicapped by the legislation passed by the Lang Government.
– That applies to every other industry in New South “Wales, but I submit that that has nothing whatever to do with the general effect of our tariff policy. We must bear in mind, in dealing with this tariff, not only the position of New South Wales, but also that of every other State. It is true that the iron and steel industry on its manufacturing side is at present in operation only in New South Wales ; but this and every other industry must be prepared to face the competition of any other State. In my opinion, the whole situation provides a splendid argument in favour of the federal control of industrial conditions. It is being proclaimed to the world to-day that we need a uniform basic wage and uniform hours of work throughout Australia. If we had uniformity in these respects the tariff would bear equitably upon industry in all States.
– But the conditions are not the same in every State.
– I know that there are climatic and other variations; but the provision of a uniform basic wage need not necessarily mean that exactly the same wage shall be paid in every State. We need uniformity in the value of the wages paid, and I believe that we could secure it without very great difficulty.
When this whole subject is threshed out it is probable that arrangements will have to be made for necessary variations in wages and conditions, to ensure that uniformity will be achieved as between the States. The point I am making, at the moment, is that the higher wages and shorter hours that are being worked in New South Wales have nothing to do with our consideration of the tariff.
SenatorRae. - They are the crime of the Lang Government, I suppose!
– I am not saying that they are a crime; all I am saying is that we must consider the tariff in relation to every State. Certainly, the tariff is not responsible for the wages being paid in New South Wales, and however any honorable senator can argue otherwise I do not know. The wages and conditions operating in New South Wales are the result of the policy of the State Government.
– But the wages paid in New South Wales have something to do with the tariff.
– I fail to see it. I wish now to refer to a point raised by Senator Payne, and referred to by Senator Pearce and Senator McLachlan in regard to tariff retaliation by other countries. It has been said, as an argument against our tariff, that France and certain other European countries have raised barriers against the importation of our goods. If that is so, it is unfortunate, but I contend that we cannot permit other countries to dictate what our tariff policy shall be. We should frame our tariff not to suit other countries, but to suit our own.
– But we cannot ignore other countries.
– That is so. France normally purchases a considerable quantity of Australian goods, and we purchase goods from France. It may be possible for us to make an arrangement with France for special treatment of the goods we buy from her if she will make concessions in respect of the goods that we have to sell her. That also applies to other countries. We have hitherto given preferential treatment to Great Britain. If we had no tariff barriers, there would be no inducement for other countries to grant concessions to us, and we should not be in a position to ask for concessions. We must be in a position to give concessions if we expect to receive them. It should be possible for us to make equitable trade arrangements with other countries.. I believe that any retaliatory measures that are being adopted against us are of a temporary character. They have doubtless been adopted with the object of obliging us to grant concessions. We certainly cannot meet the position by throwing up our hands in despair and saying - “We will break down our tariff wall, and let your goods flow into Australia.”
– -Kamerad !
– We certainly cannot cry Kamerad
– No one has suggested ‘that we should do so.
– That seems to me to be the argument that some honorable senators have adopted.
I come now to a consideration of the desirableness of arranging reciprocal trade agreements with Great .Britain, and, for that matter, with other countries. We were delighted to read in the press this morning that it is probably the intention of the British Government to send Mr. J. H. Thomas to Australia to discuss with the Australian Government and people the subject of reciprocal trade. It would be a great thing for Australia, Great Britain, and the Empire generally, if effective reciprocal trade arrangements could be made. If Mr. Thomas comes to Australia, it should be possible for this Government to make satisfactory arrangements for reciprocity in trade matters if Great Britain is inclined to deal fairly by Australia.
– I am afraid that the honorable senator would not be a very successful negotiator.
– If I were entrusted with the negotiations, naturally I should consider first the interests of Australia, because that has always been my motto. On other occasions, as honorable senators will recall, I have pointed out that Australia has dealt very generously with the Mother Country. The value of our tariff preferences to Great Britain totals in round figures about £10,000,000 a year, whereas the Mother Country has, up to the present, given Australia preference to the value of only £1,000,000 a year. This cannot be regarded as a fair return for the preferences which we give to Britain.
– We do not give Great Britain preference to anything like that amount.
– We do. Senator Guthrie is largely interested in. the prosperity of our primary industries, so it should not benecessary to remind, him that Great Britain should be the principal market for our surplus primary products.
– So it is.
– What are thefacts ? Britain buys annually from Denmark £56,000,000 worth of primary products, nearly all of which could be obtained from Australia. It should he possible to enter into a businesslike arrangement with Mr. Thomas, now that there is in Great Britain a Government prepared, if not pledged, to give some consideration to the dominions, instead of the almost open hostility displayed by the Government which has just been defeated. I, therefore, hope that this Government will seize the opportunity and make, an arrangement with Great Britain that will be of very great advantage to our primary producers. I remind Senator Crawford that Great Britain consumes annually £33,000,000 worth of sugar, but imports from Australia sugar to the value of only £2,000,000 a year. If we could secure a greater proportion of that trade, it should be possible to extend the sugar areas in Queensland and New South Wales, and provide a larger volume of employment for our workers. The family ties of empire alone are not sufficient to promote trade relationships. We must offer some inducement, by means of the tariff, if we are to secure a greater share of the British market. ‘ The tariff is already sufficiently high to prevent the importations of many lines to the disadvantage of Great Britain, but it is obvious that, if we are to extend our business with the Mother Country, we must place British trade in a more favorable relationship to foreign trade. I believe that when the tariff leaves the Senate, it will have been so altered as to be a more efficient instrument, not merely for the collection of revenue, but also for the protection of Australian industries. I am not in favour of helping industries that do not warrant tariff protection, but I do believe in safeguarding our key industries, such as our iron and steel, our wool, and many other industries, .the potential value of which is of the greatest importance, because their successful development will lead to the employment of many thousands of Australian workers, and will help Australia to attain greatness as a nation.
– I congratulate Senator Duncan upon his strong defence of Australian industries, particularly from the point of view of New South Wales. I was also interested in the remarks of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), who drew so largely upon his fund of political knowledge, gained as the result of over 30 years’ representation in this chamber of the State of Western Australia. During his long experience the right honorable gentleman has occupied three of the highest executive positions, and has played an important part in the affairs of this Parliament. He has taken part in numerous tariff debates, and has attended many conferences of the various political parties with which he has been associated. In the course of his speech on this subject the Leader of the Opposition said -
The first movement on behalf of those who support the Government, so far as I can learn, came from the present Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) when he approached the manufacturers in Sydney, to whom he appealed for financial support at the then ensuing elections. A certain amount of financial support was promised, and as a quid pro quo Mr. Theodore, who was then the campaign director of the Federal Labour Party, promised that a high protective tariff would be introduced. A general election was held and the Labour party was returned with a majority. Within one month of tlie elections one, at any rate, of its election promises was redeemed, and a prohibitive tariff was introduced. So far as I can learn, that is about the only election promise that has been honoured by this Government.
I wish to nail down the first of those statements. The last election was fought, not on the tariff, but on arbitration, and as a result the Scullin Government was returned. I have gone through my apprenticeship in the Labour party, both in the political and industrial sections. I know what went on in the inner councils of the party, and I am quite certain that Mr. Theodore made no appeal to the manufacturers of New South Wales for financial assistance. Neither was any appeal made by the central executive of the party in New South Wales. Some honorable senators opposite, including the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Lynch, and others, have had sufficient experience of the Labour party in Western Australia to know that it relies for its support on the contributions of the rank and file of the organization. It is well-known that many of the manufacturers in New South Wales are hostile to the Labour party. Many of them belonged either to the Nationalist party or the Country party, and now belong to the United Australia party - that political “ tin lizzie “ made up of the spare parts of all the other parties. The Leader of the Opposition, in the speech from which I am quoting, continues -
At a social gathering at which, no doubt, the champagne corks popped, after musical items had been rendered, the manufacturer would state what lie wanted, and the Minister would promise to grant what was wanted; and next day there would be an announcement in the House of Representatives that the customs tariff had been amended. And am I exaggerating when I use the words “ raueur rantings of publicity spruikers”
Up to the time I was expelled from the Labour party for my advocacy of the Lang plan, I knew what happened in the Labour caucus, and I know that every tariff item, before presentation to Parliament, was ratified by the members of the party voting in caucus. The Leader of the Opposition indulges in cheap sneers about the popping of champagne corks. I do not think that either the present Minister for Customs (Mr. Forde), or the previous Minister (Mr. Fenton.) were in the habit of attending banquets of the kind described by the Leader of the Opposition. They were not usually to be found at the banquets of the Millions Club, or of the Constitutional Club.
– There is never any champagne at those gatherings.
– The honorable senator has, I know, attended the gatherings of the Sane Democracy Club, and of the Millions Club, where those present become intoxicated on cheap coffee, and swollen with stale meat pies. Such functions are patronized by the political halfwits who meet at David Jones’s and Farmer’s luncheon rooms. The Leader of the Opposition goes on to say–
– ls the honorable senator quoting from a Ronsard report of proceedings of the current session?
– Yes ; but I have placed it inside the cover of a telephone directory.
– The camouflage was not necessary. The honorable senator may quote from Hansard, but not from any other source, reports of debates in the Senate during the current session.
– The tariff has been viciously attacked by the Leader of the Opposition and by Senator Lynch. No doubt Senator Colebatch will also speak against it. “We know that Senator Colebatch has no time for the tariff, and his opinions are the same now as they were at the beginning of his political career. He, at least, is consistent. But can we say the same of Senator Pearce and Senator Lynch? At the third Commonwealth Political Labour Conference, held at the Trades Hall, in 1905, the Leader of the Opposition attended as u delegate from Western Australia, and his photograph is published in the official report. After an animated discussion, a tariff referendum was decided upon as the fourth plank of the fighting platform of the party. In 1908, the fourth federal conference of the party was held, and on one of the front pages of the report appears the photograph of Senator Lynch. The second plank of the fighting platform on that occasion was new protection. From 190S to 1916, the following pledge was signed by Senators Pearce and Lynch, as members of the Labour party : -
I hereby pledge myself not to oppose the candidate selected by the recognized political Labour organization, and, if elected, to do my utmost to carry out the principles embodied “in the Australian Labour Party’s platform, :and on all questions affecting the platform to vote as a majority of the parliamentary party may decide at a duly constituted caucus meeting.
From 1908 until 1916, when both the Leader of the Opposition and Senator “Lynch were expelled on the conscription -.issue, they were pledged supporters of the policy of new protection; but now that they breathe a different political atmosphere their views have changed. Although to-day I am temporarily expelled from the Federal Labour Party, on account of another matter, I have signed a pledge to support the policy of new protection, which I believe Would be beneficial to Australia. In looking through the political records of the United States of America, we find that a politician named Matheson from a Southern State, submitted a motion in Congress in favour, of tariff reform, with the result -that to-day that country is highly protected.
– It has 5,000,000 unemployed.
– That is so, but the unemployed evil which is found also in Australia, and in freetrade Britain, is due to the intrigue carried on by the financial institutions of those countries.
The Leader of the Opposition in the course of his speech remarked -
In the first place, I contend that the people generally must not be penalized to maintain the mad social and industrial policy that is sponsored by Mr. Lang, the Premier of NewSouth Wales.
I notice that an eminent Western Australian politician, Mr. Keen an, who recently resigned from the position of Chief Secretary in the Government of that State, owing to its reactionary outlook, has stated definitely that the only solution of the difficulty confronting Australia is a straightout adoption of the principles of the Lang plan.
– The honorable senator is misrepresenting him.
– I suggest to Senator Colebatch that he should read Mr. Keenan’s words. Senator Pearce, in referring to New South Wales, went on to say -
What has happened in that State recently is within the knowledge of everybody. Lft us examine the effects of Mr. Lang’s policy upon the people of Kew South Wales. Thai State contains 39 per cent, of the population of Australia.
The present unfortunate position of the working classes in New South Wales - I include clerical workers, navvies, miners, and all other workers - is due. not to Mr. Lang, but to conditions thai are being experienced throughout the world. I say definitely that it is due to the machinations of international financiers and to that mad orgy, the late war. At any rate, it is not playing the game to lay the blame on the shoulders of the Premier of New South Wales. That gentleman’s actions should not be called in question in relation to a Commonwealth tariff, yet during the debate on this tariff venomous attacks have been made upon Mr. Lang in this chamber and in another place. He is certainly quite capable of defending himself.
– The honorable senator, having replied to an attack upon Mr. Lang, will now proceed with the debate on the tariff.
– The Leader of the Opposition, went on to say -
I come now to another phase of the New South Wales position. The Government of that State maintains .under State legislation a basic wage 20 per cent, higher than that which obtains in any other State and 20 per cent, higher than that which applies to the Commonwealth sphere.
I am proud of it. The Labour party of New South Wales feels that there is no occasion for it to apologize for the fact that the wages of the workers of that State are higher than are paid in other States. When I realize all the slashing and bashing that industrial workers have recently experienced, I say, “ God grant the day when the legislature of New South Wales will go still further in its humane task of protecting the workers.”
The Leader of the Opposition tried to infer that Mr. Lang has been responsible, for the driving of capital out of the State into Victoria and elsewhere. There is a belt manufacturer in Sydney named Ludowici. He is one of twelve business men in Australia who have set themselves up as a committee to trade with Soviet Russia. He is also a member of the Sydney Chamber of Manufactures, and as a member of that body has been loud in his condemnation of the New South Wales Government’s efforts to maintain a high basic wage for the workers of New South Wales. Apparently, with that gentleman it is all right to trade with Russia, hut all wrong to maintain a decent standard of living for the workers of Australia.
– Apparently, the honorable senator was not in the chamber when I read my ruling that the debate on the second reading of the customs tariff was to be confined to matters relevant to the tariff.
– I suggest, Mr. President, that you repeat your ruling when there is a quorum present.
– There is a quorum present now.
– Senator Pearce also said -
We are being called upon to give protection to New South Wales industries as well as industries of other States.
Does the right honorable senator mean that Western Australia should receive preferential treatment although practically one-third of the population of Australia resides in New South Wales? We know that Western Australia, that land of gold and wheat production, has pleaded that it is in the position of a mendicant. The right honorable senator has talked a great deal about Empire preference. There has recently been a general election in Great Britain. A Labour party, a party built up by reactionaries of the worst possible type, and merely masquerading under the name of Labour, was forced to go to the country by the mere fact that it was not prepared to do anything for the workers. In Great Britain, as in Australia, there has been an amalgamation of the different political parties opposed to Labour. In Australia we have the United Australia party. As a result of a coalition between certain political parties in Great Britain, a U.B.P - United British Party - was formed, which appealed to the electors on a policy which provided for protection to British industries, and was returned with an overwhelming majority. Apparently, the people of Great Britain were sick and tired of the promises that had been made from time to time by a Labour party that was Labour in name only, and which had not been fulfilled. During a tariff debate in 1901, the present Leader of the Opposition in this chamber (Senator Pearce) is reported on page 258 of Hansard of that year as having said -
If it came to a clear-cut issue between freetrade and protection, my vote .would be in the direction of freetrade.
If the United Australia Party supports a protectionist policy, what is to be said 6f its leader in this chamber who declared in 1901 that if it came to a clear-cut issue between freetrade and protection, bis vote would be in the direction of freetrade? From 1905 to 1908 the Leader of the Opposition supported a tariff referendum which was included in the Labour party’s platform, and from 1908 to 1916, when he was expelled from the Labour party, he supported the policy of new protection. On one occasion Smith’s Weekly, which supports a protective policy, and which is to be found on the files in the Parliamentary Reading Room, stated that Senator Pearce had been allied to so many political parties that, in future, he would be known by that journal as the “ Minister for Adaptability “. As an active member of the United Australia Party, he now appears to be- totally opposed to protection to our industries, and should, as Smith’s Weekly suggested, be termed the “ Minister for Adaptability “. On the 13th November, 1901, the right honorable gentleman said, “ Our duty to the Empire must commence at home “. Does he still hold that opinion ? It is remarkable to realize the way in which the right honorable gentleman, who was a member of the Hughes Government, and of the Bruce-Page Government, which introduced the Massy-Greene and Pratten tariffs, changes his fiscal policy. Speaking at a meeting held in Perth at which you, sir, occupied a chair on the platform, the Leader of the Opposition, in referring to the tariff, said -
About the same time, Mr. Marr, the present member for Parkes, who was a Minister in the Bruce-Page Government, when replying to a statement by the then honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) that the Bruce-Page Government was going to the country owing to difficulties over the tariff, said -
Cabinet had unanimously agreed to the tariff proposals laid on the table of the House of Representatives. There was no disagreement whatever.
While the honorable member for Parkes was telling the electors in New South Wales that there was no disagreement in the Federal Cabinet on tariff matters, the Leader of the Opposition was in Western Australia telling the electors that, in tariff matters, he had used his position in the Cabinet to obtain justice for the
State he represented. In the leading article of the Evening News of 10th December, 1926, the right honorable’ member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) - the high priest of freetrade - is referred to in this way -
The Acting Prime Minister, Dr. Page, can be congratulated on having discovered a new principle in economics. He declares that the view that British trade would be detrimentally affected by Australia’s protective policy was directly contradicted by facts, and, in support of his contention, he points out that in spite of the rising tariff Australian imports rose in the live, years from 1921 to 1926 from a value of £103,000,000 to £151,000,000.
The theory, if logically developed, must lead the ingenious theorist to some disconcerting conclusions. A heavy tariff is imposed to block imports. If, however, as Dr. Page asserts, it does no such thing, but has the. effect .pf actually increasing imports, the public will naturally ask “Why the tariff?”
If the tariff as at present imposed actually increases imports, it follows that a heavier tariff will still further stimulate imports. If the tariff is good for British trade, then heavier doses out of the same bottle will be still better for British trade. The greater the effort to bar out imports the more they come in.
Notwithstanding that definite statement of the right honorable member for Cowper concerning British trade, the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable senators say that our fiscal policy has. antagonized Great Britain, Japan, France, Germany, and other countries. In the Melbourne Argus of the 19th May, 1931, there is a report of a speech delivered by Senator Colebatch at Scott’s Church Hall, Melbourne, under the auspices of the importers’ section of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce. The report contains these words-*-
Frustrating the Senate.
One does not .like, to make suggestions of improper conduct, but I have no hesitation in saying that the tariff is a very fruitful cause of political corruption. 1
– The honorable senator should read the whole of the report.
– I shall do so in time. Senator Colebatch has always held the same views on fiscal matters, and I therefore know where he stands. I should like briefly to comment upon the concluding portion of the paragraph which I have just quoted, and in which the honorable senator used the words “ the tariff is a very fruitful cause of political corruption.”
Semi tor Sir Hal Colebatch. - Go on.
– Like the lawyers, I intend to take my time. I am paid for what I am doing, and intend to do it in my own way. Can Senator Colebatch say that there has been political corruption on the part of any member of the Government in connexion with one item in the schedule? If he has any evidence of that character,.! ask him to bring it before the Senate.
– If the honorable senator had read the whole of my speech, he would know that I said nothing of the kind.
– It is the duty of every honorable Senator to bring before the Senate any evidence of political corruption that he comes across.
– Colebatch. - I ask the honorable senator to read the whole of my speech. He is placing a wrong interpretation on my remarks.
– The Argus report of the honorable senator’s speech continues -
Queensland is the key State of politics, and apparently, it is a matter of contention between the parties which can offer the most for the Queensland vote.
What is the inference to be drawn from that statement?
– Very different from what the honorable senator has suggested.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that Queensland senators are corrupt?
– Not at all.
– Did he have in his mind the sugar industry of Queensland?
– My remarks arc open to various interpretations.
– Senator Payne is reported as having charged the Government with a deliberate and flagrant violation of the law in respect of something which was designed to safeguard the interests of the country.
– The honorable senator is out of order if he is reading from any document, other than Hansard, the report of a debate of the current session.
– I was quoting from the Sydney Sun.
– Then the honorable senator is out of order.
– Some years ago, a hydro-electric scheme was undertaken in Tasmania, with the object of attractingmanufactures to that State by providing cheap power. Those .works employed over 1,000 men. The Australian Carbide “Works and Cadbury, Pry and Pascall also set up in Tasmania.
– The Carbide works have practically closed down.
– I admit that the number of men employed is not now se great as formerly. Cadbury, Fry and Pascall sent its representatives all over Australia to find the most suitable place in which to establish a factory, and, after an examination of many suggested sites, they selected Claremont, near Hobart. Another Tasmanian firm which has benefited from the policy of protection, is that of Henry Jones Limited, the makers of IXL products. When I was in Tasmania about twelve months ago, the general manager of the company, Mr. Peacock, expressed his appreciation of the protection given to Australian manufacturing industries by the present Government. Tasmanian senators continue to urge that assistance be given to the Tasmania, I paper pulp industry. Notwithstanding that these Tasmanian industries have benefited from protection and that the Premier of Tasmania has come to the Federal Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) as a political mendicant seeking assistance, because of the falling revenue of that State, Senator Payne makes what is practically a freetrade speech in this chamber.
In 1928-29 we imported confectionery to the value of £137,524; but in 1930-31, on account of the operation of the new tariff, we imported only £9,482 worth of confectionery. Extension of time granted.] I thank honorable senators for their consideration. I trust that the honorable senators who come from Queensland heard the figures I quoted in relation to confectionery. Senator Lynch has a lot to say about the effect of the tariff on the farmers. Does he realize that, although in 1928-29 we imported biscuits to the value of £39,081, our imports in 1930-31 were valued at only £2,849 ?
– That waa due to the prohibition of such imports.
– But it helped the farmers. In consequence of the present tariff policy, Peak, Frean and Company Limited, one of the largest biscuit manufacturing firms in the British Empire, is exploring the possibility of establishing a factory in Australia. Its representative has already beeu in Victoria and New South Wales looking for a factory site. Our imports of dates and figs in 1928-29 were valued at £45,914; whereas in 1930-31 the value of them was only £1,332.In 1928-29 we imported £48,502 worth of “ vegetables, salted and preserved in liquid or partly preserved or pulped,” whereas in 1930-31 the total value of such imports was only £2,329. I invite the attention of honorable senators who claim to represent the farmers to the fact that, while in 1928-29 we imported cornflour to the value of £10,838, our imports in 1930-31 were valued at only £1. When 1 go to Western Australia 1 shall tell the farmers these things.
– Why does not the honorable senator visit. Western Australia?
– I accept the honorable senator’s challenge.
– It is not a challenge, but an invitation.
– Here is another item for honorable senators from Tasmania to consider. In 1928-29 we imported jams and jellies to the value of £13,103, whereas our imports in 1930-31 were valued at only £1,417. What has Mr. Peacock, of Henry Jones and Company, to say to that? I invite Senator Guthrie’s attention to the fact that, whereas in 1928-29, we imported “meats, preserved in tins and other types of containers,” to the value of £78,212, our imports in 1930-31 were valued at £7,456.
Sitting suspended from 12.45to 2.15 p.m.
– In 1928-29 we imported onions to the value of £22,699, but in 1930-31 none at all. Our imports of soaps and soap substitutes in 1928-29- were valued at £116,050, and in 1930-31 they had declined to £13,2S8. I come now to woollen goods. The industry is well, established in Australia, and I can saywithout fear of successful contradiction that blankets and other woollen goods,, manufactured particularly in South. Australia, are second to none in theworld. It is only to be expected, therefore, that our imports from these commodities should decline. In 1928-29 we imported blankets valued at £51,621, and in 1930-31, £6,764. The Sunshine Harvester Company, near Melbourne, is one of the most efficient establishments of its kind in the world. Our imports of harvesting machinery in 1928-29 totalled £11,753, and last year only £83. There was a substantial decline also in imports of electrical heating and cooking apparatus, namely, from £104,943 in 1928-29 to £26,678 last year. The Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, with its headquarters in Sydney, supplied all our requirements in wireless receiving sets and other wireless equipment. Signor Marconi, the world’s wireless wizard has, 011 more than one occasion, paid a high compliment to the Chairman of Directors of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, Mr. E. T. Fisk, whose research in this interesting field has raised him to a high place among the scientists of the world. If the Government is prepared to impose a super tariff on imported wireless sets and equipment, it will have my whole-hearted support. In 1928-29 we imported receiving sets and equipment to the value of £399,022, and last year only £2,865.
-The honorable gentleman is not, I hope, quoting tariff items?
– I am quoting statistics relating to tariff items. I hope you. sir, do not intend to rule me out of order?
– No, but having prevented other honorable senators from quoting items in the tariff, I wished to have the assurance of the honorable senator that he was not doing likewise.
– The following figures relating to importations for the years 1928-29 and 1930-31, respectively, indicate the steady decline: -
Our imports of iron and steelbeams, channels, girders, joists columns, trough and bridge iron and steel were valued at £209,240 in 1928-29 . and £28,389 in 1930-31. Where is Mr. Hoskins, junior, who controls the extensive steel mills that were removed from the Lithgow valley to Port Kembla ? He took a very active part in the establishment of the “ All for Australia Party”, but now has been swallowed by the United Australia Party. This is the “joker” who succeeded in getting a high tariff on items in which his firm was interested. I come now to cigarettes. In 1928-29 our imports totalled £516,606, and in 1930-31, £80,106. We have efficient tobacco factories in the various States, and should be able to supply all our own requirements. Our imports of snuff have fallen from £17,288 in 1928-29 to £868 last year, so if honorable senators opposite have the snuff-taking habit, they now have an opportunity to use the Australian article. The next item, sparkling wine, should be of interest to the South Australian members of this chamber. In 1928-29 our imports totalled £50,576, and last year only £5,400. I come now to brooms, an article which the manufacturers of Australia will probably use freely during the next general election. In 1928-29 we imported brooms, whisks and mops, valued at £35,718, and in 1930-31, £9,157. There are hundreds of other items to which I could refer, if time permitted. The following report appeared in the Times Trade and Engineering Supplement, of the 2nd May last: -
At the 71st annual meeting of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce held on 23rd and 24th April, at the Hotel Victoria, Northumberland-avenue, Sir Algernon Firth proposed “ That the Government be urged to impose at once a revenue duty of 20 to 25 per cent, on all imported manufactures of a kind that are now being made in this country, the United Kingdom”. He eventually omitted the figures 20 to 25 per cent., and the proposition was carried.
Cables published in Australian papers since then suggest that the amount of duties to be imposed should be similar to those now in force in the United Kingdom on motor cars, pianos, silk and artificial piece goods and yarns . of 33 per cent.
Note. - This is the suggestion of the British Chambers of Commerce. It is not the opinion of a chamber manufacturer.
The British election was fought on the tariff issue; yet the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) advocates a policy of freetrade, and honorable senators behind him try to hoodwink the people into believing that they favour tariffs. I appreciate the position of Senator Colebatch, because he is prepared to stand to his guns, and is consistent in his attitude; but the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Lynch, from 1908 to 1916, when they were expelled from the Labour party on the conscription issue, signed a pledge as labour men to fight for the policy of new protection. If it came to a straightout vote on the fiscal issue, I feel sure that the members of the Chambers of Manufactures and the great industrial section, who have built up their prosperity despite the actions of individuals who break pledges, would vote for the policy of upholding the industries of this country. When men go into Parliament and. break their pledges in order to secure place and power, the electors of Australia will demand to know exactly where they stand on this issue.
Although those men would probably advocate the introduction of- cheap labour from China, Japan, and other countries, I intend to stand to my pledge to support the policy of protection.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [2.35]. - Before embarking on what I trust will be accepted as a temperate and considered criticism of this measure, I desire to clear the way by reference to two matters that have arisen this morning. I do not think for a moment that the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat desired to misrepresent me, or to convey a wrong impression, but he quoted portion of a necessarily abbreviated report of a speech which I delivered in Melbourne. The report, although abbreviated, was entirely accurate, and not capable of the interpretation given to it by the honorable senator, who chose to quote only a few lines of it. I see the danger of those who heard this quotation getting an entirely false impression of what was said. I read a very brief extract from a work by Professor Marshall, who, for many years, was Professor of Economics at the University of Cambridge, and who is recognized as one of the world’s highest authorities on political economy. The lines that I quoted were -
Tariffs start ou the basis of simplicity] vested interests press and tariffs become intricate. Any tariff, taxation, or other matter that becomes intricate becomes corrupt - not perhaps from the cash point of view - but from the corruption of mind of the politician, caused by the pressure of vested interests.
I have never gone one step beyond that assertion, and I have no intention of retreating one step behind it.
The other matter to which I desire to refer is the fact that we have been inundated for some months past with much literature and information from all quarters in regard to the tariff generally, and also in regard to particular items. I venture to say that every member of this chamber welcomes literature of that kind so long as it is informative; but I wish to enter a protest against some of the matter which we have received. A circular reached me to-day signed “G. F. Caldwell, Tariff Officer, Metal Trades Employers Association “, and, in that circular, remarks such as these occur: “Prompt action by the Senate in affirming the Government’s proposals is required. Any other course can only result in the continuance of the present anxiety and unrest “. The circular contains statements that are demonstrably false. Its dictatorial tone is at once insolent and offensive to the Senate, and there is only one thing to do with it. I hope that when we come to discuss the details of the tariff. it will be possible to do it on purely business lines, without any feeling of party obligation, and, above all, without any feeling of class prejudice, which I regard as the worst feature of our political life. Australia has gone further than any other democratic country in building up class divisions. Class prejudice has been shown, in the consideration of legislation, to an alarming extent, and unless we can deal with this tariff free from such ideas, we shall not make a good job of it, or do the right thing in the interests of Australian industries.
In considering this bill, it is not the tariff policy of Australia that is at stake ; we should dismiss such an idea from our minds. If in our wisdom, or unwisdom, as the case might be, we saw fit to reject this measure entirely, we should not be attacking the tariff policy of Australia, -since the tariff, as it stood until 1929, would still remain. Some of us may be inclined, as I confess I am, to go back beyond 1928, and make reductions on the tariff even as it then stood, but that is not our work to-day. We merely have to accept the tariff law as passed by both Houses of the Parliament up to the end of 1929. This bill is brought forward by the Government for the purpose of improving the tariff policy, and we have to make up our minds whether or not we think it does improve it. I wish to deal with this bill purely from this point of view: Does it improve the tariff policy or not?
Reference has been made by two or three speakers to a report by economic experts, which, I have no doubt, has been carefully read by all honorable senators. I had peculiar opportunities of considering that report. It will be remembered that a royal commission was appointed to inquire into the working of the Constitution of Australia, and I was a member of that commission. The tariff policy, as such, was no part of our business, and we did not concern ourselves with it; but we were charged with inquiring as to what was the effect between the States of different features of Australian policy. In the course of that inquiry, two witnesses who were examined were Professors Giblin and Brigden. I take it that the offices that Professor Giblin has held, and those to which he has been appointed by the present Government, will secure courteous consideration of his opinions by the present Government and its supporters. Those witnesses gave evidence as to the effect of the tariff policy on the different States. Two of the members of the commission - two prominent members of the Labour party - had strong protectionist principles, and were men of quite exceptional capacity. One of them was recently appointed to the board of directors of the Commonwealth Bank, and prior to that, was secretary of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council. The two professors were subjected to an exhaustive crossexamination, and we all made up our minds that the evidence they had given was not adequate, because it did not go deeply enough into the matter. They said that it was impossible for them to do more in the limited time at their disposal. We asked if it was possible for them to bc freed from their other duties so that they might devote themselves entirely to an investigation of this kind, and submit a further report. They spent five or six months on the work, and, after their report had been submitted to the commission, the larger committee was appointed, and it went still more exhaustively into the subject. On reading the report of these experts, one finds that, from cover to cover, there is not one word of academic freetrade propaganda. The report, if one may say so with all due respect for a scientific” investigation, is written with a protectionist bias. They said, “ We have been asked to inquire into the protectionist policy of Australia. We arc not condemning it, but investigating it. Wo are saying what is right and wrong.” So far did they go in showing that they had no freetrade inclinations, that the Melbourne Ago, in a review of their book, and in leading articles, claimed that it was a complete vindication of the protectionist policy.
If any of us, charged with the conduct of a big business affair, thought it necessary to invite experts to report upon our system, and, in due course, received their report, and if we found that they commended this department, and that department, but pointed out that there were errors here and errors there, what would we do? Should we bother ourselves very much with reading and re-reading those passages commending the departments which were found to bo in order? We should do nothing of the kind. We should immediately concentrate on those passages which pointed out errors and suggested how those errors could be remedied, and that is the only intelligent spirit in which to read the report of these experts. They did not condemn the tariff policy of Australia as a policy, but pointed out certain errors in it which, as they said quite definitely, if not corrected would wreck it, and in doing so, wreck Australia as well.
Let me draw attention to five directions in which these experts said that the tariff policy of Australia has gone wrong. They first said in general criticism that in many respects the duties were excessive. They were then reporting, upon the tariff policy in existence prior to the imposition of the present, duties. They did not condemn the policy entirely, but said, quite definitely, that in many respects the duties were excessive. Is there anything in this bill to rectify that error, as pointed out by the experts? Has the tariff been made les3 excessive? I fail to find in it one single effort to remove the excesses discovered by the experts.
The second direction in which, according to the experts, the tariff has gone wrong, is that in many respects it is unscientific and uneconomic, which is the only intelligent view any person can take of it. The purpose of a protective policy foi1 the development of industries should be to have a balanced economy; that is to say, a means by which every one can obtain a livelihood. At any rate, that is the policy to which I subscribe. The experts said that ‘the country should direct its efforts towards building up industries for which it is naturally adapted; that is to say, industries in regard to which natural conditions place us under a minimum of disadvantage as compared with other countries producing similar articles.
SenatorRae. - Such industries would build themselves up on account of their natural advantages.
Senator Sir HALCOLEBATCH.Not all of them. Some require assistance. But these experts pointed out that in many respects our tariff has gone astray by seeking to build up industries for which the country is entirely unsuited, and which could never hope to be successful. They pointed out that every effort made in that - direction is to destroy the good work a tariff policy can do in the building up of other industries, and is utterly wasteful, uneconomic and destructive, not only of the tariff policy itself, but also of the general wellbeing of the country. That was the opinion formed by the men who did not condemn but in a general way approved of Australia’s tariff policy.
The third direction in which they said that the tariff policy has gone wrong is that in some particulars it casts an undue burden on certain industries on the prosperity of which the country entirely depends. There are certain industries which cannot be hurt without imperilling the whole economic structure of Australia. The experts went into that matter in some detail, and the conclusion they arrived at - which I need not quote - from the report because for reasons I have already given I am thoroughly familiar with them - was that the burden cast, upon primary industries varied according to the extent to which the cost of production was influenced by the tariff policy. For instance, they pointed out that the industry which suffered most is mining, because a tariff policy affects everything that goes into the cost of milling - -machinery, annual supplies, explosives, and labour. . Labour must be included, because the price of labour is necessarily affected by a tariff policy. The experts pointed out that at that time the increased cost imposed on mining by the tariff policy amounted to approximately 14 per cent. of the total value of the product. At the time I did not think -that that was quite a satisfactory way of stating it. For example, to-day we should find it necessary to increase the 14 per cent, in the case of all mining relating to metals which have depreciated since the investigation was made, while, on the other hand, it would be necessary to decrease the percentage in respect of gold which, in terms of Australian currency, has appreciated in value by approximately 25 per cent.
Coming to wool and wheat, the experts gave a percentage on production. To-day it is necessary to multiply that percentage, because the experts’ calculations were based on prices which were then 100 per cent, higher than they were at any rate a few months ago. It is really necessary to double the figure arrived at by the experts as representing the percentage burden cast on wool and wheat production by the operation- of the tariff policy. Their definite conclusion, however, was that the tariff was imposing an undue burden on those particular industries, and I do not think that we can escape from it, particularly when we realize how quickly, after long years of prosperity, both the wool-growing and wheat-growing industries crumpled under the first blast of adversity. Both industries must have been carrying a burden greater than they should have been expected to hear.
– When they crumpled up, the country crumpled up.
– Of course, it was bound to do so. One point these investigators made very clear was that although we must have a tariff to build up Australia’s industries, if it be so framed that the burden cast on the primary industries is greater than they can bear, we destroy, not only the industries, but ourselves as well.
The fourth direction in which these experts found that the tariff policy has been in error is its inequity as between States. They referred to it as the most serious embarrassment of all. Indeed, it is a matter of supreme importance to the federation, and one, I suggest, that should be considered not solely from the point of view of the States that suffer, but also from the point of view of Australia. I do not believe for one moment that we shall build up a great nation by increasing the size of the two already overgrown cities on our eastern coastline. We can do it only, I suggest, by the development of the whole of the resources of this great country. If the Commonwealth policy unduly prejudices an outlying State it reacts upon other States that seem to be favoured by it. The experts went very exhaustively into this matter. They reduced the whole position to pounds, shillings, and pence. They found that certain States were prejudiced and others benefited by the tariff policy. For instance, they found that Queensland benefited to the extent of something like £2 per head per annum, and that Victoria benefited almost to the same extent. Because New South Wales has manufacturing industries and unprotected primary industries fairly distributed over its area, they found that it waa neither prejudiced nor benefited - that what it made on the swings it lost on the merry-go-round. They ascertained that Tasmania was definitely prejudiced to the extent of £2 per head per annum ; South Australia to the extent of £2’ 6s. per head per annum, and Western Australia to the extent of £2 8s. per head per annum. They described this as one of the most grievous faults in our tariff policy. Yet there is nothing in this bill that is calculated to amend that position.
The fifth direction in which they found, that the tariff policy has erred is one which honorable senators opposite should particularly bear in mind. They said unanimously that the tariff policy, as adopted in Australia, is threatening the Australian standard of living. One member of that commission has since been appointed to the high office of Acting Government Statistician. Is his opinion, buttressed as it was by the opinions of four men of the highest qualifications, to be lightly disregarded? Are we to set about making tho position still worse by recklessly destroying the standard of living in Australia? They did not make a bald assertion. They gave reasons for what they said. They pointed out that the effect of bolstering up uneconomic industries to the destruction, either par- ti ally or completely, of economic industries, would be to reduce the total wealth of the country, and we cannot reduce the total wealth of the country without lowering the standard of living of our people.
Now let us consider for one moment a feature of the tariff policy, linked up as it inevitably is with the industrial policy, and see where we have landed ourselves; what we have been able to do in recent years, and what seems possible to be done in the future. Let us take a bird’s-eye view of Australia. We find that, almost without exception, all the useful developmental work done on economical and profitable lines was completed a long time ago. I shall take four illustrations of what has happened in our developmental policy of recent years - entirely as a result of the operation of our tariff and industrial policies - and ask honorable senators whether it is possible for any country to go on developing works on such lines. The river Murray waters scheme was estimated to cost about v £4,000,000. I am not exaggerating when I say that nearly three times that amount has been spent, and the work is not yet completed. The Sydney harbour bridge was estimated to cost something less than £5,500,000. Already twice that amount has been spent. Take the third case, in regard to which I do not need to quote figures, because they are familiar to all honorable senators. I refer to the building of Canberra, and what it has cost. My fourth illustration is the group settlement scheme of Western Australia.
– Do not the same remarks apply to the East-West railway construction ?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Very largely. I am not saying that these four cases are exhaustive; I am quoting them merely as illustrative of the effect of the policy we have been pursuing in Australia. The group settlement scheme of Western Australia was a magnificent conception, and later on, it will prove abundantly successful by bringing into production large areas of land previously undeveloped; but, generally speaking, what should have cost £600, cost £2,000.
– It would be nearer the mark to say £10,000.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.The honorable senator’s figure only helps to prove my case. That work, which should have been beneficent, has become, for the time being, at any rate, a heavy burden on the country because of excessive costs. As long as such conditions exist we cannot develop this country. We must view our tariff policy and our industrial policy, as linked together, from the tingle of whether under them we can develop our country and afford employment for our people.
– The tariff had nothing to do with the salt trouble experienced in the group settlement of Western Australia.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.The duties alone on articles that had to be imported in connexion with that scheme amounted to considerable sums. But the tariff policy and the industrial policy are linked together. The tariff is not operating to the advantage of the working man; he has gained nothing by it. He may be receiving larger nominal wages, but he is not sensibly better off.
– The group settlers were not on the basic wage.
– Wages have to balance themselves all over the country. It is idle to say -that a certain group has its remuneration arbitrarily fixed by the court, while another group has not. The arbitrary fixing of wages governs conditions all over Australia, whether the persons employed are bound by the award or not.
Consider for a moment what effect this tariff policy has had on population. During the period of our greatest prosperity, when our high tariff policy was in full swing, when we had a succession of good seasons, when the prices of our exportable products were phenomenally high, and when, in addition, we were borrowing from £30,000,000 to £40,000,000 per annum, Australia was not attracting population. We were dragging a few people here by making all sorts of promises to them.
– Which were not fulfilled.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Which necessarily deluded them. One cannot explain the advantages of a country to people who are 12,000 miles away without conveying a false impression in some respects. The few people we did bring here were induced to come only by promises, and by having their fares paid, &c. Not at any stage of those ten years of great prosperity, did we really attract people to Australia. Surely there could be no more glaring indictment of our fiscal policy. And what is happening now ? At the first breath of adversity, the first hint of depression, we begin to lose population, though Australia is the most sparselypopulated country on the face of the earth, having regard to its resources. Surely that is sufficient condemnation of our policy. Then consider how little value we get for the money we spend on developmental works. Take the case of railway construction. I do not refer to the figures shown in the Hand Booh, because they represent average costs going back to the time when railways were cheaply built. Let us consider present costs. I make the assertion, without fear of contradiction, that the present cost’ of constructing our Australian clap-trap railways - for they are not deserving of any better name - is greater than the cost of constructing the first-class railways they have in England. If honorable senators would know the defects of . our Australian railways, let them take the Sydney train leaving Canberra this afternoon. That train travels at 35 miles an hour, and bumps its passengers so unmercifully that half the time they do not know whether they are in the train or out of it. In England, the trains travel on railways of the same gauge at 60 miles an hour, and the passengers scarcely know they are moving. Moreover, those English railways, I am sure, cost less to construct than our own second-grade railways. We are getting a second class article for a first class price, for which we have to thank our policy of tariff tinkering. How is that sort of thing going to help us to develop our resources, and encourage an inflow of population; because it must be evident to every one that unless Australia can attract population its future Will be fraught with peril.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that if we had used English rails in the construction of our railways our trains would be able to travel at 60 miles an hour?
– I do not suggest anything of the kind, and there is no reason why the Minister should seek to misrepresent my statement. What I say is that we have spent more money in building these second class railways on which the trains shake the life out of one at 30 miles an hour, than the English railway companies have spent on the construction of lines on which passengers can travel in comfort at 60 miles an hour. 1 am sure that the 100-lb. rails used in England cost less than the 80-lb. rails used here.
– How does, the tariff affect that?
– The honorable senator will have an opportunity to reply later, and if he can suggest anything else which is responsible for the high costs in Australia other than our tariff and industrial policies, I shall be glad to listen to him. I do not propose, at this stage, to attack the methods of the Government in regard to its present tariff policy.
– The honorable senator means its lack of method.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.No, I mean its method, and a very deliberate one it is. For two years it has deprived this section of the representatives of the people of any opportunity to review the taxation it has imposed. By so doing it has committed a gross breach of the spirit, if not the letter, of the Constitution. The Government has extended the sessions of Parliament over years in order to evade the pro vision which requires taxation measures to be submitted to the representatives of the people for review.
– The Government has kept Parliament sitting longer during those two years than the Bruce-Page Government did during any similar period in its existence.
– I do not suggest that Parliament has not sat long enough. I say that the Government is not entitled to impose taxation except at the will of the representatives of the people, and it is not entitled to keep a tariff in operation for months and years without referring it to Parliament. It is a condition of affairs which does not obtain in any other country in the world. In the British Parliament, the tariffs come into operation immediately they are submitted, but no government would live for ten minutes if it did not .allow the representatives of the people to review that tariff at the first opportunity. No British government would dare to spin out the sessions of Parliament as this Government has done in order to prevent the representatives of the people from reviewing its tariff policy. In the United States of America a tariff cannot be imposed until Congress has accepted it. In some continental countries governments have the right to impose, temporarily, certain tariffs which are restricted to a percentage increase of existing tariffs, but that is as far as they can go. Australia, which is supposedly the most democratic country in the world, is the only one in which the Government can impose on, and collect from, the people taxation year after year without any reference to the people’s representatives.
Senator McLachlan suggested tha there had been a lack of method in the framing of this tariff. To my mind, the Government has acted throughout with deliberate intent. It has followed two general rules ; the first being, in the terms of the old riddle, to double the number you first thought of. In framing its tariff it doubled the duties it first thought of, and there it had its tariff. The other method, which was still more simple, was to go through the tariff, and where it provided alternative- duties of so much per cent, ad valorem, or a specific duty instead, the Minister struck out the word “ or “, and inserted the word “ and “. This made both duties apply, and the Government, I think, showed itself to be possessed of a tremendous amount of courage, because such a tariff bears directly upon its own supporters, the poorer people of the community. The percentage duty, whether just or unjust, falls on the rich and poor in proportion to the amount of money they spend ; but the specific duty is a direct blow at the poorer classes of the community. If we analyse the tariff, we shall see that the specific duties paid for articles by persons who arc comparatively well to do - those who are well above the bread line - are generally little more than the percentage duties; but on the things which the working man uses, the specific duties may represent as much as 500 per cent. It may easily happen that the working man has to pay practically the same specific duty on an article costing a few pence, as the well-to-do-man has to pay on one costing a few shillings.
– Why is it, then, that the statistician tells us that the cost of living has fallen by 33 per cent.?
– The cost of living has fallen everywhere, but it has not fallen as much in Australia as in other parts of the world. Senator Kneebone, when speaking the other night, appealed to honorable senators to take an Australian view of these matters. I am prepared to take an Australian view, but I ask him whether taking such a view should preclude any one from considering how the tariff proposals affect the people of his own State. My own opinion is that anything which tends to make South Australia prosperous will help to make the Commonwealth prosperous, and anything which tends to make Western Australia poverty stricken will tend to impoverish the Commonwealth as a whole. It is impossible to injure the people of one State without affecting those of all the States. When considering how a certain policy is likely to affect Australia, it is proper for us to consider first how it is likely to affect the State we know best. A policy which helps a particular State, without proving directly adverse to the other States, helps the whole of the Commonwealth.
– On that reasoning, the Queensland sugar industry helps the rest of Australia.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.The honorable senator is very quick, but I happened to catch his eye, and, therefore, added a proviso, “ so long as it does not adversely affect the other States “. Senator Kneebone said that all countries, whether freetrade or protectionist, were suffering from the depression. That is true, and the reason is not far to seek. No country can by its policy, injure other countries without itself suffering a reaction. Senator Duncan said this morning that, in framing an Australian policy, wc should consider Australia. If we consider only Australia, we shall destroy Australia.
– I said that we should consider Australia first.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.He suggests that those of us who take the view that we ought to consider other countries, advocate that our policies should be dictated by other countries. As a matter of fact, we maintain that our policies ought to be- dictated by our own interests, and that factor makes it incumbent upon U3 to consider the interests of other countries. Five or six years ago, I heard a distinguished economist delivering a lecture to the Royal Statisticians Society in London. He said - “Unless the United States of America departs from her present policy in regard to debts and tariff, she will inevitably bring the whole economic Structure of the world down in ruin “.
– Schwab said the same thing.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Many eminent economists have said it. What is the use of saying that both protectionist and freetrade countries suffer during a depression ? Of course they do. The harm is done by the refusal of countries to trade with one another. Senator Kneebone suggested that faulty administration of the world’s currency was responsible for the depression. The “honorable senator is confusing effect with cause. The gold delegation of the League of Nations declared that there could be a perfect distribution of gold among all the countries of the world, and no permanent good Would be achieved unless provision was made for a reasonably free flow of people and goods between one country and another. Maldistribution of gold is an effect, not a cause. If a country, having lent a great deal of money in the shape of goods, says that it will not accept goods in payment of interest or principal, and will have nothing but gold, what can happen but a maldistribution of gold?
Senators Kneebone and Dunn said that notwithstanding England’s freetrade policy certain things had happened. But compare the size of Great Britain and its resources’ wi th this country, and remember that, iri spite of the difference, Great Britain has had a smaller percentage of unemployment than those two great protective countries - Germany and America.
– The honorable senator should, not forget the amount which Germany has had to pay in the form of reparations.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.And do not forget the amount which Great Britain has paid. In a book published a while ago a very shrewd observer made this remark : “ The payment of between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000 which England has to make to the United States of America will ensure peace on the continent of Europe for many generations”. Why? Because no two European countries can go to war with each other unless both can depend upon Great Britain to pay their expenses during the war and after. That is the position which . Great Britain has built up during more than a century of freetrade, and during that century she has done more to advance the standard of living of the people of the world than any other country.
I think it was Senator Duncan who said that Great Britain had adopted a policy of protection as she must have something with which to bargain; but I venture to say that when Mr. Thomas, Secretary of State for the Dominions, visits Australia, one of the first things he will suggest is that there can be no effective Imperial preferences until Australia is prepared to reduce its tariffs against British imports. The recent general election in the Old Country was not decided on the tariff issue. Similar results occurred in connexion with the municipal elections, which had nothing whatever to do with the tariff. The British electors revolted against a system which was undoubtedly bringing the country to ruin - the system of State socialism.
We hear a lot to the effect that wages must come down. That is always the jibe thrown at those opposed to an utterly uneconomic fiscal system. What has happened in Great Britain? There has been a revival of trade in that country, but that revival commenced long before a protective policy, such as that foreshadowed, had been brought into operation. The revival in trade has b(een caused by diminished sterling, and this also has resulted in a considerable reduction in wages. There could not be a revival of trade until the wages paid in Great Britain were comparable with those paid in the countries with which Great Britain has to compete. The reduction in Great Britain is equivalent to 20 per cent.
Some time ago it was suggested that the same thing should be done here, but the leaders of Labour were afraid to submit such an honest proposition to their supporters. They should have said, “If we reduce your wages and at the same time can reduce the cost of living, you will be no worse off”. But they were afraid. They said, “Let us increase the currency. Let us, by the issue of spurious money, bring down the value of the labourer’s wages. We can catch them on that”.
It has been suggested by some that those- opposed to extraordinary tariffs, such as this, wish all the people of this country to be hewers of wood and drawersof water. I do not know how they can have such extraordinary and fantastic ideas in their minds. Why should they say that those opposed to extravagant protection do not wish secondary industries to be built up in thiscountry? Senator Duncan, who is a citizen of New South Wales, should know that, prior to federation, the secondary industries in that State were built up under a freetrade policy in competition with those in Victoria operating under a protective policy. I remember reading some reams of stuff in which Victorians at that time claimed that they were doing better under a protective policy than were the manufacturers of New j South Wales under a policy of freetrade. The facts were that before the inception of federation Victoria had spent herself. She had exhausted the possibilities of her protective policy. It was only because her markets were widened by federation and the consequent application of the principle of freedom of trade throughout Australia, under which she was able to dispose of her manufactures, that she was able to continue.
What sense is there in charging persons opposed to high tariffs with being opponents of our secondary industries* Those opposed to high tariffs say that our secondary industries should be built up, but on a sound basis. They cannot be built up on a fictitious foundation which cannot endure.
We have heard- a great deal concerning the value of the products of manufacture. When an honorable senator was speaking of this, I said, by interjection, that . these values were inflated. - What I meant was this: On referring to the Bulletin of Production from which the honorable senator quoted, it will be seen that the value of the manufactured article -is the wholesale price at the warehouse. If we look through the tariff schedule now before the Senate, or obtain information from persons engaged in the industry concerned, it will be found- that in one case while the wholesale price of a certain article inEngland is 8s. a dozen, the price in Australia is 32s. a dozen. It is grossly extravagant to suggest that in. that case the real value is 32s., when, in fact, it is only 8s. I quote that as an exceptional instance. The disparity in prices in others may not be so great; but the value of Australian products is inflated in that way.
In referring to the effect of our tariff policy Senator Kneebone quoted the price of bread. According to a paragraph in this morning’s Canberra Times, the price in Canberra - wheat until recently was under 3s. a bushel - was fixed at 6½d. a 2-lb. loaf, and1s.1d. for a 4-lb. loaf. In Great Britain, wheat, which has to be carried a great distance, is sold at 4s. 9d. a bushel, but a 4-lb. loaf of bread is sold at 7d.
– The price of flour inNew South Wales is based on wheat at 4s. a bushel.
– I am speaking of the price of bread in . Canberra. If wheat were 4s. a bushel the price of a 4-lb. loaf of bread in Canberra would not be less than1s.1d. ; but in England, with wheat at 4s. 9d. a bushel, it would be 7d. for a loaf of the same weight.
We were also told that provision must be made for the army of children leaving school this year. Even in the years of our greatest prosperity we did not make provision for that, because our policy was unscientific. Although at the moment it may seem that organized labour favours a policy of high protection, a feeling of revolt against it is evident. Recently, I received a telegram from the secretary of the South Australian branch of the Australian Labour Party asking me to use my best endeavours to secure a reduction of the duty on a certain article. Fancy a telegram from that source, containing such a request, being sent to me ! There is, perhaps, an element of selfishness in the request, because it is urged that the duties will cause unemployment in other industries, but there is also the effect these high duties have on the cost of the homes of the workers. I refer to that telegram as evidence of the revolt in Labour circles, not against the policy of protection,but against the utterly stupid and unscientific procedure which has been adopted in connexion with tariffs.
– The honorable senator can refer to only one item in respect of which the Labour organization he mentioned has made any protest.
– That is not so. Before this debate is finished, I shall probably quote others. The policy which has boon pursued makes no provision for ourchildren, because it is an unscientific policy. After I had spoken in Sydney recently, a man came to me and said that, although he was not particularly interested in many of my statements, he agreed that in one respect, at least, the policy of high duties was doing incalculable harm. He said that as a doctor he regarded as an inhuman crime the way in which the cost of medicine and the appliances necessary for hospitals had increased under our tariff, because the burden fell principally on the poorer sections of the community.
– If the honorable senator were to examine his protest, he would find that the doctor was talking nonsense.-
– At a proper stage, I shall give other instances of a like nature. When the policy of protection was first introduced, it was claimed that it would enable us to establish in Australia, and place on a competitive basis, a number of secondary industries, which would be able, not only to compete in the home market with imported goods, but also to build up an export trade. That policy has been entirely abandoned. During this debate, not one honorable senator has contended that the policy of high duties will bring us one step nearer to the day when our manufacturing industries will be able to render some assistance to the primary industries in paying the interest on our public debt. The most that is claimed for these extraordinary duties is that they are essential to enable the industries con-, cerned to pay wages much higher than are possible in the industries which hare to bear the burden of the tariff. On a more suitable occasion, I propose to show how the worker is being fooled in this matter. I have come across instances in which the wholesale price of goods in Australia is at least three times as great as the wholesale price in London. I have taken out figures to show the percentage of the additional cost which wages represent. I have found that, in few instances, do wages represent more than 20 per cent, of the increased cost, _ Of every additional £1 added to the price of an article, the worker probably does not get more than 2s.
– The Tariff Board emphasizes that point in its report.
SenatorKneebone. - Under our fiscal policy, the worker is only paid what it costs him to live.
– Another claim previously advanced on behalf of high duties was that they would’ remove unemployment. That claim also has been abandoned.
– The most that is now claimed’ is that, had it not been for the high duties, unemployment would be worse than it is. I ask leave to continue myremarks at a later date.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Dooley) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday next, at. 3 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Dooley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.33]. - I should be glad If the Acting Leader of the Senate (Senator Dooley) would endeavour to obtain from New Zealand a number of reports of the select committee which inquired into the cost of oil and petrol in that dominion. The cost of these commodities is of great importance to Australia, and I imagine that the report to which I have referred will contain valuable information for our guidance. Although there have been inquiries by departmental officers into various phases of this subject, there has been no thorough inquiry into the position here. Money might be saved if we had before us the result of the New Zealand inquiry, for it might enable us to know whether the prices charged for petrol and oil in Australia are reasonable. In view of a recent misunderstanding, I desire to make it clear that I do not suggest that the Government should have copies of the report printed, but merely that application be made to the New Zealand Government for, say, 30 or 50 copies for the use of members of this Parliament.
– I shall endeavour to obtain from New Zealand a number of copies of the report to which the right honorable gentleman has referred.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 November 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1931/19311106_senate_12_132/>.