13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Post and Telegraph Act-Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1932. No. 121.
Superphosphate Industry - Report, dated 27th September, 1932, by the Development Branch of the Prime Minister’s Department.
Taxation of Bounty - Assistance to Growers.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice - 1.Isthebounty of41/2d. perbushel granted under the Wheat Bounty Act 1931 exempt from taxationas income, in view of the fact that it maybe regardedas a gift,and apparently anon-recurring gift, from the Commonwealth to the wheat-growers?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : - .
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
The reasons fur the form of assistance to the wheat-growing industry decided upon by the Government were fully set out in the Prime Minister’s statement of the l0th November, a copy of which was read by me in this chamber on the same date.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has furnished the following replies to the honorable senator’squestions : -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
If the present sales lax on dental material and equipment maybe regarded asa tax on theinfirmities of the people, will relief from same be included in the exemptions to be brought forward by the Government?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The following replyhas been furnished by the Prime Minister : -
It is not proposed, at the present juncture, to provide fur exemption from sales tax on dental materials and equipment. If such action were proposed, it would alsobe necessary to consider the position of materials and equipment used by doctors and opticians, as well as drugs and other ingredients of medicines.
Concerning StatutoryRules 1932, No. 96, amending the CommonwealthBankRegulations, Form H, Regulation 2D, under which the assets of the bank are expressed in “Gold and English sterling “, is it proposed to give the value of English sterling at -
purchase price; or
price at date of compiling balance- sheet ?
– The Treasurer has furnished the follo wing reply: -
This question has been referred to the Commonwealth Bank and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In viewofthe many highly paid officers employed by the Public Service Board, and the phenomenal growth of its organizations from a small unit, into what appears to be an excess of the original intention regarding it, will the Government arrange for the board’s activities to be investigated by an independent inspector, who will report upon the subject to Parliament?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
The salary expenditure of the Public Service Board for the year of its inception, 1923-24, was £36,517. For the past year, 1931-32, the actual salary expenditure was £28,509. The estimated salary expenditure for the current year is £28,104. The figures for the latter years include reductions under the Financial Emergency Acts. Adding the amount of these reductions for the purpose of effective comparison, the figures would be: -
It should be noted that the expenditure for 1931-32 and 1932-33 includes the salary of a Public Service Inspector, who has been entirely detached from the board’s organization for special duty on behalf of the Government. The stuff of the board at the present time is actually less than it was in the early years of its operation, and this, combined with the figures given above, is conclusive evidence that, instead of phenomenal growth of the board’s organization, the contrary is the case, particularly keeping in view that the demands upon the board in the exceptional present circumstances are probably more exacting than at any time, in its history. From the foregoing facts it is apparent that the position is not as indicated in the honorable senator’s question,and it is, therefore, not considered that any need exists for the suggested investigation.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has furnished the following replies to the honorable senator’s questions: -
” LANG PLAN “.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the main points of the “Lang plan” were as follow: -
Australia’s overseas indebtedness in the same manner as America dealt with Britain’s debt to her, no further payments of interest on overseas debts be made by Australia?
That the existing system of currency be altered from that of a nominal gold standard to a system more suited to modern conditions, preferably the goods standard?
– The Treasurer has furnished the following replies to the honorable senator’s questions: -
At the Premiers Conference held in February, 1931, Mr. Lang submitted the following proposals: -
Britain has dealt with the Australian overseas debt in the same manner as Britain settled her own foreign debt with America.
At a subsequent conference of Premiersheld in May, 1931, Mr. Lang agreed to the national rehabilitation plan known as the “ Premiers plan.”
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
In view of the large number ofcoal-rniners who have been unemployed in the State of Now South Wales during thelast three years, is it the intention of the Federal Government to assist them in any way. either by opening the Newnes shale oil fields, or setting up a factory for the extraction of oil fuels from coal by the same systems that were proved successful by part of Great Britain’s mercantile marine, viz., the Cunard Steamship Company ?
– The Commonwealth Government is at present giving consideration to means by which the Newnes shale oil field may be brought into productivity. The Government has recently obtained the services of Mr. L. J. Rogers, who wasattached to the British FuelResearch Station. Greenwich, for the purpose of advising upon matters connected with the. production of oil from shale and oil from coal.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice. -
Senator SIR GEORGE PEARCE.The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: - 1, 2, and 3. The ordinary loan programmes of the States, the special winter relief measures (of which £1,670,000 is being found by the Commonwealth Government) andthe further special allocation for unemployment, made at the Premiers Conference held in Sydney, provide for a total loan expenditure this year of £20,730,000, of which only £3,280,000 had been expended during the first four months. The balance remaining will permit the States to spend money more freely, and, if necessary, provide specially for the Christmas period. In these circumstances the Commonwealth Government does not propose to providea further £1,000,000, as suggested, for Christinas relief.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
In view of the great distress owing to unemployment in the ranks of the shipbuilding trades employees on the Sydney waterfront, will the Government set aside the sum of £10,000 for the purpose of renovating the Government Workshops at Cockatoo Island and Garden Island?
– The sum of £10,000 has already been provided on the Estimates of the current year for repairs to plant and buildings at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. In addition, an amount of £40,000 has been provided for the maintenance of the dockyard on a nucleus basis. Adequate provision has also been made for maintenance of services at Garden Island.
Order of the day - Resumption of debate from the 28th of September (vide page 786), on motion by Senator Greene -
That the paper bo printed- -called on and discharged.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
[3.13]. - I move-
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill from being passed through all its stages without delay.
My object in submitting this motion is to enable the Senate to proceed forthwith with the debate on the Ottawa agreement. I think that honorable senators will agree that we are all so well aware of the principles underlying that agreement that in this instance there is no need to follow the ordinary procedure of moving the first reading on one day, and the second reading on the following day. We should be able to proceed with the debate forthwith. The Government has no desire to curtail debate or in any way to interfere with the rights of honorable senators. I ask- the Seriate to agree to the motion.
– Did I understand the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) to say that it is not the intention of the Government to curtail the debate on the first reading of this bill ?
– The first reading of the bill is formal.
– I have in mind the remarks of the Minister in connexion with the time occupied in debating the first reading of the Appropriation Bill which was passed by this chamber some days ago. I should like a definite assurance from the Minister that in the discussion of this important measure there will be no attempt to curtail the debate or to interfere in any way with the rights of honorable senators. If the Minister will give that assurance Senator Rae and I will not have any objection to offer.
SenatorMacDONALD (Queensland) [3.16]. - I support Senator Dunn in his objection to any curtailment of the debate on this important bill, particularly in view of the attitude adopted by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) yesterday and also in connexion with the debate on the first reading of the Appropriation Bill when the Minister suggested the necessity of amending the Standing Orders in order to prevent honorable senators from discussing matters not strictly relevant to the bill. It appears that if the Senate is to be treated in the future as it has been in the past we shall soon be asked to carry on our parliamentary duties by correspondence. That would certainly make things easier for the Government, yet. that is exactly what, we may expect if we are to be guided by the attitude adopted by the Leader of the Government who apparently objects to a free discussion. If it were not for the activity displayed by honorable senators on this side and a few honorable senators opposite the chamber would die of inanition. We should be allowed a reasonable amount of latitude in debating this important measure.
Question put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill read a first time.
[3.24].- I move-
That thebillbe now read a second time.
The measure seeks the approval of Parliament of the agreement entered into recently between the United Kingdom and Australia at the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa. At the outset of my remarks I should like to pay a tribute to my colleagues at that gathering, the Right Honorable S. M. Bruce and Mr. Gullett, for the splendid work which they did on behalf of Australia, as well as to my former ministerial colleague, Mr. Hawker, for the valuable work done by him in preparation for the conference. The Government also is deeply appreciative of the assistance rendered by departmental officials - those who did the preparatory work in Australia, and those who attended the Commonwealth representatives at the conference. I should mention, too, the very valuable assistance given by the various consultants, and I wish to express, on behalf of the Government, our deep regret that, since his return to Australia, Mr. S. McKay, who rendered signal service to the Commonwealth, has passed away.
The purpose of the conference was to review the question of preferential trade within the Empire, and to endeavour to establish it on a sound reciprocal basis. The broad outlines of the manner in which that great task was handled at the conference, and of the measure and nature of the various tentative agreements which were made, are familiar to honorable senators.
I would preface my remarks by stating that the conference directed its energies to the raising of price levels for the great export commodities of the dominions and colonies which depend, in the main, upon the United Kingdom for their market. It, should hardly be necessary for me to dwell upon the importance of the British market to dominion primary producers. Suffice it to say that without that great market the Empire itself could not have been built up to its present strength, and the loss of that market would bring the Empire to ruin. To Australia this bas particular application, for while it is true that only 30 per cent, of our wool, and normally under 30 per cent, of our wheat, exports go to Great Britain, outside those two great staple commodities we depend very largely indeed upon the British market for the sale of our export products. For example, in 1930-31 Great Britain took 90 per cent, of our butter exports, 76 per cent, of our meat, 75 per cent, of all fruits, and 95 per cent, of our wine exports.
The question of preferential trade between the dominions as apart from Great Britain, and between the dominions and the colonies, was not neglected, but was regarded as of secondary importance. The great task confronting the delegates was to enlarge, as speedily as possible, the volume of reciprocal trade between the people of the United Kingdom and the people of each of the dominions. It was realized that if that task could be carried to a successful conclusion the conference would have made a great contribution to the early restoration of Empire prosperity, and the re-employment of British peoples in all quarters of the world.
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to know, Mr. President, if the right honorable the Leader of the Senate is in order in reading his speech ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.On that point, I would remind honorable senators that as it is necessary for me to deal with a mass of figures and statistics, I am obliged to quote extensively from notes. In the circumstances, I ask the indulgence of the Senate to be allowed to continue to do so.
– The practice of the Senate, hitherto, has been, when speeches dealing with important matters are being made, to allow the Minister in charge of a bill to quote extensively from his. notes. I, therefore, rule that the Minister is in order.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I shall now refer to the requests made by Great Britain for changes in the Commonwealth tariff, and the response of the Government thereto. These requests were of two kinds: some were for reductions in the British preferential tariff levels, and others for a widening of existing preferences. The policy of the Government. is definitely against changes in protective tariff items without reference to, and consideration by, the Tariff Board. It thus denies to itself the right arbitrarily to raise or lower protective tariff levels. This policy, declared at the general elections in December last, has been closely observed. But what of the policy for Ottawa? Was the Government to have one policy for the domestic Australian consideration, and another for Ottawa? Would the Government, through its delegation, in response to the British requests for reduced duties in her favour, proceed to a special ministerial revision independently of the Tariff Board? After careful deliberation, the Government decided that the policy declared at the elections, and since acted upon in tariff resolutions now before Parliament, must prevail at Ottawa. There can be no question, I submit, as to the wisdom of this decision.
Mention must here be made of ibc British request for extensions of existing preferences. After an unsatisfactory attempt to deal with the tariff item by item, it was decided to adopt a slidingscale formula for general application, subject to exceptions both ways. That formula, as finally accepted, is as follows : -British preferential duty, free to 19 per cent. - margin of preference, 15 per cent. ; British preferential duty, 19 per cent, to 29 per cent. - margin of preference, 17-1 per cent. ; British preferential duty, 30 per cent, and upwards - margin of preference at least 20 per cent., provided that in no case shall this margin be applied so as to result in a rate of duty exceeding 75 per cent, ad valorem.
It was important from Britain’s point of view to provide a stronger preferential position for goods of the kind now freely entering the Commonwealth, even under depression conditions. These goods are mainly of an indispensable kind, not manufactured in Australia, and they enter either free or at revenue rates of duty. It was over this field that Britain could, if her preferential position was strengthened, confidently look for an immediate expansion of trade. Some idea of the importance of this trade can be gained from a perusal of our import statistics. In 1929-30 the value of imports admitted free of duty from the United Kingdom waa £29,000,000, which figure represents 54 per cent. of the total importations from that country. During the same year, goods worth £41,000,000 were admitted from the United Kingdom at rates of duty of 35 per cent, or less. It can be said, therefore, that 76 per cent, of our imports from that country is admitted at rates which even to-day enable British manufacturers to compete in our markets. By granting wider margins of preference over this field of imports, the United Kingdom will be in a position, under norma] trading conditions, to attack a further £15,000,000 worth of our import trade; that is to say, £15,000,000 worth of our imports that now come from countries outside the British Empire.
A feature of exceptional interest to Australia in the agreement is that if we review the whole of the concessions made to all of the dominions and colonies, it will be found that the benefits obtained for the Commonwealth exceed in range those gained by any other dominion. Measured by exports to Britain, Australia is favoured by natural conditions, which give extraordinary diversity to her rural industry and production, and so it comes about that if the benefits of Ottawa are real and permanent, as I believe they will be proved to be, the people of this country will enjoy more than an average share of them. With very few exceptions of minor importance, every Australian primary industry, great and small, is a beneficiary.
I propose now to set out the concessions granted by Britain in favour of Australian primary production, to endeavour to indicate their value in general terms, and to touch upon some of the problems and difficulties which we had to overcome during at least part of the conference. In the case of meat Australia’s original request was for a series of preferential duties on beef, mutton, lamb and pig meat, together with some restriction of foreign imports into the United Kingdom. It-will assist in the consideration of the British market for meat if I give a few figures showing the imports of the different classes of meat into the United Kingdom. The following figures are in thousands of tons : -
The feature of the market up to and including 1930 was the stability of the total imports and the total consumption. Between 1926 and 1930, beef consumption declined by 9 per cent., and that of mutton and lamb increased by 10 per cent., while the total consumption of all these meats declined by 1 per cent. The importation of pig meats was on the increase, but so far had not disorganized the market for other meats, the prices of which, though reduced, were still at a payable level. However, in 1931, owing to the increased severity of the depression, and a substantial increase in the imports of all classes of meat, the market was demoralized, and prices receded to pre-war levels, and even lower. The figures which I have quoted show that beef imports in 1931 increased slightly over those of 1930, but that they were still lower than in the years from 1926 to 192S. Beef, therefore, was not a factor in causing “the price decline. The increase .in mutton and lamb imports in 1931 over 1930 was 11 per cent. With the decreased spending power of -the British people, this increase in supply, which came from New Zealand, Australia and South America, was sufficient to cause some decline in prices, but not to the disastrous extent to which they did fall. For the principal supply factor we must look to pig meats, the imports of which were 93,000 tons, or 16 per cent, greater in 1931 than in 1930, reaching the colossal figure of 639,000 tons.
The collapse in prices commenced with bacon. Diminishing returns for dairy products, and especially for butter, the very low price of feeding grains, the rapidity with which pigs can be bred for the expansion of the industry, and the successive total or partial closing of European markets by tariff action, caused one European dairying country after another to fling huge quantities of pig meats, and especially bacon, on to the British market. The effect of this was to close two-thirds of the British baconcuring factories, and to break prices for all pig products. Canada, which in 1926 had exported 43,000 tons of bacon to the United Kingdom, sent only 2,000 tons in 1931. All non-European competitors were forced off the market, and the top price of Danish bacon, which forms the bulk of the supply, dropped from 112s. per cwt. in January 1930, to 70s. at the end of that year, and by December, 1931, to 4Ss. - the lowest price of the present century. The fall in prices of other meats followed that of bacon. Australian lamb, the top price of which never averaged less than 8d. per lb. in the years 1916-30, had dropped to 5£d. by February, 1932, while later in the year it was as low as 4-^d. Australian mutton, the top price of which, in the years 1916-1930, was seldom below 5d. per lb., fell to 2-Jd. per lb. while the conference was sitting at Ottawa.
– Less than the cost of sending it overseas.
– Yes. The whole of this price was absorbed in killing, shipping, and marketing expenses; in fact, the sale of sheep for export had entirely ceased, and the only carcasses going forward were stock from cold storage. Australian frozen beef, which sold in 1930 at from 4d. to 6d. per lb., dropped to 2i-d. for forequarters, and 3-Jd. for hindquarters. No wonder home and dominion meat producers have been faced with ruin !
The dominions asked for preferential duties on frozen beef, mutton, lamb and pig meats, together with quantitative restrictions upon all meats, including chilled beef. The British delegation, in a general, although not explicit, reply to the Australian delegation’s requests as a whole, expressed its wish to improve the British market for- home and dominion mutton and lamb by a scheme of progressive quantitative restrictions against foreign imports, and to expedite a similar scheme already in hand for the improvement of the market for pig meats in the interests of the British farmer. Mr. Chamberlain, who in all the later decisive negotiations acted as the British spokesman, added, however, that the delegation did not consider that a case had been made out for a preference on beef.
To a late stage in the prolonged discussions, the delegation continued to press for duties on mutton and lamb, together with restrictions upon the importation of all foreign meat. .The British delegation, however, could not be brought to agree that duties were necessary if quantitative restrictions were imposed, and the request for the actual tariff preferences was abandoned, and attention was given to the matter of restrictions.
The final settlement was as follows: -
The restriction of 35 per cent., operating from the 1st April, 1934, will reduce the annual imports of foreign mutton and lamb by 34,000 tons, and of frozen beef by approximately 10,000 tons, a total of 44,000 tons.
The Commonwealth Government, on its part, undertakes -
The position with regard to the marketing of Australian meat in the United Kingdom has altered slightly since the conclusion of these negotiations. As honorable senators are aware, the wholesale prices of all classes of meat have declined to ruinous levels during the present year. It was the recognition of that fact that made possible the preferential arrangement reached at Ottawa. But the restrictions upon foreign beef, mutton, and lamb do not commence until the 1st January next, and the plan for the regulation of bacon imports has not yet had time to operate. Since the Ottawa Con.ference the market has become progressively worse, and a continuance of the prices obtaining to-day would bring ruin to producers. In the following table the prices of beef, mutton, and lamb in the
United Kingdom market in June, 1932, are compared with the present prices: -
A return to the prices of June, 1932, in two or three weeks’ time, would be a very rapid improvement, considering the present condition of the market, and would pave the way for still further improvement in the future.
The Commonwealth Government has been in consultation with the British Government, and is collaborating with it iii an effort to improve the present serious position. The British Government has taken the matter in hand, and has made arrangements for the following restrictions on shipments of meat from foreign countries during the months of November and December of this year, compared with the quantities shipped in the same months of last year: - Mutton and lamb, 20 per cent.; Chilled beef, 10 per cent., to be increased to 20 per cent, if, within the next two or three weeks, meat prices do not rise to the level of June, 1932 ; bacon, 20 per cent. In consideration of the British Government introducing these restrictions upon imports of foreign meal - which are in advance of those provided by the Ottawa agreement - the Commonwealth Government has agreed that Australian shipments of mutton and lamb during November and December of this year shall not exceed 90 per cent, of the shipments during the corresponding months df 1931. The Commonwealth Government believes that the limitation of supplies to reach the United Kingdom during the next few months is essential if the existing stocks are to be cleared, ar-d the glut terminated. It is certain that its collaboration with the British Government in the manner I have indicated is in the best interests of Australian meat producers.
I shall now indicate what is involved in the decision that has been made. In the quarter July to September, 1931,
Australia shipped to the United Kingdom 23;500 tons of mutton and lamb, v.hile in the corresponding quarter of this vear the quantity shipped was 15,750 tons, a reduction of 33 per cent., due, unfortunately, to the unpayable price level. Shipments in the last quarter of 1931 were - October, 15,000 tons; November, 11,000 tons: December, 7,200 tons. The 10 per -cent, reduction agreed upon for November and December, 1932, will mean that shipments shall not exceed 16,380 tons, coinspared with 18,200 tons in the corresponding months of last year.
The indications are that the volume of exports in the next two months, without restriction, would be much more than 10 per cent, below the figures for November and December, 1931. The Commonwealth Government will collaborate with producers and meat exporters in carrying out the arrangement that has been made.
I come now to the question of wheat. In the six years 1925-26 to 1930-31, the dominions as a whole averaged an annual export of 330,000,000 bushels of wheat, while in the same years the average import into the United Kingdom was 198,000,000 bushels; so that, had the United Kingdom imported only Empire wheat there would still have been an annual surplus of 132,000,000 bushels to be sold at parity in foreign markets. Obviously, therefore, no British preferential scheme would increase the Australian parity. Britain could not be expected to subscribe to a preferential scheme under which her working people paid more for bread made from Australian wheat than foreign peoples, or we in Australia paid.
The British Government suggested a quota scheme, which would ensure to us a substantial share of the British market at world parity price. That scheme was discussed by the Ottawa Cabinet subcom.mittee with representatives of every section of the Australian wheat industry, including the co-operative marketing bodies, and the unanimous view was unfavorable to it. Very few of these representatives believed that even a preferential duty would be of benefit to the Australian wheat-grower. It was, therefore, decided to co-operate with Canada in an endeavour to induce the British Government to devise means to reserve to dominions’ wheat as large a place as possible in the market of the United Kingdom, with safeguards against unfair marketing practices by any foreign country. Obviously the disastrous breaking of the world price level by dumping from Russia in 1930 was kept in mind. On our side the undertaking was given that under any arrangement made wheat for the dominions would be sold at Liverpool at world parity prices. This proposal was agreed to ; it is expressed in the agreement by a duty of 2s. a quarter, or 3d. a “bushel, against all foreign wheat, with free entry for the product of the dominions.
Under the Import Duties Act, flour for the dominions enjoyed a temporary advantage of 10 per cent, against flour of foreign origin. That preference now stands in the agreement for a term of five years. No increase was obtainable; but in view of the fear that the temporary duty of 10 per cent, against the foreign miller would, in the interest of United Kingdom millers, be applied to the dominions also, the Australian delegation was satisfied with the outcome. Milling is highly efficient in the Commonwealth, and the preference should prove useful.
The duty on barley also remains at 10 per cent., although at one stage in the negotiations we had hopes of either 15 per cent, or 6d. a bushel. A duty of 10 per cent, is equal to 4d. a bushel on a depressed market, but like all the ad valorem duties, it will become more valuable as prices improve.
The importance of the dairying industry to Australia needs no emphasis. It is already of first-class magnitude, and no other branch of farming offers such easy opportunities for swift expansion. General concentration upon improved breeding and feeding could, probably within a decade, make Australia the world’s largest exporter of dairy products. But during the last twelve months, the price of Australian butter in Britain has fluctuated from slightly below to slightlyabove 100s. per cwt. - the lowest level for a number of years - and Australian dairy-farmers have been finding it difficult to carry on at a profit. The British Government was requested to grant both a duty and a quantitative restriction in our favour in respect of butter. The prevailing temporary duty was 10 per cent., ad valorem, equal to about Id. per lb. The original tentative request was for a preference of lid. per lb., and a restriction, but finding that New Zealand was asking for 2d., it was agreed to work on the same level. The British delegation, however, was opposed to the employment of both a duty and a restriction against foreign supplies, and, consequently, the temporary duty of 10 per cent, was increased to 15s. per <:vt., which is equal to a little more than 1-Jd. per lb.
Britain imports annually some 26,000,000 great hundreds of eggs, of which Australia is now supplying 1,000,000 great hundreds. The new preference of from ls. to ls. 9d. a* great hundred, according to weight, or about 10 per cent, of the London wholesale price, will prove a very useful contribution to the cost of marketing, and should enable the Australian industry to show a further profitable expansion. The Australian egg is of average weight, and will be favoured by a duty of about ls. 6d. a great hundred.
Australia’s 20,000 fruit and vine growers, spread over all the States, have reason”, I think, to look upon the Ottawa agreement with satisfaction. The new and additional preferences gained should not only benefit the orchardists and vignerons,, but also give a measure of financial relief to the various governments which have ventured large sums of money in irrigation works and in laying the foundation of new settlements.
Australian apples, which have an export value of £1,250,000 per annum, have had their preference advanced from 10 per cent, ad valorem to 4s. 6d. per cwt. The delegation was also associated with Canada and New Zealand in a request for some restriction of foreign imports, upon a somewhat complicated seasonal basis. This was refused by the British delegation - it is thought on solid grounds. Australian apples and pears, with the produce of New Zealand orchardists, enjoy almost a monopoly of the British market through the early and midsummer months. They meet competition, however, early, in the season from apples from the United States of America, which are carried over in cold storage, and again from the new American crop in September. The duty of 4s. 6d. a cwt. against foreign supplies will bo of particular value in extending our selling season under favorable price conditions. Australian pears are to enjoy a preference of 4s. 6d. per cwt., and oranges, a preference of 3s. 6d. per cwt.
The only additional advantage obtained for Australian wines was the increase in the preference from ls. to 2s. upon the light classes. This, however, should prove definitely helpful to wine-maker3. It has to be remembered that Australia already enjoys an extraordinarily strong preferential position in the British market. The spirit content upon dominion wines pays less import or excise tax in the United Kingdom than does any other class of alcohol, with the exception of the British so-called “ wines “ expressed from imported grape must. No further concession upon brandy was obtained.
The sugar position was not changed at Ottawa.
In the interests of Australian hardwoods, the delegation joined with Canada in the request for preference for timbers. It was considered that our hardwood poles and materials for harbour construction should find free sale in the United Kingdom, but hitherto they had not been included in the specifications issued by public construction authorities. Harewood will, under the agreement, receive a preference of 10 per cent., and the British delegation undertook to bring about the desired amendment of specifications. Other primary products which will obtain an advantage from the agreement are leather, honey, copra, eucalyptus oil, wattlebark and asbestos.
The magnitude, and the extraordinarily . high efficiency of the base metal industry in Australia spurred the delegation to every effort for at least the retention of the 10 per cent, preferences upon lead, zinc and copper. None of the new temporary preferences had been subjected to more attacks by both foreign producing interests and the British fabricators than those upon these base metals. Australia is more substantially interested in lead and zinc than in copper; but in association with Canada and Southern Rhodesia, her claims in regard to these three metals were urged upon the British delegation. In view of the fact that the fall in the price of metals, taking pre-war levels as a guide, has been heavier even than the fall in the prices of pastoral and agricultural produce, it was unfortunate that the Australian interests clashed so definitely with that of the British industrialists using our products as raw material. When our delegation urged that the Australian mines might have to cease operations, with consequent heavy unemployment in four States, the British delegation very naturally replied that, unless their manufacturers obtained raw material as cheaply as their foreign rivals, heavy losses and unemployment would certainly ensue in the United Kingdom. Our delegates had to be content with the retention of the 10 per cent, preference on lead and zinc, and a prohibitive duty of 2d. per lb. on un wrought copper, conditioned with the provision that the dominion metals, on first sale in the United Kingdom, must be offered at prices not exceeding those ruling in foreign competitive countries. This at least secures, as in the case of wheat, the great British market at world’s parity prices, and representatives of the dominion interests concerned who were at Ottawa, agreed that very little more could be expected.
The various benefits which were won for the Australian primary producer at the conference have been set out. I turu now to the reciprocal concessions which it is proposed should be made to Britain by the Government of the Commonwealth. In this consideration the first step must be to endeavour to estimate the value of the prevailing Australian preferences to British imports under normal tariff levels, and under normal trading conditions. What represents a normal Australian tariff level was not easy to determine, but I venture the view that the protective tariff as it was in 1929, before the changes made in November of that year - speaking broadly, of course, and having regard to the cost of production - was reasonably satisfactory. Innumerable attempts have been made to assess the actual annual money value of Australia’s preferences to British goods - the estimates have varied from £3,000,000 to £10,000,000. It is true that, with the recent abnormally high tariff levels, and with exchange and primage added, very many preferences have ceased to serve British interests. But, if one takes, say, the 21-year period from 1907 - when Australian preferences were first put into effect - to 1927, and compares Britain’s relative trade position with Australia, and with other important countries, excepting only New Zealand at the beginning’ and end of the term, the value of the preferences becomes striking and incontrovertible. I venture a few figures -
Britain maintained and developed her position in the Australian market compared with other markets during the 21 years ended 1927, which were marked by an extraordinary development of Australian manufacturing. Some sections of the market were, of course, restricted by this local development, but with the increase in our production and the Strengthening of the market generally, due to this swift rise of industrial Australia, the general opportunity for British goods continued to expand. With the single exception of India, Australia had been for some years prior to the depression, Britain’s best overseas market. In the consideration of the concessions to be made by Australia, account must be taken of prevailing preferences and all that we have for many years been doing for British trade and would do again with a return to prosperity. It may be found that some of the other dominions made more new concessions to Britain at Ottawa than were granted by Australia. If so, the simple explanation is that Australia had already carried preferences so far that her capacity for new favours was relatively limited.
The British delegation accepted the decision of the Commonwealth Government that amendments of protective duties should be made through the Tariff Board, and that the Australian delegation was not in a position at Ottawa to engage in arbitrary alterations. That cleared the field for the consideration of Britain’s requests for extended margins of preference, and for special adjustments upon commodities not produced in Australia, and subject only to revenue duties. As negotiations proceeded the tentative Differential formula was made somewhat more attractive by increasing the minimum margin from 12J per cent, to 15 per cent. As adopted, it is as follows: - British preferential duty, up to 19’ per cent.; margin of preference, 15 per cent; British preferential duty, above 19 per cent, and up to 29 per cent..; margin of preference, 17-J per cent.; British p referential duty, 30 per cent, and over; margin of preference, 20 per cent.
Next, Australia made the concession that the formula should, subject, to exceptions, apply not only to the list of goods originally submitted by the British Government, but also to the whole Australian schedule. The exceptions, which are of special interest, were made in conformity with principles to which I am confident honorable senators generally will subscribe. Talcing, first, those made in Britain’s favour; in a number of important cases we carried the minimum preference up to 20 per cent., with the deliberate intention of endeavouring to give to Britain either an important expansion of trade, or new trade, where it was clear that her manufacturers had the capacity to supply our market. Typewriters may be taken as a good example. The old duty was, British preferential, free; foreign 10 per cent.; and the main supply came from the United States of America. Under the agreement tho. new duties are British preferential, free; foreign, 20 per cent.
Then, on certain specific items where Australian industry was not concerned, preferential adjustments were made in both the British preferential and the foreign rates of duty. Unfortunately, revenue considerations did not permit of a lowering of British preferential rates of duty on more than a few nonprotective items, but that may be possible at no distant date.
Turning to tho exceptions in favour of Australia, these were made on obvious grounds, which on the whole were appreciated by the British delegation. If the application of the formula would have increased foreign rates of duty, we did not apply it in cases where already Britain enjoyed practically the whole of tho Australian trade, or again in cases where Britain was not in a position to make a reasonable bid for the Australian market. Increased duties in such cases would not benefit Britain, while they would be needlessly provocative against foreign interests, and would increase prices to Australian consumers. In a few cases the preferential margin was not carried up to the standard of the formula because the commodities represented vital raw material for Australian industry or were indispensable in Australian primary production. The important consideration of foreign interests was also responsible for a number of exceptions. The
Governments of the United Kingdom and of the dominions are completely within their rights in framing their tariffs upon an Empire preferential basis; but, in building up our agreements, as much consideration as possible was shown to the interests of foreign trade. In accordance with this attitude, it was agreed that in certain cases where the prevailing preference was below the formula level no increase should be made, and that in certain other cases, where the preference was considerably above the formula, some reduction -in the margin might be made. As an additional advantage to Britain, the Australian delegation undertook that all existing by-laws issued under the Customs Tariff should be reviewed with a view to including in the tariff many Important groups of goods at present admitted under by-law. Under present conditions goods admitted under by-law can be made dutiable at the discretion of the Minister, .whereas if goods are specifically listed in the tariff a change in duty can be effected only by action in Parliament after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board. Honorable senators will appreciate the greater feeling of security under which British manufacturers will trade in these goods when the change indicated has been made. I need scarcely point out that the new minimum British preference of 15 per cent, in the field of by-law admissions was the most valuable additional Australian concession made at Ottawa. A further undertaking entered into was that the Commonwealth Government would search - both through the Tariff Board and the customs administration - for protected fields in industry which are not at present being exploited by Australian manufacturers, and by the refining and reclassification of the tariff schedule make these preferentially available to British industry. Another obligation entered into is that a survey shall be made into the deferred-duty policy. In the 1921 tariff a number of deferred duties were included in the hope that the manufacture of many important commodities would be undertaken in Australia. Some of these duties have since been imposed, but many others have been deferred from time to time, and are still inoperative. Very little investigation has been made into the question as to whether the establishment of any of these particular industries would be economically justified, or whether the deferred rates were excessive or inadequate. The United Kingdom delegation was advised that the Commonwealth Government would delete from the tariff all deferred duties which have no immediate significance to Australian industry.
I now call attention to those articles of the agreement which bear definitely upon the Australian policy of protection by tariff. These are articles 9, 10, 11 and 12, and in’ these the Government of the Commonwealth undertakes -
Article 9. - That protection by tariff shall be afforded only to those industries which are reasonably secured of sound opportunities for success.
Article 10.- That the tariff shall be based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative cost of economical and efficient production. ,
Article 11. - That as soon as practicable existing protective duties shall be reviewed by the Tariff Board in accordance with the principles laid down in article 10, and that, where necessary, parliamentary action will follow such review; and
Article 12- That no protective duty shall be imposed, and no existing duty shall be increased, on United Kingdom goods to an amount in excess of the recommendation of the Tariff Board.
It is admitted that article 12, which pledges the Government to confine increased duties or new duties against British goods to levels not in excess of the Tariff Board’s recommendations, appears to break new ground. In reality it does not, but is merely consequential upon the Prime Minister’s declared policy prior to the December elections that, if returned to power, his Government would not decrease duties without first referring them to the Tariff Board. That assurance was given in the interests of the manufacturers of .Australia. This assurance in article 12 is given in the interests of the primary producers of Australia, who are the immediate beneficiaries under the Ottawa agreement, of which that article is an indispensable condition.
As regards the dominions and colonies, advantage for Australian exports in the markets of the United Kingdom was necessarily the main objective of the delegation. It was strongly hoped that time and opportunity would have been found for the making of both improved and new trading agreements with the dominions and the Crown colonies. But the magnitude of the major negotiation with the British delegation, and particularly the prolonged discussions upon the meat problem, made it impracticable to give to trade with the dominions the full time and industry necessary to complete the chain of new or improved agreements throughout the Empire. With slight exceptions, however, a tentative agreement was concluded with the Crown colonies as a whole. Under the agreement between Australia and the Crown colonies, we receive no les3 than 42 new and increased preferences. These apply in the main to flour, frozen and canned meat, bacon and hams, fresh, dried and canned fruits, butter, condensed and powdered milk, wine and brandy, and foodstuff manufactures such as biscuits, confectionery and jams. Beyond question, one of the restraining influences upon trade between the Commonwealth and the colonies and many other countries has been the absence of direct shipping, communications. Consideration was given to this problem, and the Government will continue to prosecute it. While at Ottawa, tentative arrangements were made for the line of steamers which now trades between Australia and the North Atlantic coast to call six times a year at St. John, in New Brunswick, and also, we hope, at the Bahamas, in the West Indies. This should reduce the cost of transport to a considerable market in eastern Canada, and will give us direct contact with the West Indies, where, -with the assistance of the new preferences, our trade prospects become distinctly bright.
If the agreement is endorsed, Fiji should also offer sound opportunities for increased Australian exports. Honorable senators will recall that our trading position there has weakened in recent years, because of the fact that, although Australian imports were given some preference over some foreign goods, they were, in many instances, dutiable at a rate higher than the products of the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Canada. This discrimination is removed under the agreement, and Australia is to receive most-favoured-nation treatment. Of Fiji’s total imports valued at £1,220,000 in 1930, Australia contributed no less than £450,000 worth, and with the improved preference progress should be substantial. Failure to reach an agreement with Fiji at Ottawa would have lost us the partial preference we now enjoy, and the valuable existing trade would have been placed in danger.
Malaya, however, promises perhaps the best colonial field for an expansion of Australian trade. In 1929-30, our exports to British Malaya were valued at £1,400,000, and with the valuable concession with regard to brandy and a number of other increased preferences, notably upon butter, the market there should’ be one worth vigorous exploitation by our exporting interests. Broadly speaking, we grant to . the colonies on specified commodities the same margins of preference that apply in the formula adopted for the United Kingdom consideration, but, in addition, the agreement provides for a few special concessions. Beginning with the West Indies, it is proposed to provide a preferential margin of 5s. per gallon on rum and bitters. As far as rum is concerned, that still leaves a protective margin of 6s. a gallon for Australian rum. For many years, that margin was only 3s., and there is not, I think, the least danger to local industry in the change. Bitters is not produced in Australia. The island of Trinidad is a heavy producer of asphalt. At present, asphalt is admitted to Aistralia free of duty. A duty of 10 per cent, is proposed upon the foreign product and upon substitutes, with free entry from Trinidad. Most of our imports are DOW drawn from Mexico and the United States of America, where they are derived from the residue of mineral oils, arid it is anticipated that the competition will- continue to prevent a tangible increase in the Australian selling price. In return for the really rich brandy preference and other concessions from Malaya, the Australian delegation undertook to raise no objection if Canada reduced the duty of 8 cents a pound against Malayan pineapples to 1 cent. At present, under the Canadian-Australian treaty, Australian pineapple is dutiable at 1 cent, Malayan at 3 cents, and foreign at 5 cents. The remaining preferences proposed to be given to the colonies by the Commonwealth present no exceptional features, and, generally speaking, apply to commodities not produced in Australia.
This agreement marks, I venture to think, the initiation of a policy of reciprocal preferential trading which will at once begin to contribute to the dissipation of the depression which broods over the British Empire in common with the rest of the world. Its beneficial effects will be progressive and cumulative. In its present form it will prove a strong and growing instrument ever working for increased production, employment, and prosperity throughout the lands which make up the Empire. Moreover, it is an instrument which in the hands of sympathetic and co-operative governments will surely bc from time to time expanded and improved. This, indeed, can be claimed for the agreement between the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom and the colonies. It carries with it tangible aids and benefits to all sorts and conditions of the peoples of the contracting countries, and will not injure or prejudice any one.
The agreement will benefit all sorts and conditions of people, and it will make stronger both the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom in a collective sense. That which makes Australia stronger iri a general sense and in a general way adds to the strength of Britain must commend itself to the Senate and to the Australian people. The Australia delegation, with the full support of the Commonwealth Government, aimed at something nearer and more tangible than a general benefit either to Australia or to the United Kingdom. From the beginning of the preparations for the Ottawa conference until the proceedings closed, the
Government, through its delegates, worked for benefits for our primary producers. The agreement proclaims in the first place the inherent right of the country people of Australia, and their industries, to economic consideration from this Parliament equal to those of the city people and secondary industries. It also recognizes the desperate plight of all who are engaged in primary industries at present, and their imperative claims to assistance and relief. It is an acknowledgment, too, of the plain, unchallengeable truth that, had it not been for the magnificent fortitude and industry of our fanners and pastoralists and their unprecedented production and export during these years of adversity, there must have been a total collapse of our whole financial and industrial structure, with a calamitous further increase of unemployment, and the money would not have been.available either for its relief or for the maintenance of our social services. I submit the bill to approve the agreement and express the hope that it will have a speedy passage through the Senate.
.- On behalf of those honorable senators on this side of the chamber with whom I am associated, I join with the right honorable the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) in tendering sympathy to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) in his illness, and express the hope that he will speedily recover. As it would be almost impossible for me or any other honorable senator to follow in detail the mass of information that has been given by the Minister in moving the second reading of the bill, I shall content myself with a general discussion of the measure and of its probable effect upon Australia. The. subject of inter-empire trade has, for many months, been discussed in deliberative assemblies, on public platforms, and through the press and has been generally buffeted hither and thither. The supporters of the Government contend that the Ottawa agreement will be of such tremendous benefit to the people of Australia that it should be embraced with open arms. It is reasonable to assume that the peoples of the component parts of the Empire should have ideas much in common, and that in matters of trade they should be pre- pared to offer concessions to one another for the benefit of all, rather than study the subject from the viewpoint of their own particular interests. In this instance, however, I am afraid that, as usual, Australia has been too generous, and that its representatives at the Ottawa Conference have been out-generalled by the delegates with whom they conferred. Australia’s representatives on a delegation of this character, even if they are bigoted protectionists, should have given a definite and deliberate idea of what .is in the minds of the Australian people. As is well known, our representatives at that conference are nothing of the kind. While I have nothing against them personally - both of them are pronounced freetraders– -
– That is an absurd statement to make.
– Well, that is my opinion, at all events. If the honorable senator thinks otherwise, he will have an opportunity to refute it. The history of the political life of both gentlemen who represented Australia at Ottawa shows conclusively that they are out-and-out freetraders. In the circumstances it is not surprising that this Government should be getting a good deal of kudos for the concessions which, it is claimed, have been secured for Australia, because these flattering comments come from people of the same political faith as that of our delegates to the’ Ottawa Conference. The bulk of them are confirmed freetraders.
Everybody knows that before the accession to office of the Scullin Government, Australia had been, for years, showing an adverse balance in her trading account. We were importing goods largely in excess of the value of our exports, and were continually borrowing money in Great Britain to make good the deficit in trade. This policy was continued for so long, and to such an extent, that when the Scullin Government was returned to power Australia was on the verge of insolvency. Consequently, drastic action had to be taken by the Scullin Administration to check the drift in trade, and, as is well known, it succeeded in putting Australia on a fairly even keel.
The Ottawa, Conference resolutions will do a great deal of harm to the industries of this country. Prior to the holding of the conference the Government, acting under instructions from somebody outside, broke down the tariff wall which had been erected by the Scullin Administration, with the result that the trade balance is now heavily against Australia, and within a year or two, probably, we shall be back to the unfavorable position which we occupied in 1929. Like the Gadarene swine, we are, in trade matters, rushing over the precipice to destruction.
Let u3 examine the agreement and see to what extent Australia is bound by the Ottawa resolutions. Article 5 reads -
The duties provided in this agreement on foreign wheat’ in grain, copper, lead and zinc on importation into the United Kingdom are conditional in each case on Empire producers of wheat in grain, copper, lead and zinc respectively continuing to offer those commodities on first sale in the United Kingdom at prices not exceeding tho world price.
This means that, as we have to market our products at world prices, we are getting no preference in the British market.
– Yes, we are.
– Article 9 provides -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that protection by tariffs shall be afforded only to those industries which are reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success.
That is to say, the Commonwealth Parliament will not be allowed to extend protection to any industry that is not assured of success. And who will be the judge as to whether any industry is likely to succeed ? Hitherto, the judge has been the person who could see a market for a certain product which he decided to produce, and to back his opinion was prepared to invest his capital in the enterprise, and take all the risks. Apparently, under article 9 some other authority will assess the potential value of an industry and its chances of success, and, if the view taken is unfavorable to the industry in question, it will not be given protection by this Parliament. Article 10 also should be noted. It reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that during the currency of this agreement the tariff shall be based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative cost of economical and efficient production, provided that in the application of such principle special consideration may be given to the case of industries not fully established.
This means that, in the case of industries not fully established, the Commonwealth Parliament will not have the right to extend to them special tariff protection which, in not a few instances, may ensure their successful development. It is said that great concessions have been obtained for the woollen textile industry. I do not share that view. A brief review of the British textile industry will, no doubt, be of interest to honorable senators. As is well known, Great Britain has always had a high reputation for the production of good quality wool due, in a large measure, to the favorable climatic conditions, and to steady improvement in the breeding of sheep. But Britain was not always a manufacturer of wool. For a considerable period, English wool was exported to Flanders where it was manufactured into cloth and returned for sale in England. It was not until about the sixteenth century that the British people realized the foolishness of growing the wool and sending it over to Flanders to be manufactured into the finished article, and subsequently returned for sale. Being convinced that her workmen were the equal of operatives on the continent, England put an end to the export, of the raw material, and commenced the manufacture of her own product with the result that the British textile industry now deservedly enjoys a high reputation among the manufacturing industries of the world.
– Great Britain did not impose prohibitive duties against European competitors. She won through to success without the assistance of high protection.
– The British textile industry has been brought to its present stage of perfection simply because Britain decided to put an end to the foolish policy of sending wool elsewhere to be manufactured into the finished article. In this country, we take the same’ view of the woollen industry, and believe that, if given reasonable encouragement, it will provide a great deal of employment for our people. On this point I quote the following from an article dealing with the textile industry, which appeared in the Melbourne Age on the 15th inst. : -
Mr.F. W. Hughes, vice-president of the Chamber of Manufactures ofNew South Wales, made a statement to-day in regard to the present trend of fiscal policy, the recent alterations of duties on yarn and textile products, and the possible effects of implementing the Ottawa agreement. Besides being a manufacturer, Mr. Hughes is a farmer and grazier, depasturing 500.000 sheep. He has about 1,500 people in his employ at the present time, and is also a large exporter of meat, wool, leather and other products.
Mr. Hughes said that, heeding the urgent entreaties to provide employment, textile manufacturers extended their works under the illusion that an industry so natural to Australia would always receive ample protection. That illusion has been rudely shattered by the recent reduction of about 40 per cent, in the duties on yarns, and about 30 per cent, on woollen textiles. Plans for further extensions must now he abandoned, together with any hope of increasing employment in the industry.
This, I remind the Senate, is the opinion of a man who may be regarded as one of our wool kings, and a captain of industry. He tells us that the Ottawa agreement will cripple the woollen textile industry ofthis country; and that manufacturers who were induced to invest money in this particular business by the protective policy of the Scullin Government will be put out of business, with the result that hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Australians will be thrown out of work.
– The agreement will do nothing of the kind.
– I happen to be a shareholder in a small way in the Geelong Returned Sailors and SoldiersWoollen and Worsted Co-operative Manufacturing Company, and receive regularly the annual report dealing with the operations of thatconcern. Its last report, issued on the 31st October, contains the following comments: -
Whilst the industry generally has been busy, it must be recognized that it is only the volume of production that is keeping it on a Sound basis. We therefore view with, very grant alarm the results of the recent tariff revision, knowing full well that any curtailment in production will surely swing the costs of manufacturing against us. and immediately place the whole industry in a precarious position.
With the measure of protection granted the industry, we were able tn turn out many classes of material which previously had been imported, but with the impending tariff revision, we are afraid the business which we have been building up so successfully will be imperilled. We must count the cost of tariff reductions in terms of unknown orders which would in the ordinary course of events have been placed with Australian manufacturers had tariff changes not made it possible for these orders to he diverted overseas.
That mill has been in operation for many years, and it has been steadily extending the scope of its operations. It has been a financial success, for it has paid its way and has managed to furnish its shareholders with a small dividend. The directors have declared in their report that the success of the industry is threatened because of the way in which the present Government is tinkering with the tariff. This woollen mill and others are placing upon the market of Australia, a natural product of this country, woven Ivy Australian workmen, and to he worn by Australian men and women. The suit that I am now wearing is a product of the Geelong mill, and I venture to say that material of better quality could not be obtained. If it was in Britain’s interests to establish her own woollen industry, because she grew the necessary raw material, it is ten times more important that Australia, which has the raw material at the doors of its woollen factories, should make evey endeavour to keep those factories going at top speed. Not only would this provide employment for our own people; instead of sending our wool to overseas markets, we should be able to export the manufactured cloth.
Article 11 of the agreement states -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonmonwealth of Australia undertake that a review shall be made as soon as practicable by the Australian Tariff Board of existing protective duties in accordance with the principles laid down in article 10 hereof, and that after the receipt of tho report and recommendation of the Tariff Board, the Commonwealth Parliament shall be invited to vary, wherever necessary, the tariff on goods of
United Kingdom origin in such manner as to give effect to such principles.
For at least 25 years Australia has been loyal to the heart of the Empire to the extent that we have given preference with respect to 90 per cent, of the goods that we import from Great Britain and the other dominions. In return we have received a preference of only 12 per cent, on the goods that we have exported to various parts of the Empire. Therefore, Britain has been amply compensated for the preference that Australia has received. Article 12 is the gem of the Ottawa agreement. It reads as follows -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that no new protective duty shall be imposed and no existing duty shall be increased on United Kingdom goods to an amount in excess of the recommendation of the tariff tribunal.
The Leader of this Government, which was elected upon a programme of promises, claims that his party made certain promises with regard to the Ottawa conference. On the return of the United Australia Party to power, it appointed certain persons as members of the Tariff Board; but those persons have never been called upon to face the electors. They are appointed ostensibly, and quite properly, to make specific inquiries into matters that the Parliament cannot conveniently investigate for itself. The board reports its findings to the Parliament, but that should be the end of its work. Parliament has responsibilities to the people. It must examine the reports and recommendations of the board, and make decisions upon them. The Tariff Board is an irresponsible body ; but under this agreement it will usurp the powers of the Parliament itself, and determine the tariff policy of Australia. The revenue from customs and excise forms a formidable part of the national income. If finance is government, and government is finance, we should not hand over to an irresponsible body like the Tariff Board the fate of half the revenue of the Commonwealth. What is the use of having a government at all, if Ave are to let the Tariff Board govern this country? The present Ministry proposes to allow the heritage of Australians to be handed over to a board that is not responsible to the people, and can shut its eyes to parliamentary, and all other criticism. It seems tragic that a recommendation of this nature should be made to Parliament.
– Is it constitutional?
– I am not a constitutional lawyer, but I contend that it is particularly unwise to shift responsibility from the appointed representatives of the people and place it upon the shoulders of an irresponsible body. It is like giving an irresponsible child the management of the domestic circle. This measure will have a far-reaching effect on the industries of Australia. * Time and again, the representatives of various bodies interested in manufactures have told the Parliament that it cannot hope to build up the industries of this country unless a certain measure of protection is afforded. Surely the people of Australia have other ambitions than to be mere hewers of wood and drawers, of water for others ! We have industries that must be built up in order to provide employment for our own people; but we cannot succeed in doing so if we depend upon the people of other countries to supply our requirements. We have already about 400,000 men out of work, and the number is steadily increasing. Thousands of boys and girls, with scholastic qualifications to fit them for various kinds of employment, are emerging from the schools, but no work can bo found for them. We have not a chance of offering even their fathers and mothers a job. Under this agreement we are helping other countries to provide employment for their people in the manufacture of goods to be exported to Australia, and thus we are keeping our own people out of work. The policy of the Bruce-Page Government was one of encouraging imports to such an extent that unemployment increased alarmingly and Australia was brought to the verge of national bankruptcy. The only way to get out of this mess is to put our people back in employment. We shall never make progress while we have half the population tramping the roads and begging bread from their neighbours.
– Similar conditions obtain in the United States of America, but for an opposite reason.
– The position is much worse in New Zealand than in Australia.
– I do not claim that Australia is the only country in the world where these conditions are experienced ; but the troubles ‘ elsewhere have largely been brought about because of mistakes similar to those made in Australia under Nationalist governments. .
– What about the United States of America?
– That country already has 10,000,000 men on the tramp. What is the cause of that?
– High tariffs.
– I have never claimed that high tariffs are a panacea for all our ills. No country can be permanently successful if, as the result of its legislation, huge sums are accumulated by a few private individuals, while hordes of men and women have to tramp the roads and starve. The whole system is wrong, and eventually it must crumble to pieces. The masses of the people will be forced by circumstances to look for salvation in directions to which they have not been in the habit of turning their eyes. But they will be disappointed if they accept the conditions that have been imposed by capitalistic governments in all countries. During the last war the best arid the youthful were killed ; but was the world made any better on that account? All that Australia derived from the war was 60,000 dead men, o huge public debt, and unparalleled unemployment. The party to which I belong favours the adoption of a policy under which the welfare of the people will be the nation’s first concern. If I could be led to believe that this agreement will help Great Britain, and at the same time give to Australia the benefits that are claimed for it by the Government, I should support it wholeheartedly. But I am firmly convinced that it will do nothing of the kind; that, on the contrary, it will open up markets for Great Britain in Australia and add <to our unemployed army.
.- The holding of the Ottawa Conference arid the agreement that we are now discussing, remind us that the stage is set for what may well prove to be a momentous political drama in the long history of the British Empire. I adopt the words of the late Mr. Alfred Deakin - For my part, I cannot dissociate the welfare and prosperity of this Empire as a whole, from the welfare and prosperity of each of its parts. To me they are indissolubly bound together.
I was very glad to hear the emphasis laid by Senator Pearce on the importance to Australia of markets, particularly the market in Great Britain. That is a point which I fear the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) entirely overlooks in his consideration of this great question and in his anxiety to advance the welfare of the working men in Australia. ‘I do not think that he has delved deeply enough to realize that out of this Ottawa agreement, and the principle which it establishes, will arise opportunities for the employment of the people of Australia such as they have never had before. I maintain, and will continue to do so, that one of the principal aims of governments to-day should be to extend and fortify trade. For the benefit of at least one honorable senator of the Opposition, may I say that our ship of freedom is moored to the British Empire. Politically we are independent, but economically we are not. We are dependent upon other countries for our markets and the capital necessary to develop our resources. Increasingly is that so in the case of the United Kingdom. Anything that interferes with the economic prosperity of Great Britain interferes with the prosperity of Australia. Senator Pearce, unfortunately, did not give the whole of the details that are in his possession in connexion with the meat industry. Later I shall summarize those details in a way that I believe will make them readily understood by the majority of honorable senators.
The right honorable gentleman referred to wheat. I was a little disappointed at the reported statement by some members of the Government prior to the Ottawa negotiations, that Australia did not want preference in regard to wheat, and did not expect it in regard to meat. Whether that was a correct report I cannot say, because I was not in Australia at the time; but it was accepted throughout the United Kingdom by those who were closely studying the question.
I come now to Senator Barnes, the genial Leader of the Opposition. I feel that, had he listened attentively to the speech of the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce), he would not have expressed some of the views that he did. The honorable senator referred to the case of boys and girls who are leaving school to-day. The problem in their case is not one that has developed within the last six months. Surely he must have been conscious of its existence during at least the last two-thirds of his period as a Minister of the Crown ! I agree with him that it is a terrible thing that boys and girls leaving school should not be able to find employment. Is there any quicker way of destroying civilization than our present method ‘of bringing up our young people with nothing to do ? I have not yet discovered it. But where I differ from the honorable senator is in believing that this agreement is the only constructive proposal on the horizon advanced for the absorption, not only of the boys and girls who are leaving school, but also of the working men who to-day are out of employment.
The honorable senator also asserted that Australia ought to have sent bigoted protectionists to Ottawa. Apparently he does not realize that the policy evolved at Ottawa is wholly one of the protection of British people and British industries throughout the world against the studied dumping methods of foreign countries. It furnishes opportunities for the employment of the workers, and the encouragement of enterprise by the investment of capital. It embodies the principle that led to the establishment of the Commonwealth - the obtaining of a wider market for the products of Australia.
The honorable senator spoke of the disadvantages of the system under which we live to-day. Apparently he had in mind the form of government under which Russia is carrying on at the present time. I am prepared to agree with him that there is no .unemployment in Russia. But I remind him that it is non-existent there for the same reason that it is not to be found in Pentridge, Melbourne’s penal establishment. He also referred to the way in which financiers had become interested in the woollen industry. 1 point out to him that they did so because they felt that the Australian people intended to develop the natural resources of their country along commonsense lines. They have been disappointed in that belief, not as a result of any of the factors associated with this agreement, but because irresponsible persons have at different times obtained control of ‘the Government in either the Federal or the State sphere, and have enacted industrial legislation that has made it impossible for them to extend their industry and provide greater employment for our workers. There will be no relief from the present unemployed position unless we can place greater purchasing power in the hands of the mass of the people.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !
– I am glad to have the support of honorable senators, particularly in the ease of Senator Collings, [f he will carefully study this question, and the general economic position, not only in Australia, but also throughout the world, he will find that the policy represented by Ottawa is the only one which, if full advantage be taken of it by Australia, will place the necessary purchasing power in the hands of the people and give even industrialists an opportunity to create the employment that we all so much desire. It was really refreshing to hear Senator Collings say the other day that he recognized that the future of this country depends upon the development of our natural resources; that the very foundation of our prosperity lies in their development. I was hopeful of him when he expressed those views, but regret to state that subsequently I was compelled to discount the high opinion I had formed of his general outlook. If he will realize that a higher standard of living cannot be maintained merely by the redistribution of the accumulated savings of the past and will teach that doctrine to his following, very little difficulty will be experienced in obtaining a unanimous vote on this measure at the conclusion of the debate upon it. I remind him and his friends that the well-being of a country depends upon the continuous production of new wealth from the soil, and that the Ottawa, agreement affords for the creation and distribution of that wealth, an opportunity which cannot exist without a close unity between the different sections of the British Empire. If Senator Collings is able to persuade his colleagues to follow the lines that he laid down the other day, they will be prepared to support the agreement. That its acceptance by honorable senators who sit on the Government benches is assured, is evident from the following resolution which was passed on the 15th October, 1931: -
This meeting of the majority of the Senate affirms its intention to endeavour to obtain amendments to the tariff schedule by a reduction of excessive duties and by such a further reduction of the duties against British imports as will foster Empire trade, and lead to the adoption by Great Britain, Australia, and the other dominions, of effective reciprocal trade agreements benefiting every unit of the Empire.
I regret that, our delegates to Ottawa did not approach more closely to that principle. Contrary to the view expressed by the Leader of the Opposition, .that we have given a great deal to Great Britain, I feel that we have not gone far enough. The Ottawa agreement shows that, compared with the advantages that we have obtained in the way of preferential trade, we have given practically nothing.
– It is England which, has given nothing.
- Senator Hoare informed us yesterday that he is a travelled man; ‘that he has visited New Guinea. It is a pity that he has not. read descriptions of the conditions that existed in the Old Country during the last century. In order that greater opportunities may be enjoyed by every part of the British Empire, the working mau of England is willing to pay a higher price for his meat, bread, and other necessariesof life.
– The British; workers have not been asked whether they will or not.
– I refer Senator Collings to the election that was held in England on the 27th October, 1931, at whieh this definite issue was placed before the people. Recognizing the need for developing the resources of the British Empire, and having in mind the workless in their own country and also in Australia, they, by their votes, signified their willingness to pay a higher price for their foodstuffs. If there is any consistency in honorable senators of the Opposition they must vote with the Government in favour of this agreement.
I go a little further in connexion with the importance of the primary industries to Australia and its people. Agricultural industries are the fundamental wealth producers in any country. Agriculture is Australia’s greatest industry, and there can be no prosperity in our industrial centres unless our agricultural community is prosperous and possessed of greater purchasing power. From the beginning of civilization as we know it, production from the soil has been the first and the most important industry in any thriving community; and it will always be so. Every process of logic, and all historical facts, prove that the wealth of a nation, the character of its people, the nature, and permanence of its institutions, depend upon a sound and sufficient agricultural foundation.
– Does the honorable senator judge a nation’s greatness by the extent of its poverty.
– I should not like to judge it by those of its representatives in Parliament who do not consider the general economic position, or the natural resources of their country, and do all that they can to block its development.
– Why support an agreement which limits the Australian production of meat?
– I shall come to the subject of meat later, and I hope then not to overlook the honorable senator’s interjection. Thinking people are beginning to realize that artificial and expensive methods of relieving unemployment aggravate, rather than solve, the problem. They are beginning to realize also that security of tenure in employment can be given to the workers only by developing the natural resources of a country. This agreement will give Australia an opportunity to do that. Australia’s solvency depends upon profitable primary production. Our great secondary industries are dependent upon stabilizedprimary industries. If our primary producers go down, as they will if they cannot produce at a profit, Australia will fall with them, for they are Australia. That position is borne out by the official figures for the decade 1920-1930. During that period our primary production was valued, at £2,767,000,000, and these industries exported products to the value of £1,283,500,000, or more than the present total national debt of this country. This figure is only slightly less than the total production of Australian secondary industries, which, during that period, was valued at £1,372,500,000. In spite of these facts, it is the voice of the cities that is heard above all others. Victoria presents to the world a notable example of the damning effect of the policy of centralization ; nearly 57 per cent, of the population of that State is concentrated in Melbourne. The population of London is only 11 per cent, of that of England, and the population of Rome only21/4 per cent, of that of Italy. The result of this centralization is that there is unemployment in those artificial industries which have been established without the sound foundation of a primary industry.
Coming now to the actual conference, there are so many points with which T could deal, and the interjections of honorable senators on my right are so tempting, that I must be careful, or T shall not say all that I desire. I consider that the Government made a grave error of judgment in not sending the leaders of the delegation to London prior to their going to Ottawa. The Government should have known that the public discussions which take place at such conferences are more or less in the nature of window-dressing, and that most of the genuinely constructive work is done in unofficial and more or less private talks over the luncheon or dinner tableprior to the actual public sessions. When the delegates - official and unofficial - returned from Ottawa, the opinion was expressed freely that the decisions arrived at by the conference would not interfere either with Australian secondary industries, or with the trade of other countries. Such a negative policy will not get this country anywhere. It is only an acknowledgment of weakness. Secure markets are essential to Australia, and they can only be obtained within the British Empire. Senator Bae is right when he tells us that the gates of the world are slammed in our face and that the tariff walls erected by other countries are so high that it is impossible for our products to surmount them. If I were a free trader in the United Kingdom, I should go whole-heartedly for a policy of Empire trade. Already the agreements entered into at Ottawa have had the effect of bringing other nations to Britain with offers of concessions. We have already seen signs of trade flowing more freely throughout the world. Germany, France and the United States of America have approached the heart of the British Empire for concessions along the lines of, but not equal to, those granted to the British dominions.
– A desirable means to a desirable end.
– From the honorable senator’s interjection, I judge that he is a free trader. , I am not.
– That is how I interpret the honorable senator’s remarks.
– The policy adopted at Ottawa will tend to make the nations adopt a sensible fiscal policy.
– We agree with the honorable senator.
– The quickest way to do that is for the component parts of the British Empire to get together and follow the example of France and the United States of America in developing the economic resources of the Empire.
– They only come together to spring confidence tricks on one another.
– The only rational tariff for a free trader is no tariff at all.
– When will Australians awaken to a sense of their responsibility for the development of this country’s resources so that employment may be found for our people? The United Kingdom is the greatest market in the world for products such as we in Australia and other portions of the Empire produce. Every day the United Kingdom imports foodstuffs to the value of £1,100,000. Her importations of food, drink and tobacco - all of which could be supplied by the dominions - average £548,092,000 per annum. That represents £10,000,000 a week, or £1,000 a minute. Can honorable senators visualize the possibilities of that market, if the people of Australia will take advantage of the opportunities presented to them by the concessions obtained at Ottawa and face the situation with a determination to win through, working as well as talking? We want trade, not politics.
– We want Britain to trade with Australia, not with the Argentine.
– I agree with the honorable senator, and would inform him that the movement begun at Ottawa will tend towards diverting to Australia, Canada, . and other portions of the Empire, trade which now flows in the direction of the Argentine.
– There is too much British capital invested in the Argentine for that to happen.
– At the end of 1930, British capital to the extent of £435,000,000 was invested in the Argentine. Of that sum £271,000,000 was represented by railways and tramways, £59,000,000 by government securities, and £105,000,000 by miscellaneous undertakings. To-day, they represent a value of. less than £200,000,000. During the last eleven years the adverse commodity trade balance of the Argentine against the United Kingdom amounted to £436,000,000 - more than the total British capital invested in that country. I am quoting official figures supplied by the British Government.
– What amount of interest is derived from the Argentine?
– In normal times, the amount of invisible exports from the United Kingdom to the Argentine - representing interest, insurance, and other such revenues - approximated not more than £20,000,000 per annum. Now, when things are bad, the sum is much less.
– What about the influence of Vestey’s?
– I admit that Vestey’s wield a powerful influence. I have with me the confidential message -which Vestey’s sent to the House of Commons when I was in England :recently. In that message, Vestey’s endeavoured to persuade the House of Commons, and, through it, the people of England, that it would not be in the interests of Britain to give preference in respect of meat and other commodities to Australia and other sections of thu “Empire. Vestey’s are cleverer than we were. “Had our delegates adopted a more liberal attitude, and shown a willingness to give as well as to take; had they gone reflecting the spirit of the resolution carried by a majority of the Senate on the 13th October last, they would have returned with even a duty on beef. The quota granted in respect of frozen meat will get Australia nowhere. The Argentine need not send a single carcass of frozen meat to the United Kingdom. For some time the meat interests there have deliberately shipped a quantity of frozen meat ea*ch year to the United Kingdom, and in the 4,000 or 5,000 shops which the firm mentioned has in England, it was labelled “ second grade,” and sold cheaper than the chilled. That campaign has had a marked effect on the demand for Australian meat. Until the British farmer is given the first right to cater for the British home market, the agricultural resources of the United Kingdom will not be strengthened, and only by strengthening the United Kingdom can we strengthen Australia, or give the dominions the opportunity they desire. Until something in that direction is done, we shall not establish our meat industry in Australia on a sound footing. We must force the people who control the meat business in the United Kingdom to look to British and dominion sources for their supplies; and that cannot be done by any quota system, particularly when it applies only to frozen meat. It can be done only by the imposition of a duty on meat entering the United Kingdom. The people of England must be trained to look, first, to their own producers, and secondly, to Australia and the dominions for their supplies of meat. And we, in Australia, must see that Australia’s opportunity is not damned by the limited outlook of some honorable senators, as expressed in interjections which they have made here to-day. The following statement, covering only a few of our commodities, shows the extent of the British market and the opportunities before us: -
And so the list could be continued. We in Australia do not realize the wonderful opportunity presented to us in the British’ market ; or, it may be, that we are relying too much on governments to find markets.
– Will not all the dominions share the British market?
– I have here a table which shows the extent of the trade of the United Kingdom with Australia and other countries. It indicates the wonderful opportunities which the United Kingdom market offers to us if only we will grasp them. We must, however, study the market for ourselves, and no be eclipsed, as we now are, by our sister dominion of New Zealand. The table is as follows : -
To show how we are neglecting our opportunities, I shall quote a few items. In 1930, Britain bought on an average 3,000,000 cwt. of cheese of which Australia supplied only 15,494 cwt. for which we received £3 13s. per cwt. New Zealand supplied 1,960,901 cwt. for which she received £4 per cwt. In the matter of butter, Denmark supplied 2,318,535 cwt. at £7. 7s. per cwt., Australia 950,582 cwt. for which we received an. average of £6 6s. per cwt., and New Zealand 1,564^,436 cwt. at £6 18s. per cwt. In frozen pork during the same year, Australia supplied 22,620 cwt. at £3 lis. per cwt., and New Zealand 136,945 cwt. at £3 19s. 5d. per cwt. Of mutton and lamb, New Zealand supplied £10,934,279 worth, Argentine £4.115,507, and Australia £2,487,542. Of sweetened condensed milk, New Zealand supplied 9,046 cwt. at £2 lis. per cwt., and Australia did not supply any-. In the matter of canned and bottled fruits, pulp and jam, New Zealand supplied £2,671,733, and Australia £460,917 worth. Of milk powder, Australia supplied 5,696 cwt. at £2 ls. per cwt., and New Zealand 87,415 cwt. at £3 10s. per cwt. Is it not possible for us, as legislators, to realize our responsibilities, and to bring home to all sections of the people of Australia the tremendous opportunities there are awaiting us to develop the resources that we were created to develop? To show honorable senators the opportunities that are available, I shall mention a little incident which occurred during my recent visit to Great Britain. An Australian merchant visited a large distributing house in London and offered 35,000 cases of Australian preserved fruits. These people said that they dealt only in bulk supplies, and that a consignment of 35,000 cases was altogether too small for them to consider. It would only be sufficient to enable them to deliver six cases to each of their branches. They would only talk business if the seller could offer 150,000 or 200,000 cases, for then only could they develop the market for the Australian product and feature it.
– Why could not Australia supply the whole of the quantity required ?
– Apparently, because of the lack of development such as I mentioned in connexion with the woollen industry. It has been said that Australia should be sane in its legislation, and develop its great natural resources on proper and sound lines; but, as has been mentioned, irresponsible people have been in control of the governments of Australia, enacting legislation which makes it impossible for industries of this kind to be fully developed.
– The honorable senator appears to be “ leg-i’roned “ to British interests.
– I am surprised that the honorable senator and those with whom he is associated, who speak so frequently of the unemployment in this country, should take such a narrow view of this important problem. I think of the workers; I am of working people. Unless we realize our responsibilities, and take a broader view, the problem of unemployment in Australia will never be solved. In the debate on the motion for the printing of the report of the delegation to Ottawa, Senator O’Halloran referred to a certain aspect of the meat industry. For his information, I should like to give a few particulars in addition to those mentioned by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce). In 1931 the importations of pig meat into Great Britain from Denmark were 1,221,000 cwt. greater than in 1930. In the matter of chilled meat, the importations in 1931 were 203,555 cwt. greater than in 1930; of frozen beef. Great Britain imported 206,000 cwt. more in 1931 than in 1930: and of mutton and lamb in 1931, 732,000 cwt. more than in 1930. That, perhaps, explains the glut that exists in Great Britain to-day. In that connexion, it is interesting to mention in passing, that the cool storageorganization in the United Kingdom is owned and controlled by those great interests which, to-day, are developing the meat resources of the Argentine republic. Of the meat grown in the United Kingdom, the consumption is 1,405,000 tons, or 45 per cent, of the total consumption. Imports from the dominions represent only 325,000 tons, or 11 per cent., and foreign imports 1,250.000 tons, or 42 per cent. The consumption peT 10 lb. of meat consumed in England is made up by beef 5 lb., mutton and lamb 2 lb., and pig products 3 lb. Most of the pig products come from Denmark, which is in an advantageous position compared with Australia. It isbecause of that opposition that we should take advantage of the benefits obtained for us by our delegates at the Ottawa Conference.
I can give a simple illustration to show the benefit of British preference to Australian trade. Mildura is one of the most prosperous centres in Australia to-day, and it has obtained its prosperity merely through the preferences secured in the British markets, with the result that many of the fruit-growers, who four years ago were ready to leave their blocks, have now paid off their mortgages and are showing credit balances. That is a simple illustration of how prosperity has been brought about in a district which, a few years ago, appeared to be in a hopeless position. Honorable senators should demonstrate to every one the possibilities that confront us if we only take advantage of the opportunities now presented. We dare not let this opportunity go by. Time is short; the need is apparent to all who have studied this question. It is not enough to raise the voice; it must be heard; it must have in it the ring of bitter determination. Unless we adopt this policy of economic security we cannot bring prosperity to our agricultural industries and to our other industries. It is for us to help our governments introduce the policy that can give us economic salvation. Regardless of party, let us concentrate on the policy in which we believe. Therein lies economic security; also employment for our people.
We stand to-day at one of the great turning points in history. In this connexion it is for us to remember that the most important thing to-day is not the depth of our troubles and difficulties, but the height, of our opportunities. Let the British peoples teach the world those lessons of economic friendship so difficult to learn by wise measures of interdependenee, co-operation and reciprocal trade. If the British peoples fail to cooperate in this great task, the other nations of the world will not make the attempt. If the British peoples succeed in getting together, then, sooner or later, the other nations will follow, and, more magnificent than even Pitt could foresee, the British peoples will save themselves by their exertions and the world by their example. I feel that whatever the result of the Ottawa Conference may be we should look upon it only as the first step along the road of prosperity, not only for Australia, but also for the Mother Country, and that in doing so the Empire will give a lead to the whole world.
– At the outset I desire to say that I resent the aspersions of Senator Elliott concerning honorable senators on this side of the chamber whom he charged with being irresponsible. We contend that we are as good Australians and as anxious to protect the interests of this country as are other honorable senators. But we honestly and sincerely believe that the agreement reached at Ottawa will not have the benefits which its sponsors anticipate. From the way in which this subject has been discussed, particularly during the last few days in another place, the word “ Ottawa “ will take the place of that other blessed word “ Mesopotamia “ of which Gladstone and Disraeli spoke some years ago. We contend that the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett), and all those who assisted them at the Ottawa Conference were high-minded men actuated by the best of motives, but in referring to history we find that the inquisitors who were prepared to send their victims to perdition in order to save their immortal souls were also actuated by the best of motives. Our so-called statesmen would send us to economic perdition for the good of our national souls. Their intentions, whatever they may have been, do not prove the truth of their theories. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber believe in reciprocal Empire trade, but at the same time we cannot support an agreement which abrogates our parliamentary powers for the sake of a mess of pottage to the extent of £2,500,000 worth of extra trade from. Great Britain. I was in Canada some years ago when an election was being held, and in which I stood as a Labour candidate. I secured only a few votes, although I offered much. The tory candidate offered cheap cantaloupes and the Liberal representative offered a breakwater, whereas I offered the whole of Canada, notwithstanding which I finished at the bottom of the poll, which goes to show that politicians should not offer too much. In the matter of reciprocal trade the then Prime Minister of Canada, Sir Wilfred Laurier, came before the Canadian people with a proposal for reciprocal trade between Canada and America. There was a danger at that time of Canada being absorbed by the United States of America. Sir Wilfred Laurier came before the people with a reciprocal trade agreement which had” to be ratified by the Canadian Parliament. The Conservatives opposed it, rightly so, I suppose, but it was pointed out during the campaign which Sir Wilfred Laurier lost, that America was rapidly gaining control in Canada, and that nearly onethird of the amount of capital invested in that dominion was owned and controlled by American capitalists. That was over twenty years ago, and during the years which followed the American capitalists have made such headway in Canada that, according to the latest figures available, instead of controlling one-third of the capital invested in Canada they now control two-thirds of it. This suggests that despite the natural desire of the peoples of the Empire to come together in trade matters, there are fundamental difficulties which no amount of sentiment can completely overcome. So it is with Australia. In this country we are passing through a certain phase of development, economically and industrially; and notwithstanding the strong economic faith and undoubted sentiment of Senator Elliott and those who think with him, this Parliament and this chamber in particular must take cognizance of hard facts and legislate accordingly. We cannot afford to be in the air all the time, and talk at large about the bonds of Empire. We have to recognize and deal with plain economic facts in a commonsense and practical manner. I agree that the repercussions from the Ottawa Conference will be felt in every part of the Empire, and, indeed, in other countries also. Certainly the agreement made at that gathering is the greatest step ever taken by the people of any country to wards the fuller development of reciprocal trade relations. And because of the supreme importance of the resolutions adopted at Ottawa we contend that the fullest consideration should have been given to the problem of trade reciprocity in all its aspects before our representatives left this country to attend thai gathering. Unfortunately, the delegation received no instructions prior to their departure. The various captains of industry of this country were unaware of the probable trend of the negotiations. Having been given carte blanche, our delegates entered into an agreement which will, possibly, be to the detriment of Australian industries. But it is of no use to cry over spilt milk. The agreement has been made, and there is not the slightest doubt that it will be ratified by this Parliament. Already it has been endorsed by another place, and the majority in this chamber will, of course, be behind the Government. We on this side believe that the various interests involved should have been given an opportunity to express an opinion with regard to the agreement before it was brought before this Parliament for ratification. In another place the leader of the party to which I belong endeavoured to have this bill referred to a select committee, but it was forced through the House last night. Of course, it is possible that honorable senators who support the agreement may have truth on their side, but whether or not it will benefit Australia, time only will tell. It would have been far better if the political rulers of this country had sought a mutual agreement with Great Britain with regard to specific items of production. Having in mind the evolutionary development of Australia, such an arrangement would have been to the advantage of both countries.
In my opinion, our primary industries will not benefit greatly from the Ottawa resolutions. I am afraid their interest; were not fully safeguarded by our delegates.
Let us consider first the position of the wool industry. If it were possible for our representatives at Ottawa to reach an agreement with the representatives of other parts of the Empire as to wheat, meat, metals, pine-apples, bananas and a number of other commodities, surely it was possible also to make some workable arrangement for the stabilization of wool prices.
– A considerable proportion of our wool is sold in foreign countries.
– I am aware of that. Full information on this point was given by Mr. Davidson, the general manager of the Bank of New South Wales, in tho last monthly journal issued by that institution, and it will be fresh in the minds of honorable senators that his references to the Ottawa resolutions raised the ire of our good friend the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) in another place the other night. Although Great Britain docs not take the bulk of our wool, I fc?l convinced that if the intelligent political organization of this country - I refer now to the Government - had fully appreciated the difficult position of our wool-growers, it could, through its representatives at Ottawa, have made an agreement for tho stabilization of wool prices at a level not below the cost of production. Every one knows that values have declined to such an extent that our income from wool is now many millions of pounds below the level of a few years ago. [Quorum formed.] A few days ago, Professor Brigden, the adviser to the Queensland Bureau of Statistics and Economics, in an addendum to the report presented to the Government by the Wool Inquiry Committee, said -
Thu advantages of a stable price for wool do not need emphasis. Not only the growers, but also the buyers and the whole of the trade would benefit by stability. The greatest menace to wool prices at all times is the fear of the buyers that if they buy wool at a certain price to-day, their competitors may get it cheaper to-morrow, next month, or in three months’ time. Instability is tho bughear of the trade, and the risks of changing prices have to bo paid for. Eventually they have to be paid for by the wool producers. It is obvious enough that the buyers cannot introduce stability. When prices were soaring, they could do nothing. With prices falling, they have lost money. The problem of price stability is much wider than any one commodity. The problem is to reach practical means of achievement. The possibilities of supporting the price of wool are very much better at the end of a depression than at the beginning, but convincing action is essential not only for the moment, but for a season at least. .Seeing that Australia is in the dominating position for thu world supply of merino wool, why should our growers be expected to sell their produce at loss than cost of production ? There had been in the past attempts at market control, but Australia has had no previous experience because the operations of Bawra were in no sense a system of market control. There are many world examples of failure to sustain prices equal to cost of production for raw materials, or even at prices lower than cost. Their circumstances all differ from wool, as indeed they differ from each other. They all failed because of pressure of. stocks on a falling market. These stocks were results of efforts to protect prices. Such efforts might succeed at the end of a depression, but they were bound to fail at its beginning.
Wool being the most important of our staple products, it is much to be regretted that our representatives at Ottawa did not make a determined effort to reach an agreement with the representatives of the other dominions as to prices. I believe that an arrangement could have been made first with South Africa and later with the Argentine and other woolproducing countries whereby the sale of wool in the world’s markets would not be effected at a price below the cost of production in each country. Although this might not prove a solution of woolgrowers’ difficulties, it would, at all events, give relief to an industry that is suffering severely at the present time. I speak in this way, because, while the objective of the party to which I belong is an entire change in the present economic system, we realize that, if we are to secure greater benefits for the workers in the form of higher wages, it is essential that owners of wealthproducing activities should be ensured a return at least not below the cost of production. We know from experience that in times of depression it is not by any means as easy for industrial organizations, however well conducted, to maintain the wages standard of their members, as it is during times of prosperity. For this reason, if for no other, we who represent the workers are constantly reminding those who control the existing economic system that no effort should be spared so to organize industries as to benefit the community generally. It seems peculiar that reforms of this nature should, for the most part, emanate from those who represent the wage-earning section in any given community - the men who sell their labour power from day to day. Those who are opposed to us in these matters often stigmatize us as belonging to the great army of the unwashed, or as irresponsible visionaries. But we are convinced that the time is ripe in Australia, and elsewhere, for the forward movement to control the production and marketing of commodities, so as to ensure a fairer distribution of the wealth to those engaged in all forms of industry. This may not be the solvent of all economic problems, but it would be a step in the right direction, and I feel that if, at Ottawa, our delegates had realized the difficulties of our primary producers it would have been possible to reach an agreement for the stabilization of wool prices. But this important industry was ignored, as also were the interests of sugar producers.
We who represent Queensland are very much concerned at the immediate outlook for the sugar industry. South Africa obtained certain concessions at the conference, but, according to Mr. Pike, the “Acting Agent-General for Queensland, the claims of our producers were ignored. I regret that Senator Elliott i.s not, at the moment, in the chamber, because I wish to make certain comments upon his references to the position of our primary industries under this agreement. Honorable senators on this side yield to no other section in this chamber in their solicitude for the welfare of our primary producers, and I can assure the Government that there is a big “kick” coming to it because of its treatment of those primary industries peculiar to Queensland - sugar, tobacco, bananas, pineapples, and cotton - every one of which has been seriously affected by recent actions of this Government. The tremendous disadvantages which the primary producers of Queensland must suffer as a result of the Ottawa agreement show that a great bluff has been ‘ put over “ the people of that State. Once an industry has been established in this country, no government should take any action that may seriously injure it.
– What has this Government done with regard to cotton?
– Although Senator Foll stated that the cotton-growers were satisfied with the present Governments action in that matter, I could point to a statement by the Cotton Board that so far as the present season is concerned the industry is not at a disadvantage, but the board is fearful of the future. Recently a gathering of between 3,000- and 4,000 persons was held in Queensland for the purpose of bitterly resenting the action of the Government in sacrificing the interests of the growers of bananas and pineapples, who consider that, under the Ottawa agreement, their means of livelihood has been largely taken from them. This Ministry has opened the door to black-grown fruits, and this action is, perhaps,, the prelude to the admission of black-grown sugar. Senator Brennan, referring to the manufacture of matches in Victoria, said that it would be a good thing if matches were admitted free of duty, because it would pay to close the Melbourne factory, and pension off the girls who are employed in it. The suggestion was made in Brisbane a few weeks ago by one of the bananagrowers that, if the Government intended to attack them, as proposed under this bill, they should be given compensation if black-grown bananas were to be admitted. Senator Elliott spoke of the need for decentralization. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber believe in that policy; for what virtue is there in shipping our raw materials 13,000 miles, and bringing them back to Australia in a manufactured form?
– It would put purchasing power into the hands of the people.
– We shall not do that by depriving them of their secondary industries. It is true that a good deal of economic waste occurs, and we on this side desire to eliminate it. As the result of years of trade with other countries, the people have become obsessed with the idea that we must continue to make large importations; but Australia has now reached the stage in its economic development at which it should produce and manufacture as many as possible of the things that its people require. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), recently stated that some people were like St. Simeon Stylites, who perched himself on a high pillar in the Syrian desert, and with his gaze focussed on his navel, sought to solve the problems of the world, implying that the opponents of the agreement concentrated too rauch on Australia. It is said that certain Indian fakirs sit on pillars and gaze up into the empyrean and the void, and expect to find salvation. Our opponents look afar, and expect thus to overcome our difficulties. I am not one of those who believe that Australia’s economic problems can -be solved merely by means of our overseas trade. . Side by side with the development of our primary industries, we should foster our secondary industries, and thus provide increased employment for our own people, rather than seek prosperity solely by shipping our raw materials thousands of miles to the other aide of the world.
The Leader of the Government in the Senate stated that, because of the . low price of meat, and the decreased demand for it overseas, we should reduce our exports of that commodity. We know that the rapid development of primary industries throughout the world has resulted in enormously increased production, and that the utmost difficulty is being experienced in disposing of it. The Ottawa agreement has been reached because of the tremendous production of meat and other primary products in countries such as the Argentine and Australia. Our production of meat, of all’ kinds has increased to such an extent that our interests clash with those of the Argentine. Since the war there has been increased production throughout the world in practically every commodity, and the present problem is one of finding markets. Senator Elliott suggested that the people of Great Britain were ready to immolate themselves on the altar of Empire by paying increased prices for their food. I claim to know the workers of Great Britain better than does Senator Elliott. I spent a few years of my early life in the Old Country, and I know something of the political struggles that have occurred. The British populace have always fought strongly against any increase of food prices. There are millions of men and women living on the dole, and on the verge of starvation, and they cannot reasonably be expected to be so self-sacri ficing as to agree to pay high prices for food in order to provide a good living for the people of Australia or any other country.
– The agreement will not only benefit ourselves but also give us a greater population and by that means a greater outlet for Britain’s production.
– A few days ago we were told that we should take a long view in these matters, but I am afraid that we are clutching at straws. No regard is being paid to the purchasing power of the people. Members of the Labour party are not so sentimental as to believe that the working classes in Australia should suffer in order to provide improved conditions for the people of other countries. I am reminded of the story of a Scotchman who declared “ I am an internationalist, but Scotland for ever.” -We on this side, similarly say “ We are internationalists, but Australia for ever.” We are prepared to do our best to assist in bringing about better trading relations with other countries, but we are not so foolish as to imagine that merely by increasing the volume of our trade with the Old Country and with other dominions, we shall solve the economic problems that beset Australia. We contend that the Ottawa ‘agreement is not likely to furnish a solution of our economic difficulties.
– But we must take advantage of the opportunities which it presents.
– Let us take advantage of them, but let us not lose our other opportunities as a self-governing nation, merely for the purpose of a little extra trade with the Old Country. We should have sufficient intelligence to know that there would be no advantage in doing that. The party in power set up the Loan Council, which is a more powerful body than the Government itself. Now it is proposed to give the Tariff Board more authority in regard to fiscal matters than the Government itself enjoys. Through their lack of perspicacity Ministers are handing over their own powers to government officials, yet they wonder why parliaments are degenerating! The Labour party is bitterly opposed to that policy. We contend that there are better ways of assisting farmers, pastoralists and primary producers generally, than by agreements of this nature. The Queensland producers of bananas, pineapples, peanuts, sugar, cotton and tobacco, have as much right to consideration as other producers in Australia. We are fighting on behalf of their womenfolk and children, and it is our duty to do our utmost to enable their industries to survive. Thirty-five years ago, North Queensland produced annually nearly J.5,000,000 dozen bananas. Federation came along, protection was withdrawn, and the industry collapsed. A government led by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) imposed a duty of 8s. 4d. a cental - practically an embargo - on imported bananas. I am told that that proposal was vigorously opposed by some honorable senators of the day. Representatives of Fijian interests lobbied governments and chambers of commerce in an effort to have the embargo lifted, but were unsuccessful. It has been left to this Government to undo what was done by that Government 13 years ago. In 1921, Senator Greene was a member of another place, and Minister for Trade and Customs. His attitude then on this question is indicated by the following statements that he made: -
I do not know of any industry more entitled to a full measure of protection. … A i-cry large proportion of the banana-growers aro returned soldiers.
If we have a particular obligation to returned soldiers it is in. regard to those who have embarked on banana cultivation.
– He then represented an electorate in which bananas are grown.
– I do not believe that his atttiude was affected by that consideration. I have a great regard for him, and a.m confident that he would do the right thing at any time, whatever might bo the consequences to his electorate. He went on to say -
The increased duties were not required to bring those plantations into bearing; but the fact that we have a flourishing and extending industry shows the necessity for preventing its extinction by the importation of blackgrown bananas.
A Daniel come to judgment! He continued -
We think the industry is so important to the country, employing in the best possible way a large number of people, and bringing about that intense closer settlement which is the most valuable form of settlement that Australia can have, that the Senate’s request should not be acceded to.
It would appear that the honorable senator has changed his views, and intends to sacrifice the banana-growers in the interests of the manufacturers of brandy. The Fijians and Melanesians are to have a stomach-full of brandy instead of wholesome bananas and pineapples. If that is the attitude of the Government, I am sorry for it. We, on this side, however, contend with force and sincerity, that it is better for our people and even for the coloured races to live on bananas and pineapples, than to undermine their constitutions with souldestroying brandy. Senator Pearce, in his speech, told us of the really rich brandy preference that is being given to Australia, and held it out as a bait to the banana-growers and pineapplegrowers. Yet he, I am told, is a teetotaller !
– He also has a banana plantation.
– I hope that the admission to Australia of Fijian bananas will not make him bankrupt, as it will many banana-growers in Queensland. A few weeks ago the Honorable J. Francis made a pronouncement on the subject of pineapples an’d bananas. This gentleman is between two stools, because he is a member of the Government and represents a banana-growing electorate. The growers were exceedingly angry with him, so a few days ago he paid a visit to his electorate. Referring to the fact that the Canadian Government had changed its mind in regard to the tariff on pineapples, he said that nothing could prevent any nation or dominion from giving what concessions it liked to any other. The inference that he sought to convey was, that the proceedings at Ottawa had nothing whatever to do with pineapples. Yet, if honorable senators will peruse the speech delivered by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) they will find pineapples mentioned at page 27.
Undoubtedly the customs duty payable under the terms of our trade agreement with Canada was used as a means’ of bargaining with the interests which we were fighting at Ottawa. Under this agreement, which was secured by Mr. Parker Moloney during the regime of the Scullin Government, Australian canned pineapples are admitted to Canada at a duty of 1 cent per lb., while the duty on British Empire fruit, including that from Singapore, is 3 cents per lb., and on foreign fruit, including Hawaiian, 5 cents per lb. This has given a tremendous impetus to the pineapple industry in Queensland. It is contended that at Ottawa this industry was practically bartered away for certain preferences, including the preference in regard to brandy. The pineapplegrowers are incensed at the action of the Government. If it insists upon this, on the ground that it is in the interests of the community, we shall probably have to accept it. But it is grossly unfair to those who are engaged in the industry, many of whom have been smashed, and others forced down to the bread line.
Silling suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Before I leave the subject of pineapples, I desire to refer to the effect of our trade agreement with Canada. In 1931, wc sold to’ Canada 366.800 lb. of pineapples; as the result of the agreement, our sales to the sister dominion the following year totalled 1,219,000 lb.- nearly four times the quantity of the previous year’s exports. Our pineapples were advertised throughout Canada as the only pineapples grown and canned by white labour, and that publicity had a big effect on sales.
Now that Australia is on the same basis as Crown colonies, the Hawaiian Pineapple Company has established a factory at Fiji. The Queensland pineapple industry will, therefore, have to face the active competition of this American concern, which advertises extensively in American magazines circulating freely in Canada. Since our producers cannot advertise to any appreciable extent in magazines circulating in Canada, I see little hope of Queensland pineapples retaining the Canadian market.
The banana industry of Australia is not the small industry that some people would have us believe. Directly engaged in the production of bananas are 8,000 people, with dependants numbering 10,000, and there are 3,000 others engaged in plantation work. Over 1,000,000 fruit cases made of Australian timber are required each year, while ‘the industry pays the railways £200,000 a year. The Queensland Committee of Direction charters six special trains each week to convey the bananas to market, and has had special trucks built for the trade. The area now under cultivation is 19,700 acres, and it will be extended during the year. No other industry employs so much labour in proportion to its production ; and in these days, that is a matter of prime importance. Most of the work is manual. Moreover, bananas are grown on land which otherwise would not be cultivated. The industry is one deserving of every encouragement. It has put up a wonderful fight against disease. “-Bunchy top,” which was introduced from Fiji, caused great losses to the growers. Now, the industry is threatened with “ bunchy middle “ and “ bunchy bottom,” and is in danger of being destroyed. If the Government believes in the White Australia policy, it should not do anything to injure the banana industry, which employs white labour. It has been stated by honorable senators supporting the Government that the small number of cases of bananas which may enter Australia from Fiji under the agreement will” not affect the Queensland industry, but those who are in close touch with the industry know that the importation of bananas from Fiji will cause the price to be lowered, with the result that the growing of bananas will become unproductive to those engaged in the industry in Queensland and New South Wales.
Among the primary producers there is a general feeling that if certain manufacturing industries can be got rid of, and our primary ^ industries built up, there will be more employment, and Australia will become more prosperous.
– I said that our agricultural industries must be developed first. I made no mention of destroying any secondary industries.
– The Ottawa agreement favours British manufacturers to the detriment of Australian manufacturers. Mr. Baldwin has told the people of the Old Country that it will mean an increase of trade for British manufacturers. In that case, their gain must be at the expense of manufacturers in this country. And if our manufacturers lose their trade, the workers in Australian factories will lose their jobs.
– The duties are increased only on foreign goods.
– The agreement provides that we shall allow manufacturers in the United Kingdom full opportunities of reasonable competition. Itfurther provides that no new duty shall be imposed, and no existing duty increased, unless on the recommendation of the Tariff Board.
– Those extracts should not be stripped from their context.
– No reasonable man can come to any other conclusion than that the Ottawa agreement will act to the detriment of Australian manufacturers. It is all very well to be sentimental, and to picture a vast reciprocal trade between Australia and Great Britain ; but we must not lose sight of the agitation in the United Kingdom for the development of home production The primary producers of England are fighting hard to gain their home market for themselves. The development of their home production can only mean a limitation of the British market so far as Australian products are concerned. In a previous speech I said that this is an era of economic nationalism, in which many countries arc falling back on their own resources. I mentioned that Mussolini had so developed agricultural production in Italy that that country is now independent of supplies of wheat from Australia. The agreement also provides that the British Government will endeavour to develop home production, and thereafter will give to the dominions an expand ing share of imports into the United Kingdom. Honorable senators opposite should not too hastily conclude that we on this side are antagonistic to reciprocity within the Empire. We claim that our first duty is to the people of Australia, and that we must not raise false hopes in their minds. We shall raise false hopes in them if we lead them to imagine that by entering into trade treaties’ we shall eliminate our social problems. Senator Elliott said that the world’s most pressing problem is the lack of purchasing power on the part of the people of all nations. I have yet to be convinced that merely by transferring trade from one place to another the purchasing power of the world will be increased. ,A more fundamental trouble than any trade problem is inherent in our modern social system, and it will remain whether tariffs are high or low. All countries, irrespective of their fiscal policy, are faced with the problem of the lack of purchasing power, and that of unemployment. Any legislature that seeks to solve these problems must look further than merely to a diversion of the trade that is now done within the Empire. We must evolve a policy which will increase the purchasing power of the people. I pointed out on a previous occasion that the diversity of interests made economic unity difficult. The United States of America is an economic unity in which the capitalistic system has developed to the greatest extent so far achieved, yet in that country there are to-day 10,000,000 persons unemployed. If we are not to be false to our ideals we must not lead the people to imagine that by entering into reciprocal arrangements, with other countries we shall solve the problem of unemployment. Although I do not agree with all that the economist, Major Douglas, says, I direct attention to his statement -
That the wages, salaries, and dividends distributed (us embracing practically all money incomes and, therefore, the sum of consumers’ purchasing power) over any given period of time, do not, and cannot, buy the product of that period; and that the whole of production can only be bought by a draft, and an increasing draft, on the purchasing power distributed in respect of future production, which pur-“ chasing power can only come from future bank loans or overdrafts.
We are in the hands of a banking system whose very limitations make it impossible for the people to have sufficient purchasing power to buy back the things that they themselves produce. Unless we can find a method of increasing their purchasing power, we shall fail, notwithstanding reciprocal agreements, efforts at stabilization, and attempts to establish an empire currency. While seeking reciprocal arrangements with other sections of the British Empire, the party to which I belong believes that our banking system must he changed, so that the purchasing power of those whose labour increases the wealth of the country may be increased. The people are deprived of their proper purchasing power, not alone by the act of any banker, but by the very system itself. A conservative newspaper in Brisbane referred to the Ottawa agreement in a recent issue in the following terms : -
Indirect advantages, far too great for immediate calculation, may arise out. of the agreements that were made at Ottawa, but the statement in the Federal Parliament by Mr. Gullett that Australia had achieved actual gains which would benefit every man, woman, and child in the Commonwealth can be dismissed as a political boast, perhaps not unnatural from a delegate to the conference, but quite unworthy of serious consideration. Throughout the British Empire, in fact throughout the world, there is a clash of opinion about theresults of the Ottawa Conference, and that clash is likely to continue, because a great deal of it is based on unreasoning enthusiasm,and a great deal on political fanaticism that sees no good in anything that conflicts with fiscal prejudices.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– Like most Australians I am intensely interested in the agreement between Great Britain and the dominions, embodied in the bill now under consideration. I regret, however, that I do not regard that agreement with the same measure of enthusiasm as do a number of people in Australia. The impression I have formed is that Great Britain drove a hard bargain at the conference, and before I conclude I shall quote the remarks of the right honorable the Prime Minister of Great Britain in confirmation of my opinion. Nevertheless, it does mark a very important development in the relations between Great Britain and the dominions - a development which was made possible only by the change over by the Mother Country from freetrade to protection. For nearly a century and a half Great Britain was held up as an example of the advantages which a policy of freetrade conferred upon a country; but in the circumstances which recently developed Great Britain was compelled to impose duties for the protection of her industries as other countries have done. It has been claimed by many that the present depressed condition of industry and trade throughout the world is due to the tariff walls erected by many countries during recent years. I think that those who hold that opinion are confusing cause with effect. Tariffs have not- produced the unfavorable conditions which exist, but the conditions have produced and made necessary the tariffs which have been imposed in a great many countries. Unfortunately, in Australia and in other countries, the opinion is held in certain quarters that the protectionist policy of Australia has not been of advantage to this country. Quite recently I read a very interesting and, in many respects, informative address delivered by Lord Balfour at one of the important centres in Great Britain in which, while advocating the protection of British industries, he said it would be a mistake to impose such heavy duties as we had in Australia and which had resulted in ruining this country. I consider that Australia is far from being ruined, and notwithstanding the unemployment and distress which exist here, the people are, so far as I can gather, enjoying quite as large a measure of prosperity as are the peoples of other countries. For many years New Zealand was quoted as a country which successfully depended almost entirely upon its primary industries; but if we examine the position in the sister dominion with an unbiassed mind we shall find that there is just as much unemployment in that country, as there is in Australia, and that the depression is just as acute. There is a general agreement among economists that the primary producing countries are suffering more than those which are highly industrialized, and that the primary producing countries will be the last to recover from the effects of the depression. In a great many countries which previously imported a considerable quantity of the food required by their people efforts are being made to produce all their foodstuffs within their own borders so as to provide employment for their people. The causes of unemployment are numerous; but I would set above all others the mechanization of industry which undoubtedly has had a most dislocating effect upon practically every country. Prior to the war a number of densely populated European countries overcame the difficulty of excessive population by .emigration, but in recent years there have been no countries to which these Europeans could emigrate. The fact that the doors of the United States of America and of Australia have been practically closed to immigrants has had a detrimental effect upon most European countries.
In Great Britain the position in regard to foodstuffs is diametrically different from that in Australia. Great Britain has to import foodstuffs to sustain her people; but in Australia we require more people to consume the foodstuffs we are now producing, so as to provide a profitable market for those engaged in primary production. So far as I can see, the position of our principal primary industries will not be improved very much by the adoption of this agreement. Immediately the agreement was signed wheat fell to a price below that at which it had ever previously been sold, and the same happened to beef and mutton. Already it has been announced that there is a glut of meat in Great Britain, and that the market will have to be regulated by decreasing imports. Personally, I am very depressed when I consider the future of some of our primary industries. We shall be fortunate if we manage to maintain our production of wheat and beef and mutton in undiminished proportions; I cannot see any hope of finding a market for increased production. There are some who think that efficiency will help- us. No one is a greater believer in efficiency than I am, and as far as possible I practise it in my own business.’-‘ While efficiency in production may be of advantage to those countries producing for home consumption,” it is not of similar benefit to those producing for export because it leads to over-production, giving buyers complete control of the market.
– We merely wish to extend our home markets within the limits of the British Empire.
– I consider Australia our home market, and honor able senators will find that the people of Australia also regard this country as their home market. For increased markets for our primary products we must look to the markets provided by this country, and we can provide such markets only by increasing our population. We can bring about an increase of population only by affording adequate protection to all our industries.
– The honorable, senator should not overlook the advantage derived by the sugar industry as a result of the preferences granted by Great Britain.
– I do not wish to discuss the sugar industry at length at this juncture, because I shall have an opportunity to do so when a measure dealing with that industry is under consideration. As Senator Elliott has reminded me of the sugar industry - which, for the moment, I had quite forgotten - perhaps I may be permitted to say that Great Britain has given a much larger measure of preference to the products of her colonies, in which coloured labour is employed, than she has given to the produce of her own kith and kin in Australia.
– Is there any difference in the rate of preference?
– There is a very marked difference.
– What are the rates?
– There is a difference of £1 a ton in the preference, and Great Britain is paying a bounty of £1 a ton on a fixed quota to each of her Crown colonies.
– That is hardly equal to the assistance Australia is giving to the industry in Australia.
– What Australia is doing for her industries is entirely apart from the preferences granted by Great Britain on our produce.
– Great Britain is financing those Crown colonies.
– Not all of them. I should not like to suggest that Great Britain holds in higher esteem the inhabitants of the Crown colonies than she does the Australian people; but she has certainly proved, in’ connexion with the sugar preference, that she has not the same tender regard for the products of Australia as she has for the products of the Grown colonies.
– Not at all.
– Does Great Britain enable our producers to get £30 a ton for their sugar?
– Great Britain is not paying £30 a ton for our sugar. Whatever Australia pays for it is another matter. There is a great difference between the position of Great Britain and that of Australia.. Great Britain is a country with a large population compared with its size, whereas Australia has a small population occupying an area of 3,000,000 square miles. Consequently there is upon us an obligation to develop this country as rapidly and a3 completely as possible. Unless we do this we cannot expect to hold it. If at any time our White Australia policy is questioned by an outside power we shall not get very much sympathy from other countries.
– We shall have the protection of the British navy.
– I do not wish to discuss that issue just now, although I have my own opinion as to the uses to which the British navy is put. Great Britain employs her navy to protect her trade, most of which is carried on the high seas. In Australia we have been obliged to expend immense sums of money on the construction of railways, roads, bridges and harbours, for the handling and marketing of our primary products, and now that the depression is upon us we are finding it exceedingly difficult to meet our obligations overseas.
– Hence the need of overseas markets for the products of our great natural industries.
– I do not know what Senator Elliott means by our great natural industries, but I assume that he is alluding to those important primary industries which are being carried on at a loss to most of those engaged in them.
– Why is that so?
– Most of our primary industries are being carried on at a loss because our overseas customers arc no longer buyers of our products to the same extent as formerly. Besides being fully settled and developed as a manufacturing country Britain derives a considerable proportion of her national income from the overseas investments of her people. In short, Great Britain is a creditor country.
– .Not now.
– If Senator Elliott will study the latest statistics on the subject he will find that Great Britain derives considerable income from the investments of her citizens in other countries.
– What the honorable senator has just said may have been true of Great Britain’s position three years ago, but last year she was down £130,000,000.
– That is so. Last year Great Britain had an adverse trade balance because she permitted other countries to dump their manufactures and other products on the British market. That was one reason why Great Britain changed over from a policy of freetrade to that of protection, and I believe that her financial position has since greatly improved. Great Britain’s financial embarrassment a few months ago was due almost entirely to the sudden withdrawal of large sums of foreign money which had been invested in British short-term securities at a time when Great Britain had larger sums invested in long-term securities in other countries.
Australia is a young and undeveloped country. For the exploitation of our potential wealth we have been obliged to borrow a great deal of money from abroad, chiefly from Great Britain. Notwithstanding our heavy commitments, our public debt per head of population is not greater than that of the sister dominion of New Zealand which, with a population of 1,600,000 people, has a public debt of £276,033,358. Concerning the position in New Zealand, I quote the following from the speech of the Prime Minister, Mr. Forbes, during the last hudget debate: -
Up to now, with the assistance of the financial institutions and the Government, the primary producers have been able to scrape along; but from now onwards “their difficulties wore going to be multiplied.
This shows that in New Zealand, which is blessed with a much more favorable climate than Australia, the outlook is no brighter than it is in the Commonwealth.
– Yet New Zealand is one Df the most productive countries in the world.
– Undoubtedly, it is. In support of what I have said as to the attitude of the British delegates at Ottawa, I should like to quote briefly from statements made by British Ministers during the debate on the Ottawa (agreement in the House of Commons. Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, the Prime Minister said -
All that wo have done is to put up th, :Btffest fight possible in order that these tariffs -should be as advantageous as possible to this country.
– Mr. Ramsay “MacDonald was not at the Ottawa Con- ference
– I am aware of that. But he is the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and what he says concerning the work of . the conference should carry more weight than the remarks of any other British Minister, not excepting those who did represent Great Britain at Ottawa. Mr. Runciman, the President of the Board of Trade, said -
If our manufacturers are put on a fair competitive basis, they can hold their own against the whole world. The dominions’, preferences aimed at stimulating our competitive powers.
Later Mr. Runciman said this -
The crumbling of the Canadian tariff walls was begun under the agreement.
What Mr. Runciman said of the Canadian tariff walls may be applied also to the tariff walls of Australia. Evidently he believes that our tariff walls also are crumbling.
Woollens, cotton, machinery, leather, and various other goods will come within the activities of these two Tariff Boards, which, it is believed, will initiate a downward movement in the tariffs.
Mr. Chamberlain, Chancellor of the Exchequer said this -
The results of the agreements must necessarily be more rapid in the dominions than here and thus, in the long run, would benefit us. . . . The United Kingdom’s policy was, firstly, to develop her own home markets, and, secondly, to give an expanding share of the import market to the dominions. . . . The British delegation had brought back solid advantages for the manufacturing interests, which would be put into immediate effect.
No one desires more than I do that Great Britain should have a greater share in our import market, but I strongly object to sharing with anybody a market which should be our own, because I know that’ the sharing of that market will rob our own citizens of employment and cause distress in this country.
It has often been argued in connexion with our tariff proposals that our population is insufficent to enable certain commodities to be manufactured successfully in this country, even if our manufacturers had the whole of the market for themselves. This being so, I suggest that it would be infinitely worse if we had to share that market with any overseas manufacturers.
– Does the honorable senator believe in one-way trade?
– Certainly not. Every one knows that certain commodities which cannot be manufactured economically in this country, are being manufactured in Great Britain. If it were possible, and if our financial position would permit it, I would allow such goods to come into this country free of duty.
Preference to Great Britain is no new thing. In the tariff of 1907 we gave preference in a number of items to the manufacturers of Great Britain. When that schedule was being discussed, the late Sir George Reid made these memorable comments -
We are told, and I have never denied it, that the result of the general election has shown a distinct desire on the part of the people for a protectionist policy. Bid that mean sufficient protection or an insufficient protection? Was it a verdict for real protection or not? Does this tariff in the second column represent the views of the Government as to rates of duties which are sufficient for Australian industries? If they are sufficient for Australian industries there is no real preference given. If they are not sufficient for Austraiian industries there is preference given at the expense of the main principles of the administration and of honorable members opposite. It is impossible to reconcile those two things.
I am prepared to give Great Britain any measure of preference which will not diminish the protection afforded to Australian industries.
– That would be no preference at all.
– We give preference to Britain in regard to those commodities which we do not, and cannot, produce, and they amount in value to many millions of pounds annually. What are the preferences which Great Britain has given to Australia upon commodities which Britain herself, produces in sufficient quantities to supply her own requirements? There is no such preference on a single item. Britain gives preference to Australia only upon commodities which she must import either from Australia or from some other country; but, in exchange, she asks for preference upon every class of goods manufactured in this country. That is a very one-sided arrangement.
– Does the agreement which we are discussing convey .that impression ?
– That is what it provides. The commodities upon which Britain gives preference to Australia are set down in the bill.
– What would be the value of Britain giving us a preference on manufactured articles, since we cannot export any manufactured goods ?
– I answer the right honorable senator by asking what disadvantage it would be to us to give a preference to Britain upon the goods which we cannot manufacture ourselves? All that Britain will lose under this agreement is some revenue from duties imposed for revenue and not for protective purposes.
– We get free entry into Britain for three years of butter, cheese, and milk.
– Although Britain produces those commodities, she must import many millions of pounds worth of butter and cheese, and all the other things mentioned in schedule B in order to supply her own requirements. At the present time the dairy products which she uses are chiefly imported from Scandinavian countries, which, I believe, do not give much preference to Britain. Denmark, I think, buys from Britain about one-fifth of the quantity of goods which Britain purchases from Denmark. Before the depression, with the exception of New Zealand, Australia was the largest per capita dominion purchaser from Great Britain. Before the Ottawa agreement was reached-, Australia was giving substantial preferences to Great Britain. These were estimated at about £8,000,000 for the year 1929. Of course, the amount has not been so great during more recent years, because Australia has been too poor- to buy in the same measure a.s previously, largely because of the very low prices that we have received for the goods that wehave exported to Britain. In December, 1931, the President of the British Board of Trade, was asked what preferences were given by Britain to the dominions, and by the dominions to Britain, and his answer is contained in the following statement : -
Thu President of the Board of Trade (Bt. Hon. W. Runciman) said it was estimated that during the year 1929 the amount of preferential rebates granted by the dominions (not including India) on United Kingdom goods aggregated approximately £15,000,000.
The approximate amount of the (gross) preferential rebate allowed on goods consigned from the dominions (not including India) and delivered for home consumption during the years ended the 31st March, 1929, 1930, and 1931, was £3,000,000, £3,500,000, and £3,000,000 respectively.
– Has not that posi-tion been reversed since the new duties have come into operation?
– So far as I am aware, no statistics have been published since the change in the duties. Mr, Runciman continued -
In all cases the amount of preferential rebate represented the difference between the amount of duty received at the preferential rate and the amount which would have been paid on the same quantities had duty been charged at the full rate.
It would be appreciated that the amount of the preferential rebates was in no sense an accurate measure of the real value of the preferences.
The debatable part of the agreement is contained in articles 10, 11, and 12. I interpret article 10 as mandatory. We have not the option of reducing our duties; it is obligatory upon us to do so. Article 10 reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that during the currency of this agreement the tariff shall be based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative cost of economical and efficient production, provided that in the application of such principle special consideration may be given to the case of industries not fully established.
– How are these points to be decided ?
– I do not know; but if honest effect is given to article 10, we must so reduce our duties that Great Britain will share the Australian market with our own manufacturers. I do not wish it to be understood that I am reflecting upon Australia’s representatives at Ottawa; it was admitted by the Prime Minister of Great Britain that Britain had driven a very hard bargain at Ottawa. The agreement may, in the course of time, lead to an arrangement which will be mutually helpful, and for that reason it is not my intention to vote against the bill.
I regret that, in the process of bargaining, Queensland has had to give something away in order to secure advantages for some of the other States.
– It is the first time.
– Not by any means. Queensland buys considerably more from the other States than those States buy from her. The commodities that Queensland purchases from the other States are produced under a tariff just as highly protective as that upon the commodities which the other States buy from her. The people of Queensland had to pay high prices to the other States during the war, when they were not permitted to increase the price of the commodities which they were supplying to the rest of Australia.
I attended a meeting of banana-growers which was held in Brisbane some weeks ago, to protest against the concession made to Fiji, which, it was stated, was demanded by the British representatives at Ottawa.
– What proportion of the bananas consumed in Australia is to be admitted from Fiji?
– Such a proportion as will depreciate the price of all bananas, and have the effect of bringing down the price of other fruit. I have no hesitation in saying that the Queensland banana is the most popular fruit sold in Australia to-day. If not, why do the people of this country buy bananas to the value of £1,000,000 annually? And that figure represents the wholesale price only ; the retail price probably amounts to about twice that sum. There is an idea abroad that the bananas now consumed in Australia are all produced in Queensland, but New South Wales grows as much of this fruit as Queensland does. The nefarious practices ‘ of Melbourne agents and shopkeepers some years ago had the effect of giving the people, at any rate those in Melbourne, the impression that Fijian bananas were infinitely superior to those grown in Australia. An enterprising agent hadsome tickets printed bearing the words, “ Prime Fiji “ and other tickets on which appeared the words, “ Cheap Queensland “. In almost every fruit shop in Melbourne the best bananas were ticketed as “Prime Fiji “, and all inferior bananas, irrespective of where they were grown, were labelled “ Cheap Queensland “. That practice was continued for about two years after the exclusion from the Australian market of Fijian bananas.
Senator Brown has referred to the position of the pineapple industry. That is due, not to any provision in the agreement between Australia and Great Britain, but to a preference that has been granted by Canada to the Crown colonies. This raises a point to which considerable attention will have to be given in the future. Two-fifths of Australia lies north of the tropic of Capricorn, and perhaps half of its area is either tropical or sub-tropical. Consequently, for its development, we shall have to foster tropical industries. But if those industries have to compete in the other dominions and in Great Britain with the produce of Crown colonies, all of which are within the tropics, we shall have to depend entirely upon the home market for the disposal of the products of those industries. That would make our position exceedingly difficult. It may be considered that I am unduly pessimistic in regard to the result of this agreement. Although I accept it for what it may be worth, I thought it right to express in as plain terms as possible exactly what I feel concerning it. Experience will show to what extent I am right.
– The honorable senator would not accept it if he did not think that there was some good in it, and that the balance was on our side.
– The balance is in favour of Great Britain, because we have failed to obtain the very preferences that we most desired. So far as I can see, there is nothing in the agreement that will benefit our wheat industry, or our metal industries. Although a preference is given, it is only on condition that we sell to British buyers at world’s parity. Already it has been suggested - I do not know whether communications on the subject have passed between the different Governments - that we reduce our exports of beef and mutton.
– How can the honorable senator reconcile his conscience, when he accepts the agreement while condemning it?
– My conscience is in my own keeping, and I shall answer to it for what I do. I consider that the agreement having- been negotiated between the Governments of Great Britain and Australia, through their accredited representatives, it is advisable to accept it; and, if it does not prove as favorable to us as we think it ought, we should endeavour to have it amended, just as Great Britain will do if it appears to the Government of that country to be unduly unfavorable to British interests. It is, however, a foundation upon which something better may be built, and marks a very big change in British policy. I believe that Great Britain had the better of the deal. It will be for us to watch the outcome very carefully. Meanwhile, we must depend upon our home market, and as far as possible work out our own salvation.
– I make no apology for declaring that, upon this and similar matters which come before this Senate, I stand for Australia first, last and all the time. I know that, with the political cunning which is such a distinguishing characteristic of the right honorable the Leader of the Government in this chamber, that gentleman will do as he did yesterday - put into my mouth words which I do not use, and endeavour to make it appear that I am anti-British, anti-patriotic, and everything else which is supposed to be detrimental to a man’s political career when bruited abroad in the press, which gives the right honorable gentleman so much space, while denying it to others whom he charges with sins that they have not committed. That, however, will not weigh with me in the least. Nor shall I be in the slightest degree apologetic in making what I consider is a necessary statement of the ease so far as Great Britain is concerned. It does not follow that, because I possess logical faculties that enable me to review a bargain, I am slandering one of the parties to the bargain. Surely those who are elected to this Senate are not expected to suborn or suspend their judgment, or to say what sounds nice about this country or that, regardless of what their views may be! I certainly make no apology for saying that I do not attempt to cultivate other than an Australian outlook upon this matter. I notice that the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) has left the chamber. I thought that he would not be brave enough to take his gruel, after the cowardice that ‘he displayed yesterday.
– Order ! The honorable senator must not make use of such expressions.
– I ask the Senate to consider calmly for a few moments where we stand in this matter. Let us review the genesis of the whole business. Let us hark back to the days prior to the Ottawa Conference and the preparations that were made for it. An honorable senator this afternoon said that negotiations of this character are not conducted in the open, and that what appears on the surface as the record of what happens is not really such. If that be true of anything, it is true of this Ottawa Conference. It is alleged that the people of Australia voted at the last federal election for the programme that has emerged from the conference. No more ridiculous statement could be made. From the very beginning, a certain process was adopted. That process has been continued throughout the whole programme, and has now reached its apex in this chamber. The Leader of the Senate put the coping stone on it in the second-reading speech which he delivered to-day. Before the delegation departed from our shores, neither the Australian people nor their representatives in this and another place were given an opportunity to express their opinion as to what should be done when Ottawa was reached. That, however, does not mean that the gun was not loaded before the delegation’s departure. It is now common knowledge that everything was prepared, and that upon some matters, at all events, particularly those that affect the State from which I come, the attitude to be adopted was definitely fixed. The columns of the press teemed with references to the superhuman capacity for intensive work that would benefit Australia of the two gentlemen who were to represent us at Ottawa. In other words, the necessary atmosphere was created to ensure them a good send-off. In the Parliamentary Library, honorable senators may see a wonderfully fine photographic production of the personnel of all the delegations at Ottawa ; and, upon turning over the page, they will be given an idea of the attractive ladies who accompanied them.’ Our delegates, of course, could not be expected to travel steerage. They travelled under the most favorable conditions. They left in the right atmosphere, and had a good crossing. I do not object to that. I merely review the atmosphere in which they left these shores and arrived on the other side of the world - the atmosphere which permeated the whole of the proceedings of the conference, and was deliberately created in Australia immediately the work was completed, and the return to Australia was commenced.
– May it not be supposed that they worked on the way across ?
– I imagine that they did; otherwise, their fate should be that which overtakes other employees who neglect their duties. What I object to is that they went away with the wrong psychology - the importing, the 0antiAustralian, psychology. They did their job, and will draw their pay, as they are entitled to do. But we also are entitled to say that we think they are obtaining the money under false pretences. I should not have made that suggestion in’ such definite terms had not Senator DuncanHughes taunted me with his interjection.
– Do interjections entitle the honorable senator to slander other persons?
– Senator Brennan is an authority on slander. No one can .make use of it more cunningly than he, and keep .within the Standing Orders. I shall endeavour to learn from my honorable friend something of the art. If I’ have not already acquired the knowledge, I am heading in that direction.
To revert to Australia’s delegation, our delegates reached Ottawa, but before I proceed to review what took place at Ottawa, I should like to say a word about the utterly ridiculous mental attitude of honorable senators opposite regarding the whole of the problems involved in this Ottawa agreement, which certain honorable senators say will solve all the difficulties that beset society to-day. Let us see where we, in Australia, have arrived in connexion with this question of preference. Every State has its State Preference League at work. The league in Queensland is exhorting the people of that State to buy Queensland goods, because by so doing they will keep Queensland workers employed, and then, if they must go outside Queensland for their requirements, to buy first from the other States of Australia, and after them, from the Old Country. What a futility! Queensland is chiefly a primary producing State; it produces sugar and other things. But since all that is produced in Queensland cannot be consumed in thatState, the rest of Australia has to be called on to assist Queensland to dispose of its products. What would be the result if the rest of Australia adopted the same policy? New South Wales would buy no Queensland sugar, and the other States would not buy boots and shoes made in Victoria. It may be that by buying goods manufactured in his own State a person keeps men in that State employed, but it is also true that if he does not buy the goods made in other States he is assisting to throw workers in those States out of employment. The mental haziness of our people is shown in .this agreement. I was about to say that we are all hypocrites, but I exempt honorable senators of the Labour party from that condemnation. What is the policy of honorable senators opposite in their businesses, if not to do all they can to produce dividends for themselves?
– -And to create opportunities for the workers of Australia.
– Their creed is to buy in the cheapest market, and to sell in the dearest market. What is the use of this mental obfuseation when we know that in our daily conduct we do not mea. sure up to the standard in which we profess to believe?
– If the honorable senator is correct we should all be free traders.
– I have heard nothing but freetrade Speeches from the other side of the chamber on this agreement, although honorable senators have endeavoured to Camouflage their real views.
– Senator Crawford can scarcely be described as an ardent free trader.
– It is Wonderful how great minds think alike. Just as Senator Brennan interjected, I was about to say something concerning Senator Crawford. I was overjoyed when the honorable senator began to speak, because I did not expect to hear such views expressed by an honorable senator opposite. At the time I made a mental resolve to begin my speech as follows: - “Mr. President - I do not think that we on this side need to say anything further. It will be sufficient for honorable senators opposite to fight one another “. There has not been a serious debate in this chamber in which government supporters have not fought one another to a greater or les’s degree. But as Senator Crawford proceeded I found that, sis’ Usual, this unexpected assumption of political independence was not worth anything at fill. No one could have condemned the agreement more ably than Senator Crawford did. He said all the’ hard things-hard because true-“- that are to be said about the agreement; he was not careful of the feelings of honorable senators of his own party but went on to spoil the whole effect of his speech by announcing that, in spite of the fact that the Ottawa agreement struck a cowardly blow at Queensland’s chief primary industries, he would vote for it. He spoke about his conscience and said that it was in his own keeping. No one will deny that, but I sincerely hope that, whether roy stay in this chamber be long or short, I shall have a firmer hold of my conscience than the honorable senator has of his.
Let me traverse some of the remarks made this afternoon. We were told that the Ottawa agreement would place trade within the Empire oh a -sound reciprocal basis. That is not true; there is no reciprocity about the business. Again, we Were informed that the delegates at Ottawa concentrated 6”n the raising of price levels. Where is the rise? Has the price level of wool, or wheat, or meat, or butter, been raised? One would imagine that we were a lot of school children being regaled by Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and expected to accept them all without question! One honorable senator said that the loss of the British market by the dominions” would bring the Empire to ruin. What i-9 the Empire? I do not like the way that that blessed word “ Empire “ is bandied about fi-Om lip to lip in this chamber,- generally incorrectly pronounced “ Empiah.” The pronunciation of the word indicates a certain quality of mind; We did not have to wait for the Ottawa conference to be consuminated for ruin to (Some upon the Empir’6. Senator Elliott has had an advantage which I have never” had ; over and over again he has enjoyed a world tour. But although I have not had that advantage, I, at least; have the capacity for acquiring knowledge, and for retaining it when acquired. Where is this waiting f or ruin ? Is it at the heart of the Empire in London where the. great Mother of Parliament sits”? Had we to wait for this agreement to prevent the ruin from coming? Senator Elliott knows the answer better than I do.
– I spoke, not- of ruin but of opportunity.
– That the ruin is there already the 2,800,000 persons unemployed in the Old Country testify. We cannot bring a. man to ruin and the damnation of his immortal sou more quickly than by keeping him unemployed and on the bread line, dependent on charity for his existence. The same story is true of every part of the Empire,- and, indeed, of every country. Australia is a country richly endowed by nature; its vast territory contains a greater variety of soil and climate than any other country; it is a. primary producing country, and, therefore, produces great wealth; yet there are in Australia to-day 400,000 able-bodied men anxious to obtain work but unable to get it. We are told that if we do not adopt the Ottawa agreement Australia will be ruined. The ruin is here at our doorstep; no, it has crossed the ‘threshold. All the political shadow-sparring in this chamber does not amount to anything while people are suffering. The Ottawa agreement does not hold out the slightest hope to those who are facing ruin. On the other hand, it will add many more to the ranks of the unemployed. It was also claimed that the re-employment of the workless in all the dominions would be a result of the agreement. That is like another of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. We are told that Australia gained more than its share of the advantages secured by the dominions at the Ottawa Conference. I shall quote the views of the people who are alleged to be getting more than their share. Senator Elliott gave expression to some nice phrases which sounded well. For instance, he said: “Our ship of freedom is moored to the British Empire.” I assume that the honorable senator referred to the Australian ship of freedom.
– Let us see what freedom we .have. In this chamber we have a fair measure of freedom, but Senator Crawford was very nervous about using too much of it. He exercised a fair amount of freedom of speech, and then, because he knew that he would be ashamed of the vote he would cast later, he got to the penitent form and confessed . to the Senate that he intended to stultify every word he had said. That was because there is not sufficient freedom given to honorable senators supporting the Government to allow them to say all that they think, or to do what they would like to do. Senator Elliott further said, “ This agreement is the only thing on the horizon which holds out any hope for the boys and girls of Australia and for their parents.
– The honorable senator should be more accurate in his quotations.
- Senator Elliott is quite at liberty to correct me if I am misquoting him. He went on to say, “ Their non-employment is a tragedy “. Australia, in common with all other countries, is looking for a solution of this problem - something that will stop this tragic failure. On every street corner one can see groups of boys, and in some instances girls, who, in the aggregate, total hundreds of thousands, wasting their time because of the lack of opportunity to engage in employment of any kind. Most of them have completed their education and, although possessing the necessary qualifications to entitle them to remunerative employment, are compelled to remain idle. Most of them have come from good homes, and up to that point have been given reasonable opportunities; but there is no future for them. Untrained in the habits of industry as they unfortunately are, owing to the lack of opportunity, the community will have to support them. Other countries are facing the same problem. Notwithstanding this, Senator Elliott holds up this bill, consisting of a few pages embodying the agreement arrived at at Ottawa, in an atmosphere such as I have endeavoured to explain, and says, “ This agreement is the only thing on the horizon which holds out any hope for the boys and girls of Australia “. If Senator Elliott believes that - I am sure he would not say it if he did not - he does not understand the immensity of the problem and is deceiving himself by thinking that its solution is much easier than it really is.
– Docs the honorable senator remember that it was a scrap of paper that caused the great war?
– If Senator Duncan-Hughes believes that the great war was caused by a scrap of paper, I am not at all surprised to find him in accord with Senator Elliott who believes that this agreement will be the benefit which be says it will be. The honorable senator further said that, “I am disappointed at the lack of development in Australia “. I do not know whether the honorable senator has carefully studied Australian history. If he has I am surprised that his historical knowledge does not provide him with a better understanding of Australia’s progress. Does he know of any country in which a similar number of people have achieved what has been accomplished by the handful of people in Australia? When Sir Arthur Duckham visited Australia a3 a member of what was known as “ The Big Four “, he was met in Queensland by certain representative gentlemen, including the then Premier of Queensland (Mr. McCormack). Addressing Mr. McCormack he said, “ McCormack, this trip through Australia has been one of the most educational things that has come into my life. Had I not come here I could not have believed your story. I find, in a country with a population of 6,500,000, cities equal to any that we have in the Old World. I can board a train in Perth and go right through to Cloncurry in this State.”
– And change four times.
– Had we built all the railways in Australia on the one gauge they would have been narrow gauge lines such as we have in Queensland and the country would’ not have been developed to the extent it has. It is only because legislators in this National Parliament have not the vision or the capacity to study history that we are still struggling along with four breaks of gauge between Perth and Cloncurry. There is no reason why these breaks of gauge should be retained. Australia could easily have a uniform railway gauge if it would adopt the Australian Labour Party’s financial policy, which provides for the nationalization of banking and the issue of credits for the benefit of the whole nation, instead of continuing to be controlled by thieving private profit-mongering bankers. The Labour party believes in having a uniform gauge from Perth to Cloncurry.
– What has this to do with the Ottawa agreement?
– Nothing whatever. What I have said, however, is as relevant to the subject as were some of the utterances of the honorable senator. Sir Arthur Duckham also said that the developmental work done in Australia was not equalled by a similar number of people in any other part of the world. Senator Elliott also said, “ This policy of sharing out the accumulated wealth of the past will not help to solve the problem.”
– I said that a high standard of living cannot be maintained by a mere re-distribution of the accumulated savings of the past.
– No Labour man in or out of Parliament was ever so ignorant as to suggest that it would. The wealth produced belongs to those who produce it, and to no one else. If our wealth were distributed among the people who produce it and among no others, the problems now confronting us would soon be solved. I now come to the honorable senator’s star quotation : “ British workers are prepared to pay more for meat, bread and other commodities in order that Empire < reciprocity may be achieved!.” I ask honorable senators to consider the position of the British mine, dock, railway, and transport workers. They were not consulted on this agreement. Knowing as I do the frightful and bitter struggle for existence which the British workers are undergoing in a climate which is congenial for only a portion of the year, I am surprised that the honorable senator should have the effrontery to say thai honorable senators on this side of the chamber are unpatriotic because they contend that British workers will not willingly pay more for wheat, meat and other products in order that the producers in Australia may derive some alleged advantage.
– The” agreement is mutually advantageous.
– It is an insult to our intelligence to say that it is.
– Cannot an agreement be profitable to both parties?
- Senator Johnston may be better at conundrums than I am. I suppose it would be possible to frame an agreement advantageous to both parties, but I do not happen to be debating a hypothetical agreement. I am discussing the Ottawa agreement, and the villainy contained in articles 10 to 12 inclusive, more particularly article 12, concerning which I shall have something to say before I conclude. When Senator Elliott made the statement to which 1 last referred, an honorable senator opposite asked, “ What constitutes the greatness of a nation?” Away back in British history it is recorded that a greater authority than I am asked the same question in the House of Commons in almost the same words. He said, “ Of what do you consider the greatness of a nation consists?” He replied, “Not in the vast estates of its landed proprietors; not in the great wealth of its privileged few; but even in the universality of education amongst its people and in the happiness and prosperity prevailing in their homes.” That is the best interpretation of the greatness nf a nation and, so far as I am aware, no part of the British Empire squares up to it. Because of this tinkering with serious problems which beset society, and because of the utter failure of legislators of our time to understand the real difficulties to be solved- - if they are not solved they will dissolve society as it exists to-day - there is no part of the British Empire upon which we can gaze with pride. I know, of course, that the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) will, in his reply, declare that I am one of those individuals who can see good in every country but his own. But it will not be true. It will be merely repeating what he said yesterday when he was guilty of a slanderous mis-statement of my views. No country can afford to sneer at another country and cast aspersions on its proposals to overcome the difficulties that confront it. The British Empire is no exception. In every part of the Empire to-day^ there are countless thousands of men and women vainly seeking work-potential wealth producers rendered compulsOrily idle because of the collapse in world commodity prices. In every part of the Empire and in other countries also: there are women, your sisters and mine, who, because of economic pressure, are selling their bodies in the city streets in order that they may live. Yet we prate of the greatness of our Empire, and point t’o the proposals that emanated, from Ottawa as if they offer the solution of the problems that confront us.
Senator Elliott went on to say that expensive schemes for the relief of unemployment would not solve our troubles, but would merely aggravate them.
– I said that expensive and artificial methods for the relief of unemployment would not solve the problem.
– I accept the correction. At last we have one quotation from the honorable senator’s speech certified to by himself. He has said that expensive and artificial schemes for the relief of unemployment will not solve the problem, but will merely aggravate it. Very well. Let honorable senators supporting the Government absorb that statement, and let them continue to act in the belief that it is true. Let them give their support to the Government in passing the kind of legislation that has been going through this chamber during the last twelve months. If they do so, let me tell them what will happen. It is all very well for Senator Elliott, with a nice job in the Senate, with his salary being paid into his account every month, with a fine bank balance, and surrounded by all the culture, comfort and dignity which this chamber can provide,, to deal with these problems from his superior point of view. The honorable senator has also had the advantage of world travel in comfortable circumstances. I remind, him that it is one thing to see the world in circumstances ‘such as that, but quite another thing to see it, as Senator Dunn said yesterday of New Guinea, on foot with a swag on your back. The honorable senator should come down from the clouds of self-deceit, and face the actualities of our present position. Doubtless, honorable senators are familiar with what, in colloquial language is termed “ leg pulling.” The worst form of leg pulling is that which is applied to one’s Own anatomy. I am afraid that Senator Elliott has lately been indulging in this pastime to a considerable extent. But I warn him and other honorable senators opposite that, if something is ‘ not done to deal with this problem of unemployment - other than the tinkering methods’ which have been devised iri recent years-the time is coining when, in a rough and ready fashion, the outraged workers of this and every other country will take the law into their own hands, or rather, will forget the law altogether, and solve the problem in a manner not to the liking of Senator Elliott and his friends. When that time comes, they will be the people who will have to pay the price.
Senator Elliott also said that if our primary producers go down, Australia will go down with them. That remark is a truism. It is also one of those sophistries that are bandied about so freely in our legislative halls and elsewhere. While it is undeniably true that if our primary producers go down the country will go down with them, it is also true that unless, coincident and co-equal with the primary producers of this or any other country, the workers are given a fair deal, and in consequence of being denied it they go down, they will bring down with them not only the primary producers, but the whole of our social structure as well, in inevitable and complete disaster. Why should honorable senators opposite be continually extolling the primary producer as though he could live to himself? All sections of society in all countries are becoming daily more interdependent one upon the other. Therefore, it is true to say that, as no man can live to himself, neither can any section of a community live to itself. Of what advantage would it be to our primary producers to have a good time among themselves, but with no home market upon which they could unload their products? Those who declare that there is a conflict of interest between primary producers and persons engaged in our secondary industries are making the statement either through ignorance, or because it does not suit them to tell the truth. In either case, they are enemies of society, and have no rightful place in this chamber.
I notice Senator (Brennan smiling. The honorable gentleman stirs me to mirth when otherwise I would not be so inclined. I never knew anybody with so little need to be concerned immediately. Probably he thinks that the present social system will see him out. I believe it will also see me out, but I should like to feel that, when my time comes to go, I shall leave the world a little better than I found it.’ I never knew a man who, sitting back in comfortable affluence, can sneer so eloquently and cruelly as Senator Brennan does at honorable senators on this side of the chamber.
We have been told that the dairying industry of Australia will benefit from the Ottawa agreement. Let us see how it will fare. I have here a copy of a letter which I received from a friend in one of the butter-producing districts of Queensland - which State, I may add, recently secured the Islington prize for factory butter in Great Britain - telling me what he thinks of the agreement. The letter is dated the 15th instant, and reads as follows : -
Mr. Lyons, in reply to a deputation from Queensland, told the banana-growers that important concessions had been granted Queensland for butter. What are these concessions? A 15s. per cwt. tariff on foreign butter imported into England. Queensland has had a 10s. per cwt. preference for the past six months, and the new duty will only increase this amount by 5s. per cwt. Now, take the prices ruling as paid to the cream suppliers during the same period. Has the 10s. per cwt. preference helped us at all? Very little, and the 15s. per cwt. will hardly assist us. To be any good the duty would require to be far greater than has been arranged by the Ottawa Conference. The foreign countries with their suitable climatic conditions can easily pay this duty, and with their easy access to the London market can command the market. The duty on butter as arranged at Ottawa is a farce, which the dairyman will wake up to before long. The market in London is lower now that it has been for years, despite the 10s. per cwt. preference. Mr. Lyons, using this as a stick to belt the banana-growers, is typical of actions of the United Australia Party.
I should also like to read extracts from the circular issued by the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company Limited on the 4th November, 1932, dealing with the state of the butter market. My purpose, in quoting from this circular, is to show to honorable senators that, as the result of this tinkering at Ottawa with our trade relations with Great Britain and the other dominions, the position of the dairying industry in this country will not be so easy as they would have us believe. This circular, which was sent to the butter producers in Queensland, reads as follows : -
London Butter MARKET
During the twelve months ended the 30th June, 1932, the average weekly price ruling for Australian choicest salted butter on the’ London market was 104s. Od. per cwt. The reasons for this low average price are that the year 1931 has seen a succession of crises, national and international, commencing with what may -be called the first German financial crisis in July; Germany’s position continuing more or less precarious ever since. It has seen England forced off the- gold standard and acute financial stringency, intense industrial depression with unprecedented unemployment in all the principal countries of the world, while commodity prices have continued the decline of the previous season.
During the season trading has been exceptionally difficult on account, of unsettled conditions generally. There has been a reluctance, for the most part, to carry stocks except of comparatively small dimensions as « compared with previous seasons.
Despite the fact that the British pound is depreciated in terms of gold, the sterling prices of most leading commodities are now lower than pre-war, serious falls have been recorded in values of wheat, wool, cotton, maize, butter, cheese and many other commodities.
The average weekly prices ruling for Australian salted butter (Kangaroo grade) on the Loudon market during the past five seasons were as under: -
Yet Senator Elliott would have us to believe that the’ British workers are prepared to pay more for their butter in order that the conditions of the primary producers in Australia may be improved. I have shown that the London price of Australian butter fell from 171s. per cwt. in 1928-29 to 104s. 6d. per cwt. in 1931- 32. The New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company further states -
During the last few months, the London market has been considerably depressed through the abnormal quantities of butter arriving from Denmark and other continental countries. Restrictions imposed by Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland, and Holland, on importations of butter into those countries, have caused almost the whole of the Danish export to be exported to the United Kingdom. In addition, butter is now arriving on the London market from Siberia, Poland, South Africa, Latvia, Esthonia, and Lithuania, and will continue to arrive in large quantities during the northern summer. The duty of 10 per cent, imposed by the British Customs authorities on importations of butter from foreign countries has been of no immediate benefit to the dominions, as the London market has been flooded with foreign importations, which have caused the prices to fall to their present low level.
In view of the present conditions,, it appears that unless some effective measures are adopted, there is not much prospect of any material improvement in the prices of dominion butter on the London market for some time.
That letter was written on the 4th November, after the company had become aware of the alleged tremendous advantages which the butter producers will receive under the agreement.
I now come to the subject of bananas. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) sneered at the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), because of his advocacy of the claims of the Australian banana industry ; but I draw attention to a statement which has been issued by the Queensland Producer. That journal is not a Labour propagandist sheet; it is a newspaper belonging to a staid, stodgy, tory institution.
– It could hardly be described as Nationalist propaganda.
– I am inclined to think that the Queensland Producerhas at last awakened to the futility of the Nationalist policy. It has published the following challenge, which has been issued by the banana and pineapple growers to the people of Australia -
Australia must not employ black labour in her tropical industries. Yet Australians are expected to eat black-grown bananas in the interests of reciprocal trade with Fiji, mostly trade from Flinders-lane, Melbourne. Our thousands of banana and pipeapple growers arc facing stark ruin. They are being told to think imperially.
Under the Ottawa agreement the fundamental principle is sacrifice, mainly that of “White Australia.” The question at issue is whether Australians will submit to the dictation of vested importing interests, or in other words, have their God -given right challenged to grow their own food and to supply their own homo market.
Things have come to a pretty pass when Australia is to become the dumping ground for black-grown products, thus throwing thousands of industrious fruit-growers on the scrap heap of unemployment. Surely the fighting spirit of the Anzacs is not dead, and Australians will not submit to this monstrosity lying down. Self-preservation is the first law of nature, and it demands that the challenge to the fruitgrowers livelihood he resisted to the bitter end.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLaghlan) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 November 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19321117_senate_13_137/>.