13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Act ing Leader of the Government in the Senate observed the press reports of the 9th November last, which state that a South Australian labourer, aged 21 years, having travelled through several of the southern States in search of employment, was fined 10s.,in default three days’ gaol, for having travelled in a goods train truckbetween Toowoomba and Brisbane without having previouslypaid a fare of 1s. 4d. ? Did he observe the comment of this young man: “ Why should my character be spoiled? I have done no wrong.” Will the Governmentendeavour so to organise the search for employment in Australia that seekers after it will at least enjoy facilities that are given to stock going to market, by being enabled to travel in trucks of goods trains in easy stages and free of transport charges?
– The matter of State transport is not the concern of the Commonwealth Government. “While it is regrettable that such a circumstance should arise as that to which the honorable senator has alluded, I cannot give the assurance that he seeks.
SenatorFOLL. - Has the Acting Leader of the Senate seen in the press the statement that fear is felt in Queensland that the money made available by the Commonwealth Government for the relief of necessitous wheat-farmers is likely to be retained by the State Government? Will the Commonwealth Government make it a stipulation that any money made available in this direction must be distributed among those farmers?
– When the honorable senator studies the provisions of the bill under which this assistance is to be given, hewill find that his question is answered to his satisfaction.
– Has the Government any statement of policy to make in relation to the Hoover Moratorium? Has it been in touch with the British Government during the week-end, concerning the general position of British debts? If so, why is information upon the matter being withheld from honorable senators?
– It is not the practice, and the Government does not intend to make it the practice, to announce matters of policy in answer to questions.
-Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council indicate when the report of the Wool Committee, which he has already stated is in the hands of the Government, will be made available to honorable senators?
– I understand that the printing of the report has been completed. It may be available to honorable senators to-day.
– I inform honorable senators that a copy of the report of the directors, and the balancesheet for the year ended the 30th June, 1932, of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, have been placed on the table of the Library.
Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Included among those patriotic documents were there the following documents: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Will he bring under the notice of the officers of his department the results of the tests in motor fuelfromcoalthatarereportedasbeing carried out with success by the Belfast Gas Company, Ireland, which results were printed in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 17th November, 1932?
– The results of these tests are being watched closely by the Fuel Research. Officer, Mr. L. J. Rogers, who was recently appointed for the purpose of advising the Commonwealth Government on fuel questions. A full statement on the subject was issued to the press by the Minister in charge of Development on the 7th November last.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice - 1. Is ita fact that if war debts were can celled; Australia’s war debts liability would vanish to the extent of £79,724,220, and our total overseas debts would be reduced to £474,803,780 ?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
With regard to the last-mentioned item, the total payments by the British Government amounted to £92,480,156 which in the first place was borrowed by the British Government from her own citizens. An arrangement was made between the two governments in 1921 to fund this debt of £92,480,156. Since then £12,755,930has been repaid by Australia andthe actual amount outstanding is £79.724,220. Including this sum the total overseas debt of Australia is £602,000,000. If the war debt due to the British Government were cancelled the total of our overseas debt would be reduced to approximately £522,000,000. 2 and 3. The Government is not aware of any such “demands”. The United Kingdom and other debtors to the United States of America have asked the Government of the United States of America to enter into negotiations with a view to a settlement of the problem of inter-governmental war debts following the recent settlement of the reparations problem, and, meanwhile, pending such negotiations, to agree to postpone payments due in December. The Government is fully in accord with this effort as providing the bestmeans of initiating a world recovery. The Government will see that Australia’s interests are fully safeguarded in any arrangements that may bo made for the cancellation or modification of inter-governmental war debts, and in which she is entitled to share.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
If the President of the United States of America finally decides not to extend the moratorium on international war debts beyond the present term of the -moratorium, what additional amount of money will it be necessary for the Australian Government to find during the present financial year in order to meet its obligation to Great Britain which was suspended as a result of the Hoover moratorium ?
– As Great Britain has already agreed to the postponement of sinking fund payments falling due prior to the 30th June, 1933, and the interest which fell due on the 30th September last, the greatest additional amount that the Commonwealth can be called upon to pay during the current financial year is the interest due on the 31st March next, which is approximately £1,960,000 sterling or £2,450,000 including exchange.
The following bills were received from the House of Representatives, and (on motions by Senator McLachlan), read a first time : -
Committee of Public Accounts Bill.
Jury Exemption Bill.
Crimes Bill (No. 2).
The following bills were returned from the House of Representatives without amendment : -
Wire and Wire Netting Bill.
Nauru Island Agreement Bill.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the Senate in this bill.
Debate resumed from the 18th November (vide page 2592), on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The title of this bill indicates its importance to Australia generally, and it behoves everybody who has the welfare of the Commonwealth at heart to study its provisions carefully, with a view to ascertaining whether they will eventually lead to increased development in this country. When the Ottawa Conference was first mooted, Australia was divided into two camps. The first was composed of those persons who contended that the Australian delegation should go to the conference with a determination to secure all the advantages possible for the Commonwealth, and at the same time to give certain concessions to the Mother Country. The other section of the community loudly voiced the opinion that we should get all we could and give nothing. During the course of this debate, we have, I much regret to say, found representatives of the second section in this chamber giving utterance to opinions which would indicate that they believe that Australia is the king pin of the British Empire, that we should give no. consideration whatever to the justclaims which the Old Country has upon us, and that at Ottawa we should have grasped all we could, irrespective of whether our action inflicted great injury upon the Motherland.
– What about the grasping of the Old Country?
– I consider that instead of the representatives of the British Government going to Ottawa in a grasping frame of mind, they showed, to an astonishing degree, generosity and a desire for conciliation.
-ThePrime Minister of Great Britain did not say that. He spoke as though the British delegation was out to get all it could for Britain.
– I shall refer to what occurred at the conference.
– Australia . is the brightest gem in the British crown.
– I shall have something to say in reply to certain remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) in his second-reading speech. It was a surprise to me to find that, during the whole of the debates at Ottawa, the British delegation studiously avoided charging Australia with having inflicted serious injury on the manufacturing interests of the Mother Country by the imposition of unnecessarily high tariffs. I shall have more to say onthis subject before I resume my seat. I read carefully the newspaper reports of the Ottawa proceedings and found no reference whatever to an attack which, it is alleged, had been made on the so-called fiscal policy of this country. If it be true that Great Britain went to the conference determined to drive a hard bargain with the representatives of the dominations, surely there would have been some pointed references to the Australian tariff.
– The honorable senator is always making bald statements which he cannot prove.
– I am not now making anything in the nature of a bald statement; before I resume my seat I shall quote figures in support of my argument.
It is said by those who are opposing the bill that the Australian fiscal policy will be destroyed by the adoption of the agreement. If they have in mind the various schedules of customs duties which have been imposed on the people of Australia without parliamentary approval during recent years it is evident that they do not really understand the meaning of the term, because, as I have shown, this socalled fiscal policy has to thepresent not received the approval of both cham-. bers. For the last two years the people of this country have been groaning under burdens imposed on them by previous administrations.
– And all the time we have been buying more from Great Britain than Canada has.
- Senator Crawford’s interjection is an opportune reminder of remarks which he made on this subject last week. The honorable senator stated that the impression he had formed was that the British delegation at Ottawa drove a hard bargain with- the representatives of the dominions.
– I merely quoted what the Prime Minister of Great Britain had said.
– The honorable senator himself said he had formed the impression that the British delegates had driven a hard bargain with the representatives of the dominions. But I suppose we need not be surprised at this expression of opinion, because Senator Crawford and many others are apostles, not of high protection, but of prohibition against the world. I say this advisedly.
– That is the honorable senator’s interpretation of our attitude.
– It was clearly evidenced in the debate on the tariff schedule which was handled by the honorable gentleman during his term as a Minister in the Bruce-Page administration.
– I got every item through.
– If my memory is correct, the honorable senator succeeded in passing a majority of the tariff items but not all of them. The honorable senator’s reflection on the Australian representation at the conference and also on the delegation from Great Britain, to whom we owe so much, demands, at all events, earnest consideration in this chamber.
I have no doubt that Senator Crawford has read the able criticism which appeared in the circular issued by the Bank of New South Wales on the 2nd November, concerning the Ottawa Conference resolutions. It has been alluded to by previous speakers in this debate but all, without exception, omitted to quote the last paragraph, and as it has an important bearing on the subject under discussion, I propose to do so. It reads -
Nevertheless, Britain has been generous in her treatment of dominion claims at Ottawa. We receive a duty in our favour in the British market for such important commodities as butter, cheese and fruit, and it is hoped by the interests concerned to obtain a preferential duty for meat. Though in such circumstances there will be disadvantages in the long run, benefits may accrue to Australia in the immediate future. These benefits, however, will be at the expense of British consumers and of course, will ultimately be offset by a shrinkage in the volume of these goods taken by the British consumers at the higher prices. These facts are constantly overlooked in the propaganda of protectionist groups, who claim that Australia should not give up any of her present tariffs in order to benefit British trade. But if Australia were to do so the British consumer would be compensated for the higher prices lie will be forced to pay for foodstuffs. A revival in British trade which would follow a lowering of dominion tariffs would increase the volume of spending power in the hands of the British consumer and thus enable him to pay the higher prices for dominion food exports. If Australia, in common with the other dominions, reduced tariffs heavily, something could be claimed for the Ottawa decisions, even though they involve heavy tariffs in Great Britain. Unfortunately, it cannot be expected that such reductions will be made. On the contrary there is every indication of resistance to reductions, despite the generosity of Great Britain.
I emphasize particularly the commencing and concluding sentences which mention the generous treatment by Great Britain of dominion claims. As previous speakers had refrained from directing attention to this expression of opinion, I felt it my duty to bring it prominently under the notice of the Senate.
I listened with interest to the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) who, I regret to say, is not at the moment in the chamber as I wish to offer some comments upon his views. The honorable senator quoted articles 5 of the agreement which reads as follows: -
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 Umpire 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 the world price.
He then went on to say that this meant that as Australian producers would be expected to market their products at world’s prices they would’ get no preference in the British market. Clearly the honorable gentleman wa3 in error. If he will turn to article 2 he will find that it reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom will invite Parliament to pass the legislation necessary to impose on the foreign goods specified in schedule B appended hereto, the duties of customs shown in that” schedule in place of the duties (if any) now leviable.
Schedule B provides the following rates of duty on the commodities mentioned: Wheat in grain 2s. per quarter; butter, 15s. per cwt.; cheese, 15 per cent. ad valorem; apples 4s. 6d. per cwt.; eggs in shell1s. to1s. 9d. per great hundred; condensed milk, 5s. to 6s. per cwt.; honey, 7s. per cwt. Several other commodities, in the production of which Australia is interested are also included. Apparently, Senator Barnes takes the view that because these commodities have to he submitted on first sale in the British market at world’s prices, we are getting no preference; but,as I have shown, he is entirely wrong. Necessarily they must be submitted at world’s prices. Surely the honorable gentleman does not expect us to get more than world’s parity for our products in the British markets, which, as we have good reason to know, consumes so great a proportion of our surplus commodities. The list of preferences in Schedule B will present splendid opportunities for a considerable expansion in the sale of our products in the Mother Country. In further defence of the socalled fiscal policy of Australia, which, according to the view of its advocates, really means prohibition, the Leader of the Opposition outlined briefly the history of the textile industry in the Mother Country. This is what he said -
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. The British textile industry has boon 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.
We do, with a very marked difference.
– England imported operatives to do the work.
– That is so. When England decided to end the foolishness of sending its wool abroad there to be manufactured into the finished article, it may have imported a few operatives from the continent, but did it impose a prohibitive tariff against its competitors? No. It established the woollen and textile industry on a sound basis by depending solely upon the virility of her own manhood and womanhood to do the job. I am speaking now as a protectionist, and not as a freetrader. What have we done in Australia? I suggest to any honorable senator to peruse our tariff schedules. It would require an extraordinary imagination to construe our British preferential tariff as being sufficiently low to enable any British manufacturer to compete in the Australian market. Is that what is meant by protection? It is coddling Australian manufacturers and the operatives engaged in manufacture when the protection afforded is so high -that there is no incentive for them to give of their best. In effect, we say that they can do just what they please, because the products which they are manufacturing are amply protected by the prohibitive socalled British preferential duties imposed. The fiscal policy we have adopted is entirely the reverse of that of Great Britain which has been largely responsible for placing Great Britain in the eminent position which she now occupies with respect to the excellence of her manufactured products among the nations of the world, and which has been achieved without a high protective tariff. I do not suggest that we should adopt a fiscal policy similar to that of Great Britain, but I maintain that it is against the best interests of the Commonwealth to make it impossible for any individuals engaged in an industry protected by this prohibitive tariff to develop into better workmen than they were at the commencement.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the Australian workers are not equal to the British workers ?
– Strange to say, considering the pampering which those engaged in manufacture have received, we have workmen as good as those in any part of the world. A large majority of our workers are prepared to do their best if permitted to do so; but they are not permitted to do so.
– The honorable senator does not know of one instance in which workmen have been prevented from doing their best. That statement is not true.
– I know of a number of instances in which workmen have been penalized for attempting to do their best. I know of men who have lost their positions by giving the service they were capable of rendering. Men have beennotified that if they did not observe the instructions given to them by union officials they could no longer remain members of the union.
– What union?
– The Furnishing Trades Union in New South Wales.
– Did the honorable senator see the notification?
– One unfortunate individual I have in mind was fined £5 for daring to attempt to give a fair day’s work to his employer.
– That is not so. No such instructions were ever given.
– I have produced in the Senate the trade union publication in which a report of the case appeared.
I listened with attention to the speech of Senator MacDonald, whose earnestness I admire, but I regret that he should have shown such antipathy to Great Britain and to the British delegates at the Ottawa Conference. I wish to refer to one particular incident which he mentioned.
– I should like the honorable senator to be more explicit ; he should not make inaccurate statements.
– Senator MacDonald said that the British people had invested £2,000,000,000 outside the Empire. He repeated it; he enlarged upon it; he quoted it as if it were a crime for which Great Britain should be made to pay the penalty. The honorable senator should realize that the Old Country depends upon manufacture which is the life blood of the nation. In Great Britain, which is comparatively small in area, there are 47,000,000 persons. The people of Great Britain by their hard work and close application to whatever task they have to perform, have lifted their country to a place higher than that of any other country in the world. How did Great Britain gain its trade in order to maintain a population of 47,000,000 persons? By extending its trading activities to other countries. By its energy and industry it was able to accumulate the enormous sum it has loaned to foreign countries, and by means of which it greatly increased its foreign trade, without which it could not live. We call the Old Country the Mother Country. We should be proud of a mother which has set her children such a good example. True Australians should follow the example of Great Britain whenever they can. Many are endeavouring to depart from the good example set by the Mother Country. I cannot see why any stigma can be rightly placed upon Great Britain merely because she has £2,000,000,000 invested in other countries.
– Great Britain, having such a large sum of money invested in foreign countries, cannot discuss inter-Empire trade with advantage to the dominions.
– The honorable senator should endeavour to develop an international mind. When we study the economic conditions throughout the world to-day, we cannot ignore our obligations not only to Great Britain, but to other countries as well. By realizing our obligation in that respect we are also protecting ourselves, because we are dependent to a large extent upon the goodwill of other nations. Let me give an instance of what happened a little while ago. Some time ago the production of rice was commenced in Leeton, in New South Wales, and to the surprise of most people, it proved a magnificent success. An effort was made to secure suitable markets, and it was subsequently found that New Caledonia was prepared to take a fairly large quantity of our product to feed the native labour in that country. The trade was small, but it was the beginning of an industry that was likely to develop until it became of great importance to Australia. Last year New Caledonia imported from Australia 4,034 centals of rice, valued at £3,495. Australia felt that it had a good customer, and so it had until the so-called fiscal policy of the Scullin Government was brought into operation, and under which an embargo was placed upon the importation of French perfumery and other lines which were of little importance to Australia. Within a few weeks an embargo was placed upon the importation of Australian rice into New Caledonia. That industry was of value to Australia ; but the Scullin Government imposed a fiscal policy of its own through which we lost a valuable customer. I hope that it will not be long before we regain that trade. More consideration should be given to the removal of many of these restrictions, so that we shall be able to regain the goodwill of other countries.
– A tariff has been imposed by the British Government.
– If this Government imposed a tariff such as that now in operation in Great Britain, the honorable senator and those with whom he is associated would characterize it as a freetrade government. The British tariff rates are comparatively low, but we have duties which are equivalent to 1,000 per cent.
– One thousand per cent?
– Yes, I can quote one as high as that. I suppose that by now honorable senators are aware that I propose to support the second reading of this bill. The information I am giving is submitted for the purpose of endeavouring to awaken those who do not agree with me to the necessity for removing many of the fiscal barriers that we have erected to the prejudice of the people of Australia. I have referred to the magnificent attitude of the British representatives at Ottawa in refraining from taxing us with having imposed burdens that- would be hard for any nation to bear with any degree of equanimity. I have before me a few instances of the so-called British preferential duties contained in the tariff schedules which operated at the time of the conference which illustrate the point I have been endeavouring to make. Take item 105d in the tariff schedule which relates to cotton tweeds, a material used principally by Australian working men and their families. The British preferential duty is equivalent to 100 per cent, ad” valorem, which is so high that the British manufacturer cannot trade with Australia. The duty is ls. 3d. a square yard, plus 35 per cent, ad valorem. Since the invoice price of average good cloth is ls. 4d. a yard for material 28 inches wide, the duty is equal to 110 per cent, ad valorem. In addition, there is a primage duty of 10 per cent, and other charges. The next item to which I desire to refer is “ piece goods, wool or containing wool “ - material manufactured especially for people of small means. Some of this material, although made chiefly of cotton, contains from 5 to 10 per cent, of wool. The invoice price for it is ls. 6d. a yard in Great Britain ; yet the duty was 2s. a square yard, plus 35 per cent, ad valorem, equal to 183 per cent.
Coming now to apparel, I shall only take one item - boys’ knickers. The average invoice price in England of these goods is 2s. a pair for knickers of reasonable quality. But the duty imposed under our existing tariff is 4s. a pair, or 200 per cent. That is the socalled British preference! Every other item of apparel and attire comes within the same category.
The invoice price in Great Britain of cotton undervests of low quality is about 6s. a dozen. We have imposed a duty of 2s. each, which is equal to 400 per cent, ad valorem. Should these undervests contain wool, in which case their invoice price in Great Britain would be about 12s. a dozen, they are subject to a duty of 5s. each, which is 500 per cent, ad valorem. Small woollen vests suitable for children, which are invoiced at 6s. a dozen, bear a duty of 5s. each. In that case, our so-called British preference imposes an ad valorem duty of 1,000 per cent !
– To what tariff schedule is the honorable senator referring ?
– The existing schedule. Most Australian working men, particularly those living in the northern parts of the Commonwealth, wear cotton socks. The invoice price of those goods in England is about fis. 9”d. a dozen. We have imposed on them a duty of 20s. a dozen, which is approximately 300 per cent, ad valorem. Socks made of wool, or containing wool, invoiced at 12s. a dozen, are subject to a duty of 17s. 6d. a dozen, or 150 per cent. Cotton hose for women’s wear, the average selling price of which was ls. 6d. a pair three years ago, were invoiced in Britain at 8s. a dozen. They bear a duty of 30s. a dozen, which is 375 per cent, ad valorem.
In that portion of the tariff dealing with metal and machinery, it is provided that the duty on kitchenware made of tin or other metal shall be 3s. a dozen. I have here an appliance used for baking scone3 or small cakes, which is manufactured in Great Britain, and invoiced at 4s. a dozen. The landed cost was 5id. and the appliance was sold in Launceston, Tasmania, at about 9d. retail. Australian manufacturers are making similar articles and selling them for ls. each. As honorable senators can see, the article contains nine impressions; and under a ruling of the Customs Department-, each impression is dutiable at 3d., so that the whole article is subject to a duty of 2s. 3d., notwithstanding that its invoice price is only 4d. I quote these instances of prohibitive duties to show the necessity for some of the articles in the agreement. It is true that Australian mills are manufacturing cotton undervests equal in quality to the British article invoiced at 6s. a dozen, and selling them retail at ls. 3d. each. Why, therefore, is it necessary to impose a British preferential duty of 2s. each on these garments ? A protection of 6d. each would be ample to protect the Australian industry.
I now come back to the agreement itself, and to those of its articles which were so strongly condemned by the Leader of the Opposition. Article 9 is as follows: -
Hia 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.
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 tire 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.
Honorable senators who have read the annual reports of the Tariff Board will have noticed that the board has stressed the necessity for applying the principle contained in article 10 continuously to its investigations. Time after time, the board has protested that the only evidence placed before it has been that of importers and manufacturers. There has been no representation of the consumers. The board has always contended that due regard should he paid to the methods of production. Article 11 reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth 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 the 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.
It is because of the provisions of article 11 that I have instanced the prohibitive duties, which we hypocritically call “British preferences”. There is no preference at all in such cases. If this Parliament were entrusted with the arranging of an international sports gathering in Australia, to which entrants from all parts of the world were invited, and were to he the handicapper, the judge, and the committee to arrange the details, I imagine that, knowing the world’s high jump record to be, say, 6ft. 2 in., it would, in its wisdom or foolishness, place the bar for British competitors at 6 ft. 6 in., and for foreign competitors at 7 ft., and claim that the British competitor had been granted preference. Honorable senators may smile, but that is what we have done in our tariff. No competitor can get over the bar that we have set up.”
– The bar should be made so high that only Australians can get over it.
– The honorable senator would have Australia live to itself; but that is impossible.
– Australia can do it, and so can other countries.
– In that case, what is the need for a protective policy at all?
– I desire only to do my best for Australia. I claim to be a true Australian, which 210 man can be without being also a true Britisher.
– He cannot be a true Australian, and an importer’s agent.
– Inowasmuch about industrial conditions in Australia as does the honorable senator; I know the difficulties confronting men and women in Australia to-day. Honorable senators opposite have spoken of the interference of Britain in our fiscal policy. I have with me a volume containing the acts of this Parliament for the year 1921. Among them is the Tariff Board Act. Honorable senators opposite would have us believe that it is something new to refer tariff matters to the Tariff Board, but I remind them that the law of the land makes that necessary. It may be that the action of the Scullin Government in breaking that law has led honorable senators to believe that it no longer exists. The Scullin Government forced on the people of Australia a tariff, every item of which was imposed contrary to the law of the land. The Tariff Board Act provides that before any steps are taken by the Minister to alter a tariff item by a resolution of the Parliament, he must refer the item to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report, and is prevented from taking any action thereon until the Tariff Board has furnished its report to him. Thus by imposing duties without the items having been referred to the Tariff Board, the Scullin Government imposed heavy burdens on the people of Australia without legal sanction. Many of those who are now unemployed lost their employment because of the imposition of these illegal duties.
Opposition senators interjecting,
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. lynch). - Order! The honorable senator is entitled to be heard in silence.
– He should speak the truth.
– That remark is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– The honorable senator must withdraw the remark to which exception has been taken.
– I withdraw it.
– I suggest that honorable senators who doubt the accuracy of my statement should make some inquiries in Melbourne or Sydney as to its correctness.
– The honorable senator’s statement is not correct.
– There are none so blind as thosewho will not see. If, instead of walking up and down Pittstreet, Castlereagh-street, or any other main street of Sydney containing retail establishments, Senator Dunn were to go to York-street and Clarencestreet, and make inquiries there along the lines I have suggested, he would probably be surprised at the result. I know that the honorable senator does not think that any good can come out of Flinders-lane, Melbourne, but I suggest that he should approach some of the reputable witnesses there - he will find them by the score - and make inquiries as to the effect of the Scullin Government’s tariff. I am sure that he would learn that hundreds of employees had lost their jobs as a result of the operation of that tariff. The imposition of duties illegally by the Scullin Government has thrown many Australian workers out of employment.
– Their condition is due to the depression.
– I can refer the honorable senator to certain manufactories that were in. existence a few months after that tariff became operative. For how long did they last? For but a few months, and the last stage was worse than the first. Hundreds of girls and lads were dismissed. Why? Because, under this prohibitory tariff, encouragement was given to people to invest their hardearned savings in industries that were not warranted in Australia, and the result of this mushroom growth, on top of many similar industries already in existence under a reasonable tariff, was an output sufficient for the requirements of a population twice as large as that of Australia, not one pound’s worth of which could be exported’ because of the high cost of production. These concerns crashed, and many of the shareholders, among them a number of poor people, lost their money, while the workers who had been engaged in them were forced into unemployment.
I wish to refer briefly to schedule D, in which will be found a number of items, every one of which is of vital importance to Australia. They are - Leather, tallow, canned meat, zinc, lead, barley, wheat flour, macaroni, dried peas, dressed poultry, casein, eucalyptus oil, meat extracts and essences, copra, sugar of milk, sausage casings, wattle bark, asbestos, and dried fruits other than currants. That schedule will stand for five years.
– Surely the honorable senator has no doubt about the matter! I believe that the experiment will prove a good one.With respect to all those items, there will be a 10 ‘per cent.preferenceoversimilarimportsinto Great Britain from any other part of the world. Surely, then, we can expect an ever-expanding market for our products in the Old Country; and, if that be the case, the development of this country must be helped materially. We want it to be developed, and better times to be experienced. Despite the adverse conditions, our people by and large have more blessings to the square foot than those of any other country have to the square yard. I have heard my friends opposite speak of the brotherhood of man. Can the principles of the brotherhood of man be applied if we deliberately adopt towards Great Britain the attitude, “ We shall take every advantage of you in our trade with you, and ask you to give us the best possible price for our goods; but do not dare trade with us. Although in our fiscal policy we professedly give you preferences, we have built the tariff wall so high that you cannot climb over it “ ?
I desire to express my personal gratitude to those who represented Australia at the Ottawa Conference. I consider that they discharged their functions admirably. They had many difficulties to contend with, and had to bargain with some of the best men in the British Empire; but they came back with the feeling that I had upon my return from a trip to the Old Country - that it was a splendid experience to meet such men. In the ranks of British statesmen are to be found men who hold the most generous views towards the people of the dominions. I found that characteristic even in members of the party that bears the same name as the party to which my friend, Senator Hoare, belongs. But their calibre appeared to me to be somewhat different from that of members of the Labour party in Australia. Even they are prepared to give full consideration to the claims of other parts of the Empire, often at the expense of their own country. If ever there was a country that for centuries was ready and anxious to use its wealth and prestige to assist weaker nations, it is Great Britain.
– Great Britain robbed the Australian wheat-farmer of £37,000,000 during the war.
– It did nothing of the kind. I should like to have an opportunity to reply fully to that assertion, but the present occasion does not give it to me. I hope that the bill will pass, and that this experiment will eventually prove’ of such value that even my friends opposite, who have opposed the passage of the measure, will conclude that they were in error, and appreciate as much as we do the advantages that we expect to derive from it.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [4.22].- While I shall vote for the second reading of the bill, I fear that my remarks will be critical rather than complimentary, and that my support will be singularly lacking in enthusiasm. I shall vote for the bill because I believe that its passage will cast upon this Government and this Parliament an obligation to reduce customs duties, at all events against British imports. My lack of enthusiasm is due to the fact that I have very little confidence that that obligation will be rightly discharged. All of us remember that, during the closing days of the Ottawa Conference, it was obvious that very grave differences had arisen between the representatives of the different parts of the Empire, and that the making of any agreement was almost despaired of. I venture to think that the reason an agreement was reached is that, for political purposes, none of the representatives at
Ottawa was willing- to return, to his country and adroit failure. I consider that the agreement that we- now have before us is the> result of a last-minute rush, not to find a solution of the difficulties that had appeared, nor to resolve the differences that had manifested themselves between the various delegates, but to discover a formula - in diplomatic language, a set of words that each party could interpret according to his own fancy, so that each could go away satisfied that a good agreement had been made. In other words, having failed conspicuously to solve the problems that confronted them and to resolve the differences of opinion between them, they hit upon a set of words to which all could agree - a set of words that the different parties are now engaged in interpreting. I suggest that, from the point of view of the British Empire, it is extremely dangerous to arrive at agreements on such lines, because inevitably those differences that were not settled at the conference will again arise when the agreement has to be interpreted, and, as the result of conflicting interpretations, there will probably be charges of breach of faith, and they will do a great deal more harm than the agreement will do good. I understand from gentlemen who attended the conference, and who afterwards proceeded to London, that already in the Old Country a new difference has manifested itself. Those who are opposed to this agreement, including members of the Labour party at home, on the ground that it pledges Great Britain to a protective policy, still speak of it as the Ottawa Conference ; but those who think that it is going to point the way to world recovery, and lead us all’ to a new heaven and a new earth, speak of it as “ Ottawah “. I was curious to notice, when the agreements were first published, a very striking difference between the Australian and the New Zealand agreements - differences in clauses that apparently have the same meaning and are intended to have a. similar application. For example, in the article corresponding to that which Senator Payne has just, read about the opportunity for competition that is to be allowed to the British mann. facturer, the New Zealand agreement says “ Shall place the United Kingdom producer in the position of a domestic com petitor “. I trust that the Minister, when he is replying to this debate, will tell lis,, if he can, the reason for this striking difference. Was it deliberately intended that the New Zealand Government and’ Parliament should give to the British manufacturer greater concessions than Australia was prepared to give? Do the two agreements mean the same? If so, why are they differently worded? If they mean something different, what is the difference? On the British side, the undertakings are specific; whether they are of great value or not, is another question. We all know what they are, and we have seen by the resignation of British Ministers exactly how the thing is to apply. The British Ministers who have resigned are those who believe that the Ottawa agreement, casting as it does upon the British Government the obligation to set up and to maintain protective tariffs, will prevent freer trade between the different nations of the world. That is the reason for their resignations. I am. afraid, however, that we cannot get an equally clear lead from what has happened in connexion with our own Ministry, from which Mr. Fenton has resigned. I am confident that all of us ‘have a deep admiration for any man who places his political convictions, whatever they may be, above the sweets of office. But we know that it took Mr. Penton a long time to make up his. mind. Apparently it took him. a long time- to discover exactly what the agreement meant, and how it was to he applied. Now that we see its first application in the schedule that has already been submitted, I think that most of us find ourselves wondering why Mr. Fenton did resign.
I intend to devote ray remarks chiefly to the four articles of the agreement, in the interpretation of which, I consider, very serious trouble is likely to arise. The first of those is article 9. It says that protection by tariffs shall be afforded only to those industries which are reasonablyassured of sound opportunities for success.
– Who is to be the judge?-
– Who is to be the judge? Does it mean that a sound ! opportunity for success is to be judged by the ability of an industry - advantaged’ by the fact, attested to by my friend Senator Collings, that Australians can do everything that can be done by the workers of any other country, and if anything a little better than they - to compete with the industries of other countries? If so, how many of our Australian secondary industries could be regarded as having “ sound opportunities for success?” On the other hand, if the judgment is to be that an industry can carry on with a prohibitive tariff, to what industry are we to deny assistance? Let me give one instance - the match industry. The protection afforded to that industry is prohibitive. If we imported our matches, and paid the whole of the employees in that industry full salaries and wages to do nothing, we should still be money in pocket. Is that to be regarded as the class of industry that is assured of “sound opportunities for success “? I leave the matter at that, merely with the remark that nothing but confusion and discord can arise from any attempt to interpret a provision so loosely worded as article 9. Let us now consider article 10, which states -
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 mid efficient production, provided that in the application of such principle special consideration may be given to the case of industries not fully established.
Provision is made in this article for new industries in course of establishment ; but again I wish to know who is to interpret these articles? I ask honorable senators to imagine two business men making an agreement, binding on each other, and couching it in indefinite language of that kind, which may be interpreted to mean anything.
– Will not the High Court interpret the meaning of the agreement for Australia?
– I do not think so. I doubt whether the High Court could give a decision in a hypothetical case, and say what would be “ full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative cost of economical and efficient production “. The High Court was established to inter pret the laws made by this Parliament, but how is it to determine what is “reasonablecompetitiononthebasisof the relative cost of economical and efficient production “ ?
– It has no special knowledge on that matter.
– To ask it to decide that would be to impose upon it a duty which I think was never contemplated, and I doubt whether the giving of a decision on such a matter would be a judicial act. Imagine, as I have already suggested, two business men making an agreement couched in language of that kind! Article 11 states -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth 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 the 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.
There we have the Tariff Board set up as the authority which is to interpret article 10. We make the TariffBoard the judge of “ the relative cost of economical and efficient production “. Perhaps, if there is to be a judge, that body is the best we could have, but I propose to deal with this a little more exhaustively later on. I now come to article 12, which 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.
I desire to impress upon the Senate the fact that the Ottawa agreement came into operation on the clay on which it was signed. That is a very important point. If Parliament rejected the agreement, of course, that would terminate it so far as Australia is concerned; but the bill does not say, “ This agreement shall come into operation on a day to be fixed by the Parliament “. I am going to show that the portion of the agreement which provides 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” has already been broken. We have already defaulted in our obligations to the Motherland. What does this article mean ? The Australian Industries Protection League, in a communication which has been widely circulated amongst honorable senators, and which was published in the Melbourne Age of the 20th October last, states -
If the quoted words of the agreement mean anything at all they are not to be interpreted in any other way than that. British manufacturers are to be placed in a position in the Australian market, which has hitherto been deliberately denied them.
I can find no quarrel whatever with that statement; I am entirely in accord with it. If the words of the agreement mean anything, they mean what the League says - that the British manufacturers are to have opportunities hitherto denied them to compete in the Australian market. The letter from the League continues -
The agreement, therefore, not only alters the fiscal policy of Australia-
Again I agree with the League - but, if adopted, will constitute a distinct violation of the pre-election pledges of the leaders of the Government with respect to the safeguarding of that policy.
– Our fiscal policy is merely on the table. It has not yet been passed by the Parliament of Australia.
– Unfortunately, although it has not been passed by this Parliament, it is now in operation against the best interests of the people. It is the policy under which the Australian people are suffering. There is a reference in the League’s letter to a lye-election pledge. Unfortunately, the Government made two pre-election pledges. In the first place, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) went to Sydney, and, in order to obtain uniformity of action against the Labour party, and to obtain the support of the Country party, they gave an undertaking, one feature of which was the promise that duties would be reduced in the interests of the primary producers. A little while before the election, Senator Greene published in the Sydney Morn ing Herald a most interesting and, to my mind, logical and admirable letter, in which he said that the first duty of a new government would be to remove at once all those increases in duties which the Scullin Government had imposed contrary to the law of the country, for they had been put into operation without reference to the Tariff Board. That is one part of the policy on which honorable senators from Western Australia fought the election. We assured the people that if the Labour party were defeated, relief would be given to the primary producers. But another pledge was given on the eve of the election, because it was thought necessary to put the Scullin Government out of office. In order to win metropolitan seats, a further pledge was _ given, which, according to their own statements, “ satisfied “ the manufacturers of Melbourne and Sydney - that there should be no reduction even of the Scullin duties, until they had been referred back to the Tariff Board. Notwithstanding the words used by Senator Greene in his letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, in which he regarded it as the duty of any government coming into power to remove duties illegally imposed, there was an undertaking that they should not be reduced until they had been referred back to the Tariff Board. It was also announced that the protectionist policy of Australia would be as safe in the hands of Mr. Lyons as in the hands of Mr. Scullin. What did all that mean? The Scullin tariff, which was imposed in 1929, was denounced by all present members of the ministerial party, apart from those who were then members of the Scullin Government, as a fiscal monstrosity, as well as an act of administrative lawlessness. Even the Melbourne Age, the apostle of high protection, said that this policy was extreme, could not be maintained, and could be regarded as only temporary. When the Scullin tariff was passed, the exchange rate in Australia was from 6 per cent, to 9 per cent. Yet when the exchange rate had increased to 25 per cent, that tariff was adopted holus bolus by those who had denounced it. Practically all that the new schedule does is to increase duties against foreign countries, mostly countries on whom we have to rely for the purchase of a great many of our exports, and countrieswhich previously had been provoked to retaliatory action that did Australian industries much harm. Ithasalways been my firm belief that if Australia is to gain anything from the Ottawa agreement it must be as the result of a reduction of duties in the interests of the primary producers, and not in the form of preferences and quotas.
– Reduced duties in the formpreference to Britain.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Yes; real preference.
I shall examine briefly the concessions made to us by the Old Country, with a view to finding out what their value is likely to be. It was never pretended that anything could be done at the Ottawa Conference to help the wool industry. Is it not inevitable that if Empire countries raise their tariffs against the foreigner, it will prejudice our wool industries ? There will be reprisals, and we shall be forced to depend more than ever upon the undoubtedly superior quality of our wool. The marketing, of our wool in foreign countries will not be improved, but may be seriously injured by this agreement. The duty of 3d. per bushel on wheat will not be of any use to us. It is notpretendedthatitwillbe,because it is accompanied by the obligation that we must sell our wheat on the home market at world prices. But the exclusion from the home market of the wheat produced in foreign countries will, undoubtedly, mean more intense competition in other countries, and I do not think that there is any case on record where this method of interfering with the natural flow of trade has had any other consequence than to depress the market to the disadvantage of the producer. While we have nothing to gain from the agreement, so far as wheat is concerned, there is danger of loss through the disturbance of markets, and the exciting of reprisals on the part of foreign countries to whom we must look in any case for the sale of much of our wheat.
It is said that much is to be expected from the agreement in regard to meat. I am speaking chiefly from a Western Australian point of view; one is entitled to be more deeply interested in one’s own
State. Our producers of lamb are already complaining that the quotaprovision will make things worse for them than they were before Most of our export beef goes from the Wyndham freezing works, and it has never found a satisfactory market in any country except Belgium. Practically the whole of our beef has been sold there; it is a class of meat that does not sell readily in London. I cannot conceive of anything more harmful than the restriction of the exports of the Argentine, which must inevitably leadto increased competition in European markets.
– Are the restrictions against frozen or chilled beef?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.I have said that we sell our frozen meat in Belgium, and anything calculated to disturb the British market, and concentrate competition on the Continent, is bound to be harmful to the Western Australian export of frozen meat to Belgium. It was claimed a few days ago that the restriction on the 1933 exports would be beneficial. It was said that all that would happen would be that the quantity that should have been sent away in 1933 would be held in storage until 1934, and by that means the glut would be cleaned up. It seems to me that that would merely clean up one glut and set up another. There is no case on record where that policy has not resulted in confusion and loss to the primary producers. One enthusiastic supporter of the agreement, Mr. Cramsie, for whose opinion I have a high regard, has said that the agreement should lead to the attraction of capital to Australia, just as it had previously been attracted to the Argentine, and to the building up of an industry in Australia that would compete with the Argentine. I hope that he is right; but I think that it will be agreed that, in competing with the Argentine, we must rely on the quality of our meat.
– Argentine export beef is chilled, not frozen.
– I do not doubt that my honorable friend knows a great deal more about this subject than I do, but he will, I think, admit that so far as my own line of argument is concerned, it is perfectly logical and clear. I am just as well aware a3 he is of the difference between chilled and frozen beef because, during the four years of my occupancy of the position of AgentGeneral for Western Australia in London, it fell to my lot to dispose of a large quantity of frozen beef exported io the Mother Country from Western Australia. Although I may not have any practical knowledge of the industry itself, I am not entirely ignorant of the subject. When I was speaking of quality, I had in mind the fact that the Argentine chilled beef sold in the British market is chilled at the age of about two and a half years, whereas Australian frozen beef is marketed at the age of about five years. It would therefore appear that if we are to overcome the difficulty which I have mentioned with regard to quality, the industry in Australia must be so organized as to permit of the marketing of chilled beef at the age of two and a half years. This question of quality must, of course, be regarded as an important factor if we wish to encourage the investment in this country of outside capital which, because of the more favorable conditions in the Argentine, has been attracted to that country. But are we doing anything to encourage the investment of additional capital in Australia?
Let us consider first the position of the industry in the Northern Territory where, for a great many years, pastoralists have been struggling against enormous odds to develop the beef industry. This Government, only the other day, laid on the table of the Senate, regulations which had been framed several months ago, dealing with the employment of half-caste apprentices. These regulations provide that each half-caste apprentice on a cattle station shall have a separate room to sleep in, the same meals as are provided for other employees, the same number of holidays on full pay, and so on. I do not complain as to the material conditions, but each apprentice at the age of eighteen years is to receive weekly lis. 6d. as pocket money, and a sum has to be paid into a savings bank account, sufficient to ensure that, at the end of his two years’ apprenticeship, the amount standing to his credit will be approximately £80. There is the further provision that one half-caste apprentice shall be engaged for every six aboriginals employed. Could any industry in any country survive under conditions such as these with reference to the employment of apprentices no matter what colour they are? And is it not absurd to suggest that conditions like these will attract foreign capital to Australia, and enable us to build up the Australian cattle industry in competition with the Argentine? Even at the risk of exciting all sorts of ribald interjections from my honorable friends in opposition, I would say that it is a poor sort of argument to offer the British Government that, in order to maintain conditions like these for the half-caste apprentices on our cattle stations, the British Government should be asked to put up the price of meat against the poor of the Mother Country. Senator Payne had something to say under the same heading. He remarked that we shall enjoy advantages from the agreement so far as it applies to our fruit, butter, eggs, and a number of other commodities. On that point, T put forward very seriously the contention that if prices rise in a community because of increased employment due to a return of prosperity, all is well; but if prices are put up purely by political action, and if there is no increase of employment because there is no return of prosperity, is it not extremely likely that increased prices will be accompanied by decreased consumption, so that even- in those things in which we seem to be gaining, we shall, in the long run, be the loser?
I shall devote the remainder of the short time available to me to the interpretation of that portion of the agreement which casts obligations on Australia. Shortly after the conference was over, Mr. Baldwin, the leader of the British delegation, said, in effect, “ I have gained great advantages for the British manufacturers.” Mr. Bruce, the leader of the Australian delegation, referring to the Australian position, said, “ I have given away nothing.” “ It seems to me to be entirely impossible to reconcile those two statements.
I have already referred to the fact that the Tariff Board is to be the interpreter of article 10 of the agreement. It is on record in Hansard that instructions have been given by this Government to the
Tariff Board that in any recommendation made in accordance with article 10, the board is to pay no regard to primage or exchange. I have no hesitation in saying that that was an entirely improper instruction to give. No government is entitled to instruct the Tariff Board to ignore any fact or circumstance, whatever it may be, in framing its recommendations to Parliament. And what has been the result of that instruction? On the 26th September, of this year, the Tariff Board, in its report on piece goods, woollen or containing wool, said this -
The rates of duty recommended by the board are higher than are considered necessary to secure to the Australian manufacturer an overwhelming proportion of the market in woollen piece goods for men’s wear.
I am not arguing whether it is wise or unwise for the board to make such a recommendation, but I do say that, since we have entered into an arrangement with the Mother Country, under which we have agreed that the Tariff Board shall recommend duties which will give British manufacturers a fair opportunity of competition in the Australian market, the board is not entitled to recommend a duty which will give the Australian producer an overwhelming proportion of the Australian market. But this is not the whole of the story, the board went on to say -
Apart from the duties recommended by the board, there exists at present abnormally high landing charges, due to primage and exchange. The average cost of landing the lines referred to under existing charges is 120 per cent. on the f.o.b. value. However, the board, in making its recommendation, has indicated the rates of duty without the added protection at present afforded by primage and exchange.
And this Government brings in a schedule including the duties recommended by the board, with primage added in some cases, and in all cases an additional 25 per cent. applying on account of exchange and says that it is carrying out the Ottawa agreement to give the. British manufacturer a reasonable opportunity to compete in the Australian market! Again, I say that I am not, at the moment, concerned whether high protection for this industry is wise or unwise - the duties imposed by the Scullin Government gave the manufacturers a protection of 177 per cent. - but having entered into an agreement we ought at least to be honest, whether we are freetraders or protectionists. It is particularly incumbent on the Government or Parliament to be quite frank in its transactions with other countries.
Then we have the duties relating to galvanized iron. The Tariff Board suggested a British preferential duty of £2 per ton, but also made an alternative recommendation that if the local manufacturer would agree to sell his product at a certain price - I think the price mentioned was £24 10s. per ton - it would recommend a British preferential duty of £4 10s. per ton. It should be noted that the first recommendation, a duty of £2 per ton, was one which gave the British manufacturer a reasonable opportunity of competing in the Australian market, whereas the second recommendation excludes the British manufacturer altogether, and merely protects the consumer against undue exploitation by the Australian manufacturer. Again, I am not concerned whether this is the right or the wrong way of enacting tariff legislation, but I repeat that, under the agreement, it is dishonest and a breach of a contract made with the Mother Country. The Tariff Board went on to state -
On this output (60,000 tons per annum) the board has estimated that a reasonable selling price would be £24 8s.10d. per ton, while wages remain as at present, and £22 14s. l1d. per ton if the wages are reduced to conform with the existing federal basic wage.
Where does the British manufacturer come in? Apparently, the rates of duty are to be sufficiently high to enable this particular industry to pay an extraordinarily high rate of wages, and also shut out the British manufacturers. As a matter of fact, I believe that wages have come down since these high duties were imposed.
– According to the honorable senator’s argument, the agreement is not worth the paper upon which it is written.
– I dare say that, upon that point, there is not a great deal of difference between the honorable senator and myself.
Then there is the question of imported glass, about which we have heard so much lately. I do not intend to repeat what
I said in this chamber a week or two ago, except to point out that this Government, despite the report of the Tariff Board, and despite article 12 of this agreement, imposed duties so high that glass costing in Britain £88 per ton, cost in Australia £154 per ton - equivalent to 100 per cent, protection. And then because the Australian manufacturer claimed that the sheet glass industry could not be carried on even under this high protection, the matter was referred back to the board for further investigation, and in a newspaper report of proceedings of the Tariff Board last week, there appeared a statement by tho chairman, Mr. McConaghy, that the f.o.b. price of English glass was 12s. 3d. per case, and that of of Belgian glass about 8s. per case. He then asked cow it was that the Australian “Window Glass Company could not sell for less than 27s. per case. Mr. Smith, the witness before the board, stated that wages, industrial conditions and overhead were responsible for the higher costs in Australia. Later, the chairman, commenting on the company’s manufacturing costs, said this to Mr. Smith -
Your figures look so dismal that if you were seeking money in the open market you would have difficulty in getting it. You would not like to put out a prospectus on them.
Mr. Smith, according to a newspaper report, agreed with the chairman on this point, but expressed confidence that, with protection, the company would pull through. Apparently, the protection of 100 per cent., which the company discarded, is not sufficient ! It now demands, and I think I am not wrong when I say that honorable senators in opposition believe it is entitled to, prohibition, notwithstanding that its profits last year enabled it to pay a dividend of 12£ per cent., with a bonus addition, and that its 20s. shares are now quoted at 45s. So strongly entrenched is this company that if an attempt is made to reduce the tariff wall, no matter by how little, it threatens to close down its works and sack its employees.
– Is it not a fact that during the elections, Government supporters pledged themselves to protect Australian industries?
– If they did they have not broken that pledge. What this Government and its supporters have done is to break their undertaking under the Ottawa agreement not to impose duties contrary to recommendations made by the Tariff Board. Let me quote one other instance. The Tariff Board in its report on the 5 th October, 1932, on piece goods said -
The knitting industry in Australia is now well established and the board is convinced that under the rates of duty recommended local manufacturers should secure practically the whole of the Australian market.
Those rates were recommended by the Tariff Board on the assumption that there was no primage duty or exchange. Under those rates, without primage duty or exchange, the Tariff Board assumed that the local manufacturers should be able to secure the whole of the Australian market. But the Government imposes those rates on top of primage duty and exchange, and then pretends that it is carrying out the Ottawa agreement - the undertaking to give British manufacturers reasonable opportunity of competition in Australia.
The Tariff Board’s recommendation was a duty of 2s. per lb. or 35 per cent., while the duty imposed by the Scullin Government was 2s. 6d. per lb. and 30 per cent. The Scullin Government’s tariff was entirely prohibitive without exchange, and the Tariff Board’s recommendation almost prohibitive without exchange, but with exchange the Tariff Board’s recommendation, as adopted by the present Government, is just as prohibitive as was the Scullin Government’s tariff, and shuts out just as completely any British competition. The charge has often been made against those who favour lower duties that we wish to destroy local manufacturers. No more absurd charge could be made. Those who are opposed to unnecessarily high duties want Australian industries to be healthy and strong, able to help themselves and help the people, but not by sheltering in glass houses regardless of how inefficient or incapable they may be of carrying on, so long as they are able to make profits for their shareholders, the accumulation of which must in the long run come out of the pockets of the working man. There is no means by which we can politically create big profits and big fortunes except at the expense of the working people. I impress this on my friends.
I admit that there is an element of logic in their attitude. It shows that the Australian manufacturer is not so farsighted as the Australian socialists. These say that if the Australian manufacturers are sufficiently protected, they will become so firmly established that it may not be long before these industries may be under socialistic control. They say, “ Let us get all these industries well established in Australia, and then the step towards socialism will be a more complete and easier one “. But from any other point of view, what they are doing now is to permit of the building up of large fortunes by individuals at the expense of the wage-earners of Australia. The Tariff Board in the same report said -
In Now Zealand with tariff against England of only 27 per cent., only 10 per cent, exchange, no primage, Mosgiel woollen factory since 1027 maintained output over £1,000,000 annually; paid dividends, distributed , general bonuses, worked 45-hour week and product declared by Australian distributors to be bettor than Australian woollen selling at same price.
That was done, not under a freetrade policy, but under a competitive tariff, and enabled a healthy industry to be built up. That industry is useful, not only to herself, but to the whole community, it is one that can supply goods not only within the tariff wall but also outside it.
I must have a word to say on tariff making. I do not like repeating over and over again statements which I have made from time to time in this chamber. I am tired of making them, and I think that others must be tired of hearing them ; but I intend to keep on until the Australian people are impressed with the fact that in this allegedly democratic country we have a method of tariff making which would not be tolerated in any other country excepting one under Mussolini or Stalin. Parliament has no voice in tariff making. The tariff schedule at present in operation was tabled in another place in the form of a resolution in 1929, and although three years have elapsed that tariff has never been confirmed by Parliament. We have reached that state of affairs which I have previously described, and which I describe again, as a contemptible trick under which the smaller States are deliberately defrauded of their rights. The less populous States would never have entered the federation but for two things. One was that in this Senate they would have equal representation with the larger States. The other was that this branch of the legislature would have a law-making power equal to that of another place. By this trick of terming the sittings of Parliament as periods instead of sessions, and by using a section of the Customs Act passed for another and deliberate purpose, we have tariffs operating year after year, and in this branch of the legislature, in which the smaller States have equal representation with the larger States, we have no right to express our opinions upon them. For that reason, I endorse the suggestion made by the Deputy Leader of the Country party in another place. I say that it would be nothing less than a crime - that it would be evidence of a complete lack of good faith on the part of the Government, if it endeavoured to place upon the statute-book of this country the schedule which it has now introduced. We all know that it is competent for the Government to reduce a tariff imposed by a resolution tabled in Parliament, so long as that reduction does not bring the duties below the law of the land. It is competent for this Government at any time on receipt of the Tariff Board’s report to reduce duties on any article by bringing them down to the level of the 1929-30 tariff. But if we do as the Government is insisting upon, if we pass this new schedule, what will be the position? The Tariff Board may submit a report and the Government will not be able to reduce any item excepting by getting a resolution through both Houses of Parliament.
– Hear, hear !
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.The honorable senator and those with whom he is associated know how difficult it would be to effect a reduction. They know that it is possible to hold up tariffs for months or even years. If the Government is earnest in its intention to give effect to the Ottawa agreement it will make no attempt to place that schedule on the statute-book, but will await the receipt of the Tariff Board’s reports, so that when the schedule is embodied in our legislation it will be whatthe Tariff Board says it ought to be. We should remember that for three years we have been carrying on without implementing a tariff ; we have been carrying on merely by tariffs imposed by resolutions. Is it not monstrous and absurd that this one tariff which was not intended to remain operative for so long is the only one which Parliament is to be asked to confirm? I have sufficient confidence in the members of the Senate and in the opinions pre- viously expressed by a majority of them to predict that they will refuse to pass one item in the new schedule that has not been fully sanctioned by a recommendation of the Tariff Board. If the Government insists on pushing through this schedule I prophesy that it will be looking forserioustrouble.
– Is the honorable senator supporting the bill?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCHYes, because it places upon Parliament and the Governmentan obligation to reduce duties. If this bill is passed we shall have something to fight on. We shall be able to ask the Government to carry out not only the letter but also the spirit of theagreement.AfeatureofthebillIlook uponwithregretisthatitispartlya result of Great Britain’s new tariff policy. I know that my views on this question may be regarded as somewhat extreme.
– They are perfectly “red”.
– Thehonorablesenatorcandescribethem ashelikes;butIremindhimthatthere hasnotbeenonesessionoftheLeague ofNationsinwhichithasnotbeende- clared, unanimously I think, that whatever action may be taken there is no means of preventing war unless the nations of the world resume trade with one another. If I err in this regard I err in good company and with company which wishes at all events to see as little as possible of the worst phase of “ redness “.
With great diffidence, I place this opinion before honorable senators. Weknowthatatpresentthereis animportantdisputebetweentwopor- tionsoftheBritishEmpire-England and Ireland. I take it that all of us have too deep a love for both those portions of the Empire to wish to lay the blame upon one or the other. But if these two countries can find no method of settling their differences unless by engaging in an economic war which is disastrous to both and which in at least one case is causing poverty, suffering and starvation, how can we expect other nations lacking the bond that there is and should be between Great Britain and Ireland to settle the differences that arise among them excepting by an appeal to the arbitrament of arms ? I appeal to the Government to give an honest and complete interpretation, not merely to the letter, but also to the spirit of this agreement for two reasons: one is that only by doing so we can give to the primary industries of Australia the relief which they need to enable them to return to prosperity, and the other is the deeper reason that those of us who still have faith in the British Empire as counting for something in a disordered world will feel that if faith is not kept, if there are to be charges of breaches of the agreement, it would have been far better had the conference never beenheldor if it had disbanded after admitted failure. I know the difficulties with which the Government is faced and which have been largely caused by its pre-election promise to which reference has already been made. I know that it will endeavour to satisfy both sides and in doing so will be following more or less illustrious precedents. I do not know that any attempt of that kind has ever succeeded, but I predict that the Government will find it utterly impossible to serve at once the god of imperial unity that was raised for the adoration of Ottawa and the mammon of economic exclusiveness that is worshipped by the manufacturers and the socialists of Australia.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [5.12]. - I have no desire to repeat the arguments adduced by other honorable senators. In many respects Senator Colebatch re-echoed my sentiments, not with regard to the tariff, but when he said what I cordially endorse - that whether a party be freetrade or protectionist, it should be honest. I am surprised at the honorable senator being astounded at the dishonest action to which he referred, when he previously informed us that the
Government of which he is a supporter
– Not a very good supporter.
SenatorRAE. - At any rate the honorable senator is opposed to Labour and to some extent supports the views expressed by honorable senators opposite. Senator Colebatch pointed out that the Government was elected by giving one promise to the primary producers and another promise to the manufacturers. The primary producers were promised lower duties and distinct promises were made to the manufacturers whose operations are conducted mainly in Sydney and in Melbourne that the existing duties would be maintained. Consequently the Government having assumed office by dishonest methods, must naturally adopt dishonest practice’s in carrying out its programme. The incidents to which the honorable senator referred do not stand alone, clearly proving what we on this side of the chamber have reiterated over and over again, that the present Government gained office under false pretences. The members of the United Australia Party gained the support of the electors by making dishonest promises in regard to not only the tariff, but also many other matters. “ For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind “. Too much time is being devoted to the discussion of the Ottawa agreement. Whatever the fancies and hopes of some honorable senators may be, they will find that the agreement - to use a common expression - will turn out to be a “ dud “. Whatever benefits may accrue to one section of the community because of the lowering of the tariff, and to another section because of the raising of the tariff, the aggregate result will be so slight as to have no material effect in rescuing the world from the financial morass in which it to-day finds itself. It will have such slight effect that in a year or two we shall probably have forgotten it, or we shall remember it as we remember the Battle of Waterloo. Let us admit that it is a good principle that communities should co-operate in their efforts for their common benefit, that it is better for them to come to agreement and co-operate, than to indulge in rivalry and competition. Yet I contend that the application of that principle in an agreement which excludes more nations than it includes, will work untold harm to us. As Senator Colebatch has stated, we cannot expect to erect a tariff wall round the British Empire without bringing about reprisals on the part of the nations which we exclude from a share in our trade. There has been much talk of trying to make the Empire an economicunit. That is one of the greatest political absurdities of which I have ever heard. There is absolutely no possibility of an economic unit existing where there is no geographical unit.
– Does not that apply to ourselves?
SenatorRAE. - Not necessarily. We cannot have an economic unit where there is no geographical unit. Australia is a geographical unit, even if it has diversity in every other respect. We are one entity, and one continent.
– In addition, we have the protection of Great Britain.
SenatorRAE. - Even that protection may at any time prove to be a delusion rather than a safeguard. However, I am not now dealing with that subject. Whether Great Britain has defended us and will continue to do so, does not affect what I have said as to the impossibility of making an economic unit of the British Empire. We all know that the Empire is composed of a vast number of separate races and communities scattered almost from pole to pole, and with interests, in many respects extremely diverse and conflicting. Therefore, it is impossible that we can ever attain the position of having a uniform tariff, which will act justly to every part of the Empire. I can scarcely understand how any person whohas had six months’ experience of politics can believe that to be possible. If he does he is deluding himself, and there is no kind of deception so bad as self deception. Even the few matters which have arisen since the Ottawa agreement has been before this Parliament, have shown that friction exists with respect not so much to the terms of the agreement, as to their interpretation. As Senator Colebatch has pointed out, the vagueness of articles 9, 10, 11 and 12, and the absence of any authority who can settle the qualifications laid down therein, evince little of the boasted statesmanship which we have been told was exhibited in the framing of this agreement. There is so much vagueness in not only the conditions of the agreement, but also the method of giving effect to it, that how any body of men supposed to have business ability could consent to the agreement as it is at present drafted, is beyond my comprehension. If the statement that the agreement provides for such duties as will permit of a reasonable degree of competition on the part of British manufacturers, is correct, who is to settle what is reasonable competition, and the various other points in respect of which the element of vagueness is standing out prominently before oureyes as we read the agreement? There is an element of definiteness as to the concessions which Great Britain will make to us although, even in respect of those, we are faced with statements, such as that relating to the selling of our goods on the world’s market, which have already led to differences of opinion. Mr. Baldwin is reported to have made a statement which clearly shows that the interpretation placed by him upon one phase of the agreement is completely at variance with that of our own Prime Minister. So that the agreement is one of those documents which no one can rightly understand and in respect of the interpretation of which there can be only differences of opinion. If the British Empire were made an economic unit, that would be the signal for its downfall, because the other nations of the world would immediately band together against it. The British Empire cannot make of itself a close corporation and exclude the rest of the universe, and it is highly undesirable that it should attempt to do so. Take the position of Australia. “We are nearer to the Asiatic Continent than any other country. Great Britain imports enormous quantities of foodstuffs and raw materials; in fact, it has Denmark, Holland and other European countries at its back door. In spite of any preferences that we may obtain from Great Britain, unless they amount to extreme protection, those countries will still be able to compete with us because of their proximity to their British market and their ability to deliver goods that are produced one day and placed on the market next day. The products of Denmark and Holland can, in a few hours, be landed in England. Great Britain, because of leading the world in regard to mass production of machinemade goods, has built up a connexion with other European countries and consequently cannot afford, even for the sake of our trade, to destroy its trade with those nations. The mere question of nationality is not, and should not, be the sole criterion as to the countries with which we should trade. If Great Britain sells large quantities of its products in Europe it must necessarily accept in return European goods, because, after all, international trade is a question, not of the exchange of money, but of the exchange of goods. I have never been a violent fiscalist, but I do say that the argument that we must admit British goods free or under a low tariff and that the distance to our market will still give us a natural protection and enable our essential industries to thrive, ignores one of the primary facts of trade as it is carried on in the present age.
SenatorKingsmill. - What would the honorable senator describe as a low tariff?
SenatorRAE. - I am not now dealing with that question.
– But the honorable senator used that term.
SenatorRAE. - I am saying that the argument that under a low tariff Australian manufactories, if they are worthy of being established in this country, can successfully compete with imports, ignores the fact that other countries, which use mass production methods, can destroy our factories by dumping their surplus products here. I am not barracking for the Australian manufacturers. They certainly have never evinced any gratitude for what the Labour party has in the past done for them in respect of tariff protection. We know that the importers, when free from local competition, charge prohibitive prices for their goods. Consequently it is all rubbish to say that importers are painted angels and the manufacturers robbers. As a matter of fact they are both robbers.
– It is better to be robbed by an Australian robber than by an overseas robber.
SenatorRAE. - That is so, because we have an opportunity to retaliate against the Australian robber. Under modern conditions trade is largely robbery. Unless we are on the alert we shall be robbed. That is due not so much to the inherent depravity of human beings as to their inherent stupidity. Senator Colebatch said that the only way to create huge profits and make large fortunes is to rob the working class. I endorse his statements, and welcome the honorable senator as a brother socialist.
– I referred to political action.
SenatorRAE. - Although I do not think that the honorable senator actually made that qualification, I accept his assurance that he meant it. But it makes no real difference because huge fortunes can be made only by direct politicalaction or by taking advantage of the laws which permit them to be made. Fortunes can be made only by the few taking from the many who create the wealth of the world. No man can possibly build up a fortune by his own efforts.
– What about the man who invents something?
SenatorRAE. - Under our patent laws an inventor has the right to levy tribute on those who use his invention.
– They would not use it unless it was to their advantage to do so.
SenatorRAE. - An invention is of no use to a community which is not sufficiently organized to make use of it. For instance, a great literary production, such as a drama or a novel, would be of no use to a tribe of uneducated savages. There would be no market for it there. Only where the general level of intelligence is high as a result of social co-operation, could it find a profitable sale. Centuries of evolution have developed man’s brainpower.
The PEESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - The honorable senator is straying from the bill.
– I was speaking of fortunes created by tariffs.
SenatorRAE. - I know that, and I do not wish to misrepresent the honorable senator, but my argument is just as sound when applied to fortunes obtained in other ways. A fortune can only be acquired by the few taking from the many.
SenatorFoll. - Would the honorable senator say that Henry Ford has robbed the community?
SenatorRAE. - Any system which enables one person to pile up a fortune from the labour of others is unsound.
– No man ever made a fortune without taking toll from the community.
– And wage-earners have never of themselves made any country great.
SenatorRAE. - I am glad to see a gleam of socialistic light in the soul of Senator Colebatch. It may be due to his association with the Sane Democracy League.
The agreement is an attempt to intensify still further the world conflict in tariff building. Because of a mistaken belief that every part of the Empire can benefit from an agreement which really amounts only to a regulation of tariffs, we are inviting other nations to make reprisals. Nations’ which engage in wars do not first have a few hot words and then immediately take up arms. War is the cumulative effect of one grievance after another causing friction until at last breaking point is reached. This agreement is an attempt - in my opinion, an abortive attempt - to benefit the Empire by making tariff changes which will antagonize the rest of the world. I do not say that other countries will immediately declare war on the British Empire, or even that they will entertain strong feelings of enmity against.it; but the agreement will be another cause of friction.
– That is what happens in the industrial sphere.
SenatorRAE.-Australia has recently sold large quantities of its primary products to countries nearer to us than Great Britain. We have disposed of some of our wheat to China, and large quantities of our wool to Japan. From both a fiscal and a commercial point of view, it is more in our interests to deal with those nearer countries than to seek markets on the other side of the world, where the competition is keener. Australia’s natural markets are to be found in those nearer countries which require our goods. Senator Herbert Hays made a rather irrelevant reference to industrial matters. If the standard of living in China, Japan, India, the Malay States, and other adjacent countries were higher than it now is, those countries would provide Australia with an almost unlimited market for its surplus primary products, as well as for many of our manufactured goods. Backward as we are in industrial organization compared with older countries, we in Australia are more advanced than are many of the countries nearer to us. A general improvement in the wages and conditions of the people of those countries would help to provide a market for our products, because their purchasing power would be increased.
It is absurd to imagine that the various parts of the British Empire will derive great advantages from this agreement although I believe that certain sections of the people will do so. In my opinion, too much has been made of the Ottawa agreement. Its effect will be trivial compared with that of other great influences which are at work in the world generally. Of what use would an increase of primary production in Australia be unless market’s could be found for the things we produced? How can the people of Great Britain give us a more profitable market for our goods until they themselves are more prosperous than they are to-day, or appear likely to be for many years? Many thousands of the people of Britain are living in the direst poverty. The prosperity which the people of Great Britain were told, at the last election, would result from a change of government, is just as remote as it is in Australia. It may be that one or two of the industries of Great Britain have shown signs of recovery, but the vital industries of that country are still on the decline. Conditions in the ship-building, the iron and steel, the coal-mining, and other important industries of Great Britain, are worse now than they were twelve months ago. I agree with John Stuart Mill that when we have grave evils to remedy, small measures to that end are not nearly so effective as are strong measures ; they are indeed worse than useless, because they lead people to build up hopes which can not be realized. We are expecting too much from the implementing of this agreement.
I protest against the creation of a body outside Parliament to determine what tariffs shall operate in the future. Senator Colebatch objected to this Government sanctioning heavier duties than have been recommended by the Tariff Board; but just previously he mentioned that that body had recommended some duties which were prohibitive, even without exchange or primage. If, on the one hand, Parliament cannot be trusted to impose tariffs, because of its lack either of detailed information or of honesty, and if, on the other hand, the Tariff Board cannot be trusted, because it makes absurd recommendations, whom can we trust? The interpretation of the various clauses of the agreement will give rise to friction, and as that friction increases, so it will be found more and more difficult to reconcile the divergent interests of those who, from self-interest, persist in giving the clauses an interpretation which, while benefiting themselves, will be detrimental to others. This agreement is an experiment which must end in failure, first, because of its vagueness, and secondly, because of its exclusiveness in attempting to build a close wall around the British Empire. Disaster will overtake us in attempting the impossible. In my opinion, an arrangement of this kind does not tend to promote world peace. The dominions of the British Empire are situated in various parts of the globe, and it must be obvious that, in attempting to build up their primary and secondary industries, they will sometimes find their interests in conflict. If they are under an obligation to refrain from varying their tariff arrangements they will naturally chafe under the restraint. The agreement, therefore, instead of tending to cement the bonds of Empire, may very well promote feelings of hostility.
I repudiate one statement by Senator Colebatch. He said that high tariffs imposed for the benefit of artificial industries suited both the manufacturers and those whom he termed the socialists, meaning members of the Labour party. The implication was that the Labour party was hand in glove with the manufacturers, so that if the manufacturers built up their businesses under the shelter of a high tariff, at the expense of the rest of the community, Labour shared in the spoils, because it possessed facilities for securing part of the advantages for itself. Whatever may have been the practice in the past, I am unaware that the Labour party at the present time poses as a champion of the manufacturing interests; nor has it been maintained that, by simply imposing heavy duties, it will be possible to bring about the emancipation of Labour, and to secure a just and effective social system. If, however, we believe - as we have a right to do - that, by encouraging manufactures we can build up a Labour organization which will help us to bring about those great social changes we believe to be necessary, we are justified in doing what we can to effect our purpose. Statements have been openly made by honorable senators that they desire to cut up Australia, and particularly New South Wales, into a number of small States, in order to prevent Labour from ever obtaining a majority in the Senate. They believe that strictly rural States are not likely to return to the Senate Labour sympathizers.
– The new States would not obtain the same representation as the old States.
– I do not say that they would; but, if they were allowed only three senators apiece, and there were six new States created, .there would be eighteen new senators for the subdivided State as against six previously. I do not object to honorable senators advocating this line of action ; but, if it is fair for them, if they cannot win on their merits, to endeavour to effect their purpose in this way, it is equally fair for us to try to build up a large industrial population because it suits our political ends.
– There is a big industrial population in the United States of America, but Labour has not made much progress there.
– In the United States of America Labour has never organized as a political party. We have done so, and we began 40 years’ ago. We have not done so much as we should have, but we have learnt from our mistakes. We have learned that our strength, whatever it is, lies mainly in the industrial centres,
If other political parties are going to organize on class lines, and, by manoeuvring or gerrymandering in connexion with State boundaries, try to secure a majority which is anti-Labour, we are entitled to pursue a policy which we think will be of benefit to us. ,
– Nothing can be done in the way of creating new States in New South Wales without the approval of the Parliament of that State.
– I know that; I am merely discussing a general principle. I believe that the most intelligent community is that which is best organized. Even the most intelligent insects are those which have developed a system of social organization, for example, the bees and ants, which are held up as models for us. We have found that in an industrialized community our organization reaches its highest point. Therefore, we are favorable to the building up of manufactures in this country, and we favour this course from the broadest, as well as from what some honorable members may describe as the narrowest, point of view. Take, for instance, the defence of Australia. If, as honorable senators state, it is necessary to take steps for the defence of a country, it is ‘surely advisable that we should be self-contained as regards the production of things vital to the community. If we were menaced by a blockade, we should be in a position to provide for our own needs. Even in ordinary times we should be able to provide our own essential commodities. We grow wool in Australia, and send most of it to the other side of the world to be manufactured. If it was a good thing for Great Britain to learn from the Flemish weavers how to make woollen goods, it should be equally good for us to learn how to turn our own wool into cloth. Instead of sending wool to Great Britain, we should use as much as possible of it in our own factories, and try to build up an export trade in manufactured woollen goods. I remember that, over 60 years ago, when I was a small boy, the first suit of clothes I ever wore was manufactured in Geelong. Afterwards that industry nearly perished, although in more recent years it has revived. In New Zealand, when I was a lad, there was not a single woollen mill, but now there are many of them, manufacturing some of the finest products ever turned out of a loom. What has been done there can be done here. It is being done gradually, and anything we can do to help the process is worth while.
– Anything in reason.
– Yes, anything that is reasonable and legitimate. I do not argue that we should do anything so absurd as it would be for the people of Russia to try to grow oranges. It would pay them better to import the oranges than to grow them in their own country under glass, We advocate the establishment of industries in this country for the manufacture of articles which are in general demand. With regard to the less important articles, it does not matter much whether they are produced here now, or at some time in the future. If this agreement is approved, many important Australian industries will be killed, not because they are unsuitable to the country, but because our competitors overseas will avail themselves of the opportunity provided by the agreement to sell their goods cheaply in Australia until they have destroyed the businesses of their Australian rivals. Then they will put up prices to recoup themselves for their initial losses. That is a common practice in trade circles all over tho world. The big trading interests have learned much in recent years, and, instead of going in for cut-throat competition among themselves, they * form mergers and come to gentlemen’s agreements. Then, instead of robbing the public on a small scale, they do so in a wholesale way. If they can. kill their small and lowly competitors in their youth, they will do so. That is our justification for seeking a measure of protection which otherwise should not be necessary. Like other human institutions, the tariff is subject to abuse, and it is the duty of Parliament to eliminate abuses when they are found to exist.
I am not one of those who believe that a hard and fast line of demarcation should be drawn between primary and secondary industries. The prosperity of one aids that of the other. The interests of the two sets of interests are not in con flict; they should be complementary to one another. If we build up towns and cities throughout the Commonwealth, they will supply the best of all markets for the primary products - the home market. Therefore, a flourishing set of secondary industries must necessarily promote prosperity among primary industries. We should not endeavour to perpetuate differences between town and country. This agreement professes to aim at bringing about a condition of affairs under which each part of the Empire will be materially benefited by an elaborate system of duties and preferences. In attempting to give effect to that, we are attempting the impossible. The enormous number of separate communities and the divergency of their interests, so far as they can be affected by tariffs, must necessarily preclude any great measure of success attending these efforts. I am still of the opinion that the world, in its present grave crisis, is seeking to do by trivial and superficial means what can be accomplished only by the most drastic changes conceivable. Therefore, we are living in a fool’s paradise if we believe that the Ottawa agreement will usher in a new era for the’ benefit of either this or any other portion of the human race.
– Before embarking upon the few remarks that I intend to offer, I wish to express my sincere pleasure at finding my friend, Senator Rae - I am delighted to call him my friend - in the role of a defender of the Empire against herself- That is a role which I never thought he would assume, but he having done so, there appears to me to be yet hope for the conversion of others. The last remark of the honorable senator, that the solution of the difficulty with which we are confronted depends upon the acquisition of population to such an extent that, by the adoption of mass production methods, we may compete against the overwhelming forces outside Australia, portrays a happy faith in the future of which I should hate to disillusion him. Being an optimist myself, I hate to discourage others. But how this population is to be obtained under the aegis of the party that sits opposite, I know -not. The natural rate of increase in Australia would have to exercise itself for very many years before such a condition could be brought about; and the desire of some members at all events of that party, to prohibit all immigration, would somewhat cramp its style.
I confess to a good deal of optimism - perhaps I should say simplicity - in the reasons which actuate me in voting for this measure. I have never discerned among the delegates to the Ottawa Conference that duplicity in the drawing up of the agreement with Australia, of which, inferentially, they have been accused, nor do I think that, like Bret Harte’s “ heathen Chinee “, they can be accused of the design to deceive. So that I mightbe better acquainted with the authority of the body that concluded these matters, I casually examined the constitution of this conference with, in my opinion, a very interesting result, and one that will be arrived at by any person who makes a similar investigation. As we know, delegates were sent to Ottawa from ten portions of the British Empire. I went to the trouble of finding out how those portions were represented, with the following result: - Canada, in which the conference was held, supplied in delegates and in the various officers attached to the conference, no fewer than 102 representatives. Great Britain supplied in delegates, advisors and other assistants, 71 ; Australia sent only 20, New Zealand, 16, South Africa, 23, the Irish Free State, 17, Newfoundland, 10, India, 16, andRhodesia, 6. Those make a total of 281 persons. I take it that these delegates were not chosen on the ground of either foolishness or evil intentions.
– Were there no delegates from the Crown colonies?
– The Crown colonies have not a separate political or national existence, and I suppose that Great Britain assumed responsibility for their interests. Delegates were sent only from the declared self-governing dominions and Great Britain. As our delegation numbered only 20, in a total of 281, what they achieved furnishes a most complete tribute to their ability and to the impression that they must have made upon those whom they were sent to meet. I regret the making of personal attacks upon some of our delegates. Senator MacDonald, the other day, alluded in anything but complimentary terms to the leader of the delegation. I hold rib brief for Mr. Bruce, nor is there need for any one else to do so, because he is quite able to fight not his own case so much as the case of those who place confidence in him. Senator MacDonald was somewhat illogical when he said that, in the first place, Mr. Bruce, having lived outside Australia for some years, is not Australian. If I were sending a representative to another country, I should like him to have some local knowledge of that country and of the people who inhabited it. Are not better results likely to accrue from having a delegate like Mr. Bruce, who is thoroughly acquainted, not only with Australian conditions, but also with the mentality, the frame of mind, and the psychology of those before whom he has to plead Australia’s cause? It is significant, too, that in the many conferences in which Mr. Bruce has taken a part he has involuntarily, and without effort, stepped immediately into a leading role. That is not achieved by a newspaper reputation,’ or anything of that sort, nor it is a position that is easily earned. To any fair-minded man, it. shows that Mr. Bruce was eminently fitted to occupy the position which at Ottawa he filled so worthily and with such advantage to Australia. I am extremely sorry that his colleague, Mr. Gullett, was so exhausted by his efforts that the illhealth which supervened prevented his placing before the Parliament the case for the delegation. Indeed, considering that our delegation numbered only twenty, compared with 100 in the case of Canada, and 71 in the case of Great Britain, the work thrown on the very able assistants which these gentlemen took with themmust often have been more than they could cope with, and in the case of Mr. Gullett that would make inevitable a break-down in health after his strenuous efforts at the conference.
My friend, Senator Colebatch, has raised certain questions concerning the interpretation of different articles in the agreement. I shall deal with them only because they involve the underlying principles of the bill. Those articles, I take it, were drawn up by a conference in which each dominion for which they were drawn had a different outlook. I take it, too, that they were decided upon after mature deliberation, and most probably after consideration had been given to the impression which the form of words used would have, more especially on legal tribunals. In those circumstances, I cannot imagine either our delegates allowing themselves to be “ taken in” by the form of words, or theother delegates with whom they were reasoning the matter endeavouring - to use a colloquialism - to “put it over” them. I believe that I am right in saying that there is an obvious interpreter for this legislation, when enacted, and that is our own judiciary.
– Is it not a pity that such matters should have to be submitted to courts of law?
– Generally, it is a pity toinvoke the aid of the law. But the litigation which is most costly, and which enriches a worthy class to whom we are so greatly indebted, relates mainly to the more trifling or the more sensational matters, the hearing of which is susceptible of being lengthened - divorce, and things of that sort, in which the Australian public and the law courts take such a tremendous amount of interest. I do not believe that legal proceedings relating to really big principles, which have a very wide application, and a tremendous influence on national life, are capable of being extended to any undue length.
– I meant that it is a pity they should have to be the subject of a judicial decision.
– Undoubtedly. I point out, however, that in those matters which involve big principles there is not so much animus as is manifested in the smaller matters, and that they , are more dispassionately argued on both sides, and, may I also say’ it, more dispassionately considered by those in whose hands the judging of the cases is placed. The same remark applies to the interpretation of those articles in the Ottawa agreement which deal with tariffs.
The tariff appears to enter very largely into the consideration of matters relating to this agreement. As honorable senators who have been in the Senate for any length of time know, I take a fairly live interest in tariffs, first on account of ray own convictions, and secondly because the expression of those convictions on the hustings has enabled me, on two occasions, to secure election to the Senate as a representative of the State of “Western Australia. I suppose that the matter most widely considered in Western Australia is the tariff, the incidence of which is considered to be absolutely unjust and cruel upon that State, which, through its primary production, is doing so much to keep Australia going. It is that primary production which keeps Australia going which has been hit so hard by ultra-protective tariffs that have not so far fulfilled the purpose which was given as a reason for their imposition. It was alleged that they would result in increased employment and in the establishment of additional factories. On the contrary, at all events in the State in which I now live, because from it I can more conveniently discharge my parliamentary duties. They have had the effect of closing up very many factories which have approached very closely to the ideals which my friends opposite have so much at heart - the increasing of wages, the shortening of hours, and other matters which may be summed up under the designation “ Australian conditions “. If we are to occupy a position as a part of the Empire, we have first to learn that we cannot have Australian conditions unless we can” earn them. Furthermore, we have to come more into contact with the outside world. It is impossible for us to live in a sort of fool’s paradise; we must get fair treatment, and no more.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– One of my disappointments concerning the proposed method of putting the Ottawa agreement into effect, by adjusting the tariff so as to make it more equitable between the various parts of the Empire, is that it is intended to level up matters not by the lowering of the tariff on British imports, but by leaving those duties as they are and raising the general tariff on the products of countries outside the Empire. The tariff brought down by the Scullin Government was protested against by a number of honorable senators who said that the rates imposed on British imports were not protective, but prohibitive. I do not know whether the tariff schedule will now take that form, but it appears to me that it will be supported by many members who previously described it as prohibitive, and I venture to say that it will not permit of that fair measure of imports which, I think, is necessary for the good of Britain, and, undoubtedly, for the good of Australia, and the rest of the Empire. There are some other matters in connexion with this bill that are somewhat disappointing, but I value so much, above all things, the fact that a start has been made towards binding the Empire together, that I am willing to forgo my objections to the bill - these, in my opinion, are minor matters - believing that subsequent adjustments by agreements between individual dominions and Great Britain can be effected. After all, we are taking this step in the hope that it will result in a permanent improvement of the relations between the various parts of the Empire. Personally, I give the measure my support without those forebodings which Senator Rae has. I think that the common sense of the Empire will prevail. The proposed alteration in regard to meat has been effected by a restriction of imports of certain kinds of meat into Britain, and apparently this arrangement will be accepted. I say “apparently,” because, so far as I know, there has been no vigorous objection to it. But we know so little, unfortunately - and it must always be so J fear- of the motives actuating those behind this proposal, which were undoubtedly effectual in making the proposal less drastic than it otherwise would have been ; we know so little of the extent to which Britain is affected by her participation in industrial activities in other countries that it is very hard to say what the effect of the restriction will be. Whatever it may be, I for one, as, above all, a citizen of the Empire, and next a citizen of Australia, feel inclined to give the proposal my hearty support, because I feel that reciprocity between Britain and her far-flung lands throughout the world must eventually result in good.
There are other matters in which les3 definition than could probably have been given has been laid before us. I refer to subjects which might possibly have been dealt with in the bill. It is of the utmost importance to Britain that development should take place in her dominions within the tropical parts of the Empire, and prominent among them are these countries which are producing sugar. I am not anticipating debate on another measure to come before the Senate, because I am alluding to sugar that has no effect whatever on the products of Australia. The latest returns obtainable from the British Trade Commissioner’s office show that for the year ended the 30th June last, Britain imported 2,105,918 tons of raw sugar, of which only 625,073 tons Came from countries within the Empire. Making all allowance for the necessity to remain ‘on good terms with those countries outside the Empire from which somewhat more than two-thirds of the sugar used by Britain comes, I think that attention should be paid to the claims of the tropical parts of the Empire-. For instance, there are our own territories of New Guinea and Papua, and there are other places such as Fiji, where considerable progress has already been made, and where there is scope for further development in tropical production. Among the very great beneficiaries under this proposal may be counted the biggest producer of sugar in Australia - I allude to the Colonial. Sugar Refining Company operating in Fiji - but I have reason to suppose from remarks that have been made, that the colonies of Britain will not get the same treatment as the territories of the dominions. I understand that it is possible - I hope it is not probable - that the colonies of Britain will receive greater preference than the territories of the dominions. The reason has been put forward that Britain is responsible for the finances of her colonies. Let me say’ that England is no more responsible for those finances than we are for the finances of the territories of Australia. I venture to say that anomalies which should not exist will be created if this differentiation is, shown. Australia has the two territories of New Guinea and Papua, while Britain has the Crown colony of Fiji .almost adjoining New Guinea. Consider for a moment the anomalous position that territories and colonies, situated as they are, would be in, and the utterly wrong differentiation that would be shown between the two. I hope that when the Minister is replying to this debate he will be able to elucidate this point.
In considering the position of England and her colonies, and that of Australia and her territories, let me say that sugar is not the only product to be considered. New Guinea and Papua are still in their infancy. That may seem a peculiar thing to say, since some years have passed since their colonization was effected; but the slow rate of development is dueto a circumstance which contradicts some of the remarks of Senator Collings about the treatment of the native races. Progress has been slow in New Guinea and Papua because development has been very gradual as the result of the policy of peaceful penetration, unaccompanied by acts of violence.When those lands were first occupied, it was extremely unhealthy for a white man to venturemore than a mile or two inland; but as the result of peaceful penetration, considerable areas in those territories are now open for the production of commodities such as coffee, tea, quinine, and various other products which could not be thought of in the old days. I claim that, for the sake of the Empire, the growth of these tropical products in Papua and New Guinea should be encouraged, because the care of the native races is a burden of Australia in connexion with her territories, just as it is of England in regard to her colonies. These coloured people can be most effectively looked after by enabling them to work for themselves or for the ruling race. They are extremely well adapted for the work, and I hope that our territories may be to Australia, in the years not very far distant, vhat Java has been to Holland. It is well known that in Holland to-day the people allude to Java - and by Java I mean the Dutch East Indies - as Greater Holland, and they have the best of all reasons for doing so, because I firmly believe that if it were not for the existence of the Dutch East Indies, Holland, probably a century ago, would have failed off the map because of bankruptcy. I do not desire it to be thought for a moment that because I say this I am an advocate of coloured labour. I am not; but the coloured labourer must live, and many ofthese people are quite capable of owning their own plantations, doing their own work, and simply using the governing race as a means of distributing their output. The native races in Papua and New Guinea are on a somewhat higher scale of civilization than some others, and they have a sense of responsibility. One has only to examine the records of the native police in both Papua and the Mandated Territory to realize that their sense of duty is such that they have undertaken risks, and, in some cases, have gone to meet death, rather than avoid the responsibilities which they regard as laid upon their shoulders. Their intelligence, on the whole, is remarkable. Of course, there are many distinct races. Nowhere else in the world is there such a meeting place of so many different peoples. When I visited Papua and New Guinea and saw for myself the marvellous congeries of people of different colours having different customs and modes of living, I realized the wisdom of cadets entering the Public Service of the Mandated Territory and our island dependencies, having a knowledge of the science of anthropology so that in their administrative work, they may the better understand the psychology and the little idosyncrasies of each native race. I hope that, as a result of this extremely sound policy, we shall always have a contented peasantry in the islands under our control.
With regard to the conference itself, I do not think there is any doubt, whatever may be said for or against its decisions, that Australia has come out of it at least as well as any other of the dominions. I have noticed the tendency on the part of honorable senators opposite, in their criticism of the agreement, to quote from the speeches of critics, both here and in the Mother Country, who refer in derogatory terms to our delegates at that gathering. I therefore invite them to study the attitude of the Labour party in the British House of Commons, and also the attitude of the Liberals, both in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords, and to pay particular attention to the speeches of those Liberal lords who spoke most strongly against the acceptance of the agreement. They appear to regard Mr. Bruce, the leader of the Australian delegation, and Mr. Bennett, the. Prime Minister of Canada and chairman of the conference, as something in the nature of Mephistophelian brothers conspiring to take Britain down. Possibly, their view is just as ‘wrong in that direction as unmeasured praise of the conference may exceed its actual merit. But considered from every view-point, I believe that the agreement is a very good thing for Australia.
There is no doubt that Australia will receive definite advantages in respect of many commodities. Wool, I admit, is an extremely difficult subject to deal with. Therefore, I do not believe that we shall gain much from the conference with respect to wool. Wheat, also, is another involved proposition, but I believe the time will come when a great deal of our wheat will be exported, not in the form of grain, but in what is termed pigmeat - in other words, pork in one form or another. There is, I think, a tendency among our wheat-growers to give more attention to this form of production, particularly during seasons of low prices for grain. We might also do better in the exportation of eggs, which trade, during the present depression, has been of immense value to New South Wales and other States. In eggs, and in the export also of dressed poultry, there are further uses for grain during seasons of low prices, and, as we know, the conference resolutions, with respect to these commodities, would help Australian trade considerably. The same may be said of our dairying industry. Our export of butter is increasing appreciably, and we are getting good prices for it. In fruit also, we are likely to gain something from the. conference decisions.
It was openly stated, both before the conference and since, and it is mentioned in the report of the conference itself, that the gathering was arranged primarily for the benefit of the man whose welfare means so much to Australia - the man on the land. Personally, I should like to see more men on the land in this country, and I believe there is ample room for them. One of the greatest difficulties which we shall have to face, probably within the next day or two, is a decision with regard to the future of the sugar industry. I believe that if a great deal of that land which is now used for sugarcane, with only a small measure of success, were devoted to cultivation for intensive fattening of stock for export, we should overcome the difficulty which at present’ confronts the Australian meat export trade, namely, the condition of our meat when it reaches the British market. Nearly all the meat sent from Australia has to undergo a process which almost precludes the possibility of its being marketed in tip-top condition. Cattle intended for export are travelled hundreds of miles, either by road or rail, to the nearest export depot, where they are killed and frozen; and as every one with any knowledge of the industry knows, any physical or mental discomfort causes a rapid deterioration in the condition of fat cattle. As every mile travelled and every hour occupied on a journey causes stock to fall away in condition, they should be killed and treated where they are grown, and, if possible, should not be above the age of years, so as to ensure perfect quality and condition when placed on the British market.
– Not much of the country at present growing sugar cane could be used for the fattening of cattle for export.
– I differ from the honorable senator. In my opinion a considerable area of the land at present utilized for the growing of sugar cane, could be used for stock fattening. The rainfall is sufficient for that purpose, but is not quite sufficient for the successful growing of sugar cane. Furthermore, much of the country I have in mind is subject to frosts and occasional droughts, conditions which are not nearly so harmful for the growing of cattle as for the growing of sugar cane.
Ever since I have been in public life I have contended that the wealth of this or any other country lies in the encouragement of small holdings. It is indisputable that a man working for himself is a better citizen and has at heart the welfare of his country to a greater extent, than has a man working for wages. The peasantry of France enabled that country to- pay off its war indemnity of £200,000,000 in the course of a few years after the Franco-Prussian war, and it is a fact that the sub-division of land and the encouragement of share-farming have been responsible for so many landed proprietors in France working for themselves. A man best shows his independence of spirit by determining to work for himself, rather than by being dependent on employment for wages. I have already said, and I repeat with no intention of hurting any one’s feelings, that a country cannot prosper if it depends merely upon men who work for wages. We must have incentive and the venturesome spirit that impels men to settle upon the land and pay their own wages.
– In other words, they must show a profit.
– Exactly. Perhaps that is why so many of our primary producers show so little profit nowadays on their operations. If we could induce many of the men who are at present working for wages, to work for themselves, and if we could help them to show a profit, we should be doing this country and the Empire a distinct service.
I have no fear as to the interpretation of the agreement to which reference was made by Senator Colebatch this afternoon. I do not think that any assemblage of men, such as those who took part in the Ottawa Conference, would shroud their intentions in any intentional ambiguity of phraseology. Nor do I think that those who represented Great Britain at the conference would, for a moment, give their assent to any words which they had not considered fully. Probably one of the first duties of our judiciary will be to give an interpretation of certain articles in the agreement. Possibly a case will be stated which will demand a decision by our courts and by the courts of Britain with respect to determining the interpretation to be placed upon certain words in the schedule to the bill. Then there arises the question of the permanence of this agreement. I understand that arrangements have already been made - to what extent they will be effective it will be interesting to learn - for the interpretation of, minor points of difference between the United Kingdom and the dominions, and between the dominions themselves, with regard to certain industries and the duration of the agreement in relation to them. I should like some definition from the Minister in charge of the bill as to the interpretation to be placed upon that possibility and upon which a great deal of the success of the agreement depends.
– The honorable senator is referring to article 16?
– Yes ; and to the general principle of varying the agreement or the possibility of fresh agreements between dominions, or between a dominion and the Mother Country being entered into. “ It is not to be expected that this piece of machinery which has been brought into operation will continue to work smoothly from the outset. Difficulties such as those to which I have referred will arise from time to time, and I should like to know what action is to be taken to supply the necessary lubrication to the machinery in order to remove the obstructions which must necessarily occur. That the machinery should run smoothly is one of the .greatest needs, not only of Great Britain, but also of the dominions.
– What courts will be competent to decide disputes between two parties to the agreement?
– One dominion may consult another dominion; but I want to know if that power is implied in the agreement. Apparently it is; but I should like to know to what extent. If it is not implied, would it not be wise for the dominions and the Mother Country in conference assembled to arrive at some definite means of solving any difficulty that may arise? It is proposed that the agreement shall remain in operation for five years; but I do not think that it is possible, or at all events, probable, that it will remain unaltered during that period. That question must have been raised at the conference, and it is well that the parties to the agreement should be frank with one another, and that the Senate should ask for some elucidation of the point.
– The parties that make an agreement can always vary it, and that article has been included to provide for consultation and, if necessary, for a variation of the agreement.
– I meant what court could be approached.
– It is not a matter for court proceedings. This agreement is not the result of a legal process.
– I thought that the honorable senator mentioned the judiciary.
– I referred to the statement of Senator Colebatch in which ho mentioned the various ambiguous articles which appear in the schedule of the bill. If there is any doubt, I think it only right that the greatest authorities, whoever they may be, should be consulted. I do not confine such a consultation to the judiciary; but it is well that what is done should, as far as possible, be open and frank. I am supporting the bill and the agreement embodied in it, not because I think it is perfect, but because I regard it as the beginning of unity between the Empire and the dominions. Any one who believes in the Empire and the need for reciprocal Empire trade should support the bill. There are some persons, however, who do not believe in the Empire. I do not blame them for that ; I am sorry for their sakes, but more sorry for the sake of the Empire. As an Australian and an imperial subject, I believe that we can gain immeasurably by entering into an agreement whereby the needs of the Empire such as they are, may be supplied in the shortest and the easiest way and in a manner most compatible with the good of the Empire and its component dominions. I regard this agreement as a step in the right direction. I would sacrifice any predilections I had concerning the difficulty of getting the necessary machinery going in the belief that, even though the agreement is not as good as it might be, it will be of benefit to the Empire. That is why I am supporting this bill and the agreement embodied in it. Further, I am anxious to ensure that those who produce the goods covered by this agreement shall, as far as is possible, obtain the profit resulting from their sale. I do not wish to support any system under which that profit is divided between too many. An old law, introduced in the times of the Georges, and which I believe is still in force, provides against what is known as “fore stalling and regrating.” I understand that the effect of that law is to prevent the too frequent sales by one party to another before the first seller and the ultimate buyer arrive at a conclusion. It is to prevent undue and unnecessary and, under this law, illegal profits being taken. There is a good deal in that. Too many men are, without any exertion, living on one industry. From the producer to those who ultimately use the article there are too many intervening parties. I should like to know if something cannot be done to prevent this. I understand this system was first mentioned in connexion with the Tasmanian hop industry. I forget what the hops cost originally, but before they reached the ultimate consumer, the price paid was sometimes ten times as much as that at which they were originally sold.
– To which consumer does the honorable senator refer?
– To the man who makes the profit.
– I thought that the honorable senator was referring to the man who finally consumes the hops.
– The consumer of ‘beer, like charity, obtains his own reward. There is no doubt that a great deal of injustice has been done to the original producers, and if at >a later stage anything in the direction I have suggested could be done to prevent this, it would be all to the good of those who produce.
I also hope that the position of the tropical parts of the Empire will be defined, and that their interests will be safeguarded. Of the total imports of 2,105,91S tons of raw sugar into Great Britain in one year, only 625,073 tons came from countries within the Empire. The position is so ridiculous that I feel sure that, without offending those nations or communities from which sugar has been obtained in the past, the quantities obtained from Empire dominions, territories and colonies could be considerably increased. That condition applies, as I have already said, to many other tropical products. If importations from the dominions could be increased, our native subject races would obtain profitable employment, and could be made really an integral part of the British Empire. It is possible for their individual interests, and not those of their employers, to be considered to the fullest degree. For the reasons given, and for many others which I have not mentioned, I shall have great pleasure in supporting the second reading of the bill.
– I agree with the sentiments expressed by those honorable senators who believe that there should be reciprocal trading relations between Great Britain and the dominions; but I submit that such trade should be based on an agreement which is fair to all the parties concerned. There should not be anything lopsided in an agreement of this description. When the Imperial Economic Conference was first suggested, it was expected that Australia would receive many benefits, but when the decisions of that conference were known, the Australian people were keenly disappointed. J. do not wish to cast any reflection upon Australia’s delegates to that conference; but I think it would have been far better had the Commonwealth been represented by a staunch protectionist. Notwithstanding the ability which the Minister without Portfolio (Mr. Bruce) is said to possess, I do not think that that gentleman, who is a freetrader, was the most suitable person to represent Australia. Honorable senators opposite may smilewhenIdescribeMrBruceasa freetrader, ‘but I do not know how a person engaged in an extensive importing business can be regarded as a protectionist. Mr. Bruce believes in freetrade, and naturally considers this agreement from that viewpoint. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) who supported Mr. Bruce cannot be described as a protectionist, consequently our two representatives were opposed to the protective policy oftheCommonwealth.Asthemembers of the British delegation were also opposed to protection, the conference consisted solely of persons with freetrade tendencies. It is to be regretted that he delegates to that conference did not use their energies in some other direction. An excellent opportunity was lost. Although some of the most prominent statesmen of the British Empire were assembled at Ottawa, they appear not to have known that the financial systemof the world had broken down, andthey something was needed in its place.They appear to have been unaware thatthe invention of man had produced wonderful machinery which had displaced manual labour, and thrown thousands of worker; on the employment market. They failed to realize that the future progress of the Empire demanded that its people should be kept in constant employment, and that to that end a lessening of the hours of labour was necessary. What advantage is there to Australia in producing more beef and wheat and wool, and sending them to England, if the people there are unable to buy them? The delegates assembled at Ottawa failed to recognize these fundamental facts, and, consequently, the difficulty confronting the various parts of the Empire still remains,
– Under the existing system, a remedy is impossible.
– Then the system should be altered. Mr. Gullett has said that the Ottawa agreement is Australia’s charter of prosperity, but I agree with Sir Herbert Samuel that it represents five years’ servitude for us, and that no political scientist could have constructed such an agreement except in a nightmare. Sir Herbert Samuel also said that, so far from unifying the British Commonwealth of Nations, the Ottawa agreement had led to a vehement controversy throughout the Empire. He suggested that a provision should be included in the agreement allowing for itsalteration on six months’ notice.
– His objection was taken from the freetrade point of view.
– The point of his objection was that the agreement would be of no benefit to the Empire. The statement of Mr. Amery that Britain had obtained greater increases of preferences than were anticipated is significant. It means that the British delegates would have been satisfied if Australia had offered less - if our delegates had said, “ We have given Britain preference in the Australian market, and will continue to do so; and if by going a little further and lowering the tariff on things that we cannot produce in Australia, we shall help Britain, we are prepared to do it “.
But they seem to have been afraid of offending the British delegates. Mr. Gullett also stated that it was hard to think of an Australian industry which would not benefit as a result of the conference. In this connexion, I desire to refer to a statement by Mr. P. W. Hughes, a big employer of labour in the textile industry, who is also a big squatter owning 500,000 sheep, and a large exporter of meat, wool, leather, and other products. Mr. Hughes said -
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 had 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 be abandoned together with any hope of increasing employment in the industry . . . The market of Australia was too small to be shared with outsiders on a competitive basis or on any other basis. He did not believe that any section of our politicians or other well-meaning people desired to wipo out the secondary industries of Australia, thus depriving fully 2,000,000 Australian people of their means of livelihood.
I am sorry that Senator Guthrie is not in the chamber. At one time I thought that the honorable senator was a’ pure protectionist, in regard to both primary and secondary industries.
– He is pure, but not simple.
– The honorable senator used to describe himself as a 100 per cent, protectionist who would have nothing on his farm or station that was not branded “ Made in Australia “.
– Has he gone back on that?
– Yes. He is a oneeyed protectionist. No man who is a true protectionist could possibly support this agreement in its entirety. Senator Guthrie is a protectionist when the sheep and wool industry is concerned: otherwise he is a half-freetrader. Let us be either protectionists or freetraders - one or the other.
Senator Payne is certainly a “ oneeyed “ protectionist; he is a protectionist only so far as Tasmanian industries are concerned. I am reminded of the Tas’manian carbide industry which asked for, and obtained, duties on carbide that gave it a monopoly of the Australian trade, even against carbide from Canada. I do not object to that industry being protected, nor, apparently, does Senator Payne. I remind him that that protection was given to the carbide industry by the Scullin Government, for which the honorable senator has never had a good word to say. Tasmania also produces large quantities of potatoes, and as it suits Senator Payne to have heavy duties on imported potatoes, he raises no objection to them. If protection is gOod for Tasmanian industries, it should also be good for other Australian industries. Senator Payne’s fiscal views should not be affected by State boundaries.
– I am a protectionist.
– The honorable senator has a peculiar way of expressing his fiscal faith. He is a “ protectionist “ who does all he can to break down the policy of protection. There is also a high duty on onions, yet the honorable senator has not complained of it. Nor has he complained of the protection given to the dairying industry. Some years ago the dairymen of Tasmania asked for an increased duty on butter, in order that they could increase and improve their stock, and build up their industry, and thereby provide employment for more people. Senator Payne offered no objection to that industry being given the benefit of the protectionist policy. The people of Australia are paying over £4,000,000 per annum more for their butter than they would have to pay if the protection afforded to the dairying industry were removed. Senator Payne docs not want that protection removed, nor do I ; but I suggest that, if the dairying industry is protected, it is only fair that our secondary industries should receive the same measure of protection.
– Of course it is, so long as the protection afforded is reasonable.
– The honorable senator is a mass of contradictions. The policy of protection has meant much to the Tasmanian hop-growers. Senator Payne does not complain of that protection. As I have said, the honorable senator favours a protectionist policy when Tasmanian industries are con- cerned; otherwise he is an advocate of freetrade. He prefers British manufacturers to those who have established factories in Australia. Australia cannot support simultaneously the same secondary industries in England and Australia. One or the other must suffer, and on this occasion Australia will be the sufferer, because our tariff must be lowered.
– Has the honorable senator read the tariff schedule?
– I have read the schedule in this bill and I am disgusted with it, and with our delegates who accepted it. The delegates from Great Britain were 100 per cent. British. “Wherever they looked they saw the map of England. Good luck to them; they represented England, not Australia. But our delegates were prepared to make concessions while pretending that they were gaining advantages.
– What did they give?
– They gave to Britain the power to break down our tariff barriers, and to secure the importation into Australia of goods that can, and should, be manufactured in this country.
-Not one duty has been reduced.
– Over 60 items which affect the textile industry have been reduced. A majority of this Parliament is in favour of the Ottawa agreement, and if it is not to fail a reduction of the tariff must follow its acceptance. Pour years ago, our imports of woollen manufactures were valued at £2,500,000. The latest figures show that the value of those imports to-day is £50,000, proving that Australia can manufacture these goods. Approximately 60 new industries have come to Australia from Great Britain. I agree that Great Britain should be given an absolute preference in regard to goods that cannot be manufactured in Australia; but we should be given an opportunity to produce those whose manufacture is possible in this country.
– That opportunity is given under the schedule.
– I cannot agree with the honorable senator. He knows per fectly well what is contained in articles 9, 10, 1.1 and 12 of the agreement. Article 9 provides that “ protection by tariffs shall be afforded only to those industries which are reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success.” I am sorry that Senator Guthrie is absent from the chamber. He has said that we do not want to support the springing up of tinpot industries in Australia. He forgets that, when thewoollen industry was established, it was a tinpot industry, and that it would not have expanded to any extent had it not been protected. These wobbly, tinpot industries, at which he casts slurs, will become great if given an opportunity to expand. Everything must have a beginning. Article 10 provides -
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 costs of economical and efficient production.
What does that mean ? It means that we have to lower the tariff to allow British goods to enter Australia. If only £50,000 worth of goods is imported, that much less will be manufactured in Australia, and the number of operatives will be thousands fewer than they are to-day.
– According to the honorable senator, we imported four years ago woollen goods to the value of £2,500,000, while to-day their value is only £50,000. Was there greater unemployment in Australia four years ago than there is to-day?
– There was not. There was a buoyant labour market, finance flowed through different channels of trade into the hands of the people, and eventually found its way back to the banks. Everybody was prosperous. A year or two ago a wave of depression, such as the civilized world had not previously experienced, swept over the country.. That depression is responsible for the degree of unemployment that prevails.
– It is responsible alsofor the drop that has occurred in the volume of imports.
– The conditions might have been a thousand times worse without our protective tariff. Article 11 provides 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 shall follow such review. The Tariff Board knows perfectly well that it is expected to bring down duties. If duties are not reduced, this agreement will be valueless.
– The Tariff Board will do its job, and “do” Australia at the same time.
– Of course it will. Senator Sampson asked what concessions our delegates have given. They made a lot of rash promises that supposedly were to prove beneficial to Australia. Senator Colebatch has shown how the agreement in relation to meat will affect the beef-growers of Australia, and I agree with his conclusions. I noticed in the press a few days ago, the statement that the Argentine representatives are to confer with the delegates from the United Kingdom in reference to meat importations into Great Britain. One begins to wonder just what is designed. It appears to me that the Australian people will have to put up a hard and a bitter fight against the exporters of Argentine beef, behind whom is a large amount of British capital, and who can be expected to fight, if need be, for their existence. I believe that the odds are overwhelmingly against Australia. We are a long way from the market, and up to date have sent overseas only a very small quantity of chilled beef. We send frozen beef, whereas the Argentine exports mostly chilled beef, and thus has a big advantage over us. As Senator Colebatch pointed out, Australia i3 under another big disadvantage in that our beasts are killed when they are about five years old, compared with two and a half years in the Argentine. Thus we have to feed our cattle twice as long, and have capital lying idle for that extra period. An honorable senator has informed me that in the Argentine there are good grasses, which will fatten stock quickly; consequently, maturity is reached in two and a half years, and the beef is tender because of its youth.
– There is also very little road travelling in the Argentine.
– That is true. Chilled beef is a principal feature of the meat agreement. The only restriction imposed on its importation into Great Britain from the Argentine is that the quantity is limited to the export figures for 1931-32. The imports of chilled beef into the United Kingdom from the Argentine were 484,000 tons in 1926; 478,000 tons in 1928; 455,000 tons in 1930; and 464,000 tons in 1931. The percentages of Great Britain’s total imports of beef, mutton and lamb from Australia, New Zealand and South America have been as follows: -
Those figures show the small quantity that is exported from Australia. One wonders what is to become of the Argentine surplus if that country is prevented from sending a certain tonnage to the British market. It must be dumped somewhere. It will bc dumped on the shores of some other country, and the effect will be to reduce the price of beef on the British market. The London Evening Standard, under the caption “What Ottawa left Undone”, says-
Imports of foreign frozen meats will be regulated, but South American chilled beef is left untouched. The avowed object of the meat quota is to improve the market here. How can that be done if South America is allowed to continue in the same volume at lower prices?
Great stress is laid on the advantages of sliding reductions and limitations of imports of frozen meats into Britain; but it is interesting to look at other schedules to the agreement. One can plainly see that Australia cannot expect much from Britain in regard to meat.
I notice that the agreement promises something for the wheat-growers of Australia. The following statement has been made on behalf of the Government : -
If we take the six years 1925-20 to 1930-31, we find that on the average the dominions as a whole made an annual export’ of 330,000,000 bushels, while in the same years the average import into the United Kingdom was 198.000,000 bushels. So that if the United Kingdom had imported only Empire wheat there would still have been an annual surplus of 132,000,000 bushels to bc sold at parity in foreign markets. Obviously, therefore, no British preferential scheme would increase the Australian parity. We could scarcely expect Britain to subscribe to a preferential scheme under which her working people paid more for bread made from Australian wheat than foreign peoples did, or that we did at home in Australia.
There seems to be a surplus of 132,000,000 bushels in the wheat production of the British dominions. “Which dominion will get the best of the deal?Will Canada be permitted to place on the British market a larger proportion of her wheat than Australia will be allowed to send there? How will the exports of Canada, India and other wheat-growing countries of the Empire be allotted? Will it be a case of “First come, first served”? Will Australia or some other dominion be placed in the background? Australia should be allowed to export to England a certain quantity of her wheat, and other parts of the Empire should receive similar treatment. Under the agreement, Australia is to have a preference of 2s. a quarter, or 3d. a bushel. Onceagain, I ask, what is to be become of the huge quantities of wheat that must be exported from Russia?If Russia is to receive world parity, how can Britain guarantee any price for the wheat of Australia? Once other countries outside the Empire, chiefly Russia, begin to export their wheat, they will drag down theworldparity.
– In Australia, world parity means 6d. a bushel under the cost of production.
– Yes. Do the farmers think they will reap any advantage out of this agreement?
– Will the honorable senator reduce the tariff when he has an opportunity to do so?
– The honorable senator who interjects believes in protection of the primary producers, but not of the secondary industries. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 23rd November, published the following article : -
Commenting upon recent statements by Senator Colebatch and Sir Thomas Henley, the president of the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures (Mr. H. Gordon Bennett) said that over the whole Commonwealth during the last ten years the loan expenditure on various aids to primary producers had amounted to approximately £250,000,000, upon which the interest was about £10,000,000 per annum, and the annual losses on the various land settlement, irrigation schemes, and country railways, &c, amounted to another £10,000,000 per annum, or more. The major share of the cost of this assistance to primary producers fell on the manufacturing industries.
Despite this vast expenditure in assistance to primary industries, in 1931 there were 32,000 fewer people employed in rural industries than in 1921.
Many years ago, I worked on a farm for fifteen years, and in those days there were, at harvest time, three or four men in the field with a stripper, three men at a winnower, and another man rounding up the heap. To-day, one man, with the aid of machinery, can do all the harvesting work.
SenatorO’Halloran. - And he is asked to use a machine made in the UnitedStates of America!
– That is so. My quotation from the Sydney Morning Herald continues -
As a matter of fact, there were now 48,000 fewer people employed in rural industry than twenty years ago-despite all the efforts of the Australian Governments to promote land settlement. On the other hand, without the expenditure of any government loan moneys, from 1911 to 1930, the secondary industries provided employment for 120,000 additional workers. “ Surely these facts should be sufficient to convince Sir Hal Colebatch and Sir Thomas Henley that it is to the secondary industries we must look to provide employment for those now out of work and the thousands of boys and girls who leave school every year,” said Mr. Bennett. “If Sir Hal Colebatch and Sir Thomas Henley realized that reduction of tariff which enabled overseas manufacturers to capture 10 per cent. of the market now held by Australian manufacturers would throw 44,600 Australians out of work, they would perhaps not be such ardent advocates of freetrade as they are at present, especially as under freetrade conditions no assistance in any form would be available for primary producers, for, faced, with world competition, the manufacturing industries would not be able to stand any taxation for their benefit. “ It is high time that men of the standing of Sir Hal Colebatch and Sir Thomas Henley realized the Australian market is the most important market for our farmers, and that the destruction of our secondary industries by withdrawal of tariff protection would also ruin every primary producer in the Commonwealth.”
– That comment is aimed largely at the Murray River irrigation works.
– Whatever the object may be, the cold hard facts are given. We should endeavour to build up Australian industries. I have always fought for the protection of primary industries. I voted for a duty of 6d. per lb. on butter, and I supported the bounty of 4th. a bushel on wheat. If the banks had not refused to stand by the Scullin Government, Senator Hardy and his wheat-growing friends would have received a bounty of 6d., instead of 4£d. Since I have supported the claims of the primary producers, I have a right to ask for the protection of secondary industries.
– The honorable senator will be given a chance next week to show where he stands in regard to wheat.
– In all probability I shall support the honorable senator in that regard. While another honorable senator was speaking, I interjected that, in my opinion, the British Government, during the war, had robbed the farmers of Australia of £37,000,000 on thenwheat.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I request the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the bill.
– I am endeavouring to show that the Ottawa agreement will not confer so much benefit on the community as is claimed by the Government. What right has Britain to say to Australia, one of its dominions, “You shall not become a manufacturing nation at our expense. We expect you to stand by us by breaking down your tariff barriers and allowing our manufacturers to export their goods to Australia. Let your wool be shipped to England to be manufactured by us “. Britain should treat Australia as an independent dominion, and give it full opportunity to build up its industries for the benefit of its own people. One honorable senator said that Britain had done an immense amount of good to Australia, because it had protected it in the past.- I am reminded of the time when Australia had practically no navy. In South Australia we had an obsolete gun-boat known as The Protector. The protection that we got from Britain in that period cost us £250,000 per annum, and for that sum, Britain sent us some obsolete vessels that were scarcely fit to venture upon the ocean. Australia did not receive adequate protection until it built and paid for its own navy. We are told that Britain has provided our best market; but last year, Britain took Russian wheat because itwas cheaper than the grain grown in the British dominions.
– What will Britain do next week?
– Even the honorable senator does not know that. I agree with Senator Kingsmill that the agreement will not last, and that it will have lo be revised from time to time. Britain has agreed to give tariff preferences to certain of our primary products but, in return, expects us to lower our tariff barriers to British manufacturers. In my opinion the agreement is a bacl bargain for the Australian people. During the war Great Britain obtained our wool for a flat rate of ls. 3£d. per lb. and disposed of it for four times that value. By that transaction the wool-growers of Australia were cheated out of £35,000,000 which rightly belonged to them.
– The honorable senator forgets that Great Britain paid Australia one half of the profits from the realization of the wool.
– That transaction has nothing whatever to do with the bill before the Senate.
– If you, Mr. President, rule that I must not refer to the wool sales to Britain during the war, I must, of course, bow to your decision, but I was merely endeavouring to show that Britain has not always treated Australia fairly. Besides obtaining our wool at a fiat rate and selling it. at an immense profit the British Government, during the war, purchased our wheat for 5s. 2d. a bushel f .o.b. Australian ports, and paid to other countries 9s. 4d. a bushel f.o.b. in the country of origin. Australian wheat farmers thus lost £37,000,000.
– What does the honorable senator say about the millions of pounds which Britain lost over the zinc contract?
– If Great Britain lost over the zinc contract she more than made up the loss by the profits secured from the sale of our wool and our wheat. It is also asserted that what may be lost by the Mother Country from the concessions with regard to cheese will be more than made up by imports from Australia. We have a right to expect fair dealing in all these matters from the Mother Country but it would appear that everything has been commercialized and that our relationship with Great Britain counts for nothing. We have always given the Mother Country a large measure of preference in our tariff legislation, and we had every right to expect generous treatment in the negotiations at Ottawa. Instead, the British delegation drove a hard bargain with all the dominions. Australia with its population of only 6,500,000 people is labouring under a huge burden of interest on its public debt. In my opinion we shall never be able to discharge our obligations.
– If we are in such an unfavorable position why are our stocks at par in the London market?
– Our stocks are at par because the Scullin Government, immediately it took office, brought in drastic legislation to correct the trade balance which had been so heavily against Australia during the Bruce-Rage administration. When Mr. Hogan, the ex-Premier of Victoria, returned from his visit to England a month or two ago, he declared that if in financial transactions Australia received from Britain the most favoured nation treatment it would be a great relief to the taxpayers of this country. Instead, we have paid £518s. per cent. for the loan of £100 for one year, while France pays less than £1 for the same amount and Italy next to nothing to the British Government. Is it fail that Australia should be treated in this manner? If England is not willing to deal more generously with Australia in financial matters it is not likely that we shall derive much trade advantage from the Ottawa agreement.
The agreement will, I fear, do harm to our secondary industries and accentuate our unemployment problem; and as the purchasing power of our people will be seriously impaired, we shall not be able to import largely of the products of the Mother Country. Britain should realize that, unless the purchasing power of our people can be improved by increased employment at remunerative wages, the
Ottawa agreement will not count for much in the future. If we arc to take our rightful place among the nations of the world, we must give every encouragement to primary and secondary production.
The representatives in this Parliament of our primary producers should remember that if our secondary industries are not in a healthy condition, the home market for our primary products will be restricted. Progress can come only from a well-balanced policy for the encouragement of both primary and secondary industries. However, I regret that this Government seems determined to break down existing tariff barriers under which many of our secondary industries have been established in recent years. This policy will seriously injure our primary industries also. I cannot support the bill because I regard the agreement as most unfair to Australian secondary industries.
SenatorREID (Queensland) [9.43].- It is remarkable that the official Oppositions in the Parliaments of Great Britain, Canada and Australia, the three principal countries represented at the Ottawa Conference, are objecting to the agreement which was reached at that conference. In Canada, the Opposition threatens to denounce the treaty when it returns to power. Although the Labour Opposition in Great Britain is not so strongly freetrade to-day as it was a few years ago, it is united in its objection to the agreement. Critics in the Mother Country declare that the British delegation at Ottawa was hoodwinked by Mr. Bruce, the leader of the Australian delegation, and by Mr. Bennett, the Prime Minister of Canada, and that Britain had to grant many concessions in satisfaction of their demands. In this Parliament, opposition to the agreement comes from the extreme protectionists in the Labour party. It has been contended by some that the activities of the freetrade representatives of Great Britain at the conference will result in ruining Australian secondary industries. The representatives of each country have said that others have derived all the advantages; but they cannot all be right. I congratulate the Minister without Portfolio (Mr. Bruce) and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) upon the magnificent work which they accomplished in overcoming what might have been regarded as insurmountable difficulties. The problems which had to be solved at that conference were, perhaps, the greatest with which Empire delegates have ever had to contend. I remind Senator Hoare, who described Mr. Bruce as a freetrader, that the best tariff
Australia has ever had was passed by the Bruce-Page Government. It is to be regretted that such a well-balanced tariff, which enabled many Australian industries to become firmly established, was so seriously amended by the Scullin Government. Generally speaking, I think that the agreement reached at Ottawa will be of benefit, not only to Great Britain, but also to the dominions, and, as I have always been a strong believer in interEmpire trade, I am strongly in favour of the decisions readied at Ottawa. That the agreement is not perfect cannot be denied ; but it is a step in the direction of improving the trading relations between Great Britain and the dominions, and to that extent must be beneficial to all parties concerned. During recent years heavy duties have been imposed by different countries upon the products of Great Britain, and that ha3 seriously impaired Britain’s trade. If the dominions will not open their doors to Great Britain, the Mother Country and Australia will undoubtedly suffer. Inter-Empire trade and a free interchange of commodities between the nations must be an important factor in bringing about international peace. If the example of Great Britain and the dominions in this respect is followed by other countries, general disarmament should follow, and it should not be long before the millions of pounds now spent on armaments are used in providing employment, thereby increasing the spending capacity of the people. If Australia is to be effectively developed, our exports must increase. In order to show the extent to which Australian products have been marketed in Great Britain, I may say that in 1930-31 Great Britain took 90 per cent, of our butter, 70 per cent, of our meat, 75 per cent, of our fruit, and 95 per cent, of our wine. As no other country is purchasing anything approaching that quantity of Australian produce, Great Britain is our best customer. By further extending our trade with Great Britain, we shall also be assisting in. reducing our overseas debt, which at present is one of the greatest problems we have to solve. If our exports increase in volume, and their value improves, a stimulus will also be given to shipping between Australia and Great Britain, which is essential if freights are to be reduced. At present the shipping service between the two countries has been seriously interfered with, and those vessels which are still engaged in the trade are carrying only small cargoes. An increase in trade will enable the shipping companies to obtain some return on the capital invested and then to reduce freights, which would be of benefit to those engaged in our exporting industries. Moreover, an increase in shipping activities will assist those engaged on the waterfront and on our railways,. in the handling of produce to and from the seaboard. The primary producers are continually asking for lower ocean freights, and also for reduced rates on the railways, but as there is not a railway system in Australia that is paying, it is difficult to see how railway freights can be reduced. A reduction of overseas freights can, however, be brought about by an increased overseas trade.
Some exaggerated statements have been made concerning the effect of this agreement upon those engaged in the growing of bananas in Queensland and New South Wales. It is ridiculous to say that the importation of 40,000 centals of Fijian bananas will seriously affect the Australian banana growing industry. The importation of Fijian bananas will certainly have a slight effect upon the Australian industry, but if the population increases and industry generally becomes stabilized, the loss, if any, will be small. Industries protected by high customs duties are always likely to be attacked by those associated with industries that are not receiving similar protection. The Australian banana industry has enjoyed substantial protection for some years, but it was only accidental that it received the protection which it now has. Those engaged in growing bananas would have been delighted with the imposition of an import duty of1/2d., but when the members of another place were in a good mood, and one honorable member moved to increase the duty to1d. the proposal, which practically placed an embargo on importations from Fiji was accepted. “When that duty was under consideration in this chamber, it was thought that the rate adopted in another place was too high, but it was allowed to remain. At that time the industry was not in the position it is to-day, as some of the difficulties with which it was then confronted have since been overcome. Although I regret very much that it will be affected to some extent as a result of the ratification of the agreement, I feel sure that it will still be able to hold its own against overseas competition. The banana industry suffers as the result of the enhanced values obtained for land on which bananas are grown. Although the value of the land has gone up by leaps and bounds, the production has not increased. Purchasers have paid prices greatly in excess of the value of land, and this has necessitated the payment of heavy taxation and other charges. A great many people are trying to grow bananas on unsuitable land. Coff’s Harbour is not really a tropical region, but bananas are being grown there. They may succeed in the virgin soil; but, later, I fear that the crop will not be so good, and that some of the growers may go under.
I have great sympathy with the growers of pineapples, but I recognize that Canada has the right to say where she shall buy pineapples,and that Mr. Bruce and Mr. Gullett could not force the sister dominion to buy only the Australian product. I do not know what may be done in the future, but I hope that it will be found possible to do something to assist those engaged in this industry, for they have been badly hit. Unless we can convince Canada of the wisdom of granting a preference to Australian pineapples, we shall have to do our best to hold our place in the market by selling only first-class products.
The disadvantages to the bananagrowers and those engaged in the growing of pineapples are, in my opinion, compensated for by the concessions which have been obtained in relation to meat. A considerable portion of Queensland is suitable only for cattle-raising. In the past, thousands of pounds have been lost in trying to find a market in the Old Country for our beef. Those engaged in cattle-raising are deserving of every consideration. For about 35 years they have been struggling to establish an export trade, and during that period the Argentine cattle trade has sprung up andflourished, until it now enjoys practically a monopoly in the British market. The Ottawa agreement, however, grants to Australia valuable concessions of which full advantage should be taken. If the trade is handled intelligently, I have no doubt that, in time, the Australian meat industry will be placed on a sound and lasting footing. I have here a newspaper extract which expresses the views of Mr. J. B. Cramsie, who is one of the most capable and best-informed men in the Australian cattle industry. It is as follows : -
Mr. J. B. Cramsie, formerly chairman of the Metropolitan Meat Industry Board, and of the Australian Meat Council, in an address yesterday before the members of the Australian Women’s Guild of Empire, analysed the Ottawa agreement in its relation to the meat trade to illustrate its benefits to the Commonwealth and its still greater possibilitieswith proper organization.
Meat prices on the London market, said Mr. Cramsie, had risen, since the Ottawa Conference, from1d. to11/2d. a lb., resulting in an increased value of 25s. a head on every bullock, 4s. on every grown sheep, and 3s. on every lamb which Australia was in a position to market to-day. It would, he thought, be right to say that on last year’s export season that would have meant £1,000,000 to Australia.
That is something to look forward to. Already the agreement has meant £1,000,000 to the cattle-growers of Australia.
– They have not got it yet.
– The report continues -
What they had gained to-day, he proceeded, was as nothing compared with what they were going to gain with proper organization of the trade. There had been established for the first time the principle of trade between Great Britain and her dominions, with preference to the latter. They could trade with Great Britain only on a reciprocal basis. They must, as far as possible, buy British goods.
Mr. Cramsie said that the meat trade had gone to the Argentine simply because that country, alive to every possibility, had taken hold of the trade and handled it better than Australia had done. Australia could recover her own trade if she followed the Argentine methods, in the directions, for example, of importing the best blood stock from Great Britain, and improving her pastures. Australia also needed Organized markets, which she had not had up to the present.
Mr. Cramsie added that he believed there was every possibility that, as a result of the Ottawa Conference, British investors would turn their eyes more towards the dominions, to the mutual benefit of Great Britain and her outlying parts, and of the youth of the Empire who were seeking outlets. If the money which had been invested in the Argentine had been invested in Australia, this country would have had the development and prosperity of the Argentine.
There was no country in the world, he believed, to which British investors could turn their eyes more hopefully to-day than Australia.
That is the opinion of an expert in the meat trade, which, with all humility, I endorse. Some years ago, when I was a member of the Queensland Parliament, I urged the then Premier to import some good stock from Britain in order to build up the Australian cattle industry. I said that, in my opinion, it would be one of the best investments the Government could make. I suggested that Battle.raisers should be given the benefit of good stud stock, free of cost if they could not pay for it. Had my suggestion been adopted, I feel sure that to-day Queensland would occupy the position in the world meat trade now occupied by the Argentine. Senator Pearce, when Minister for Home and Territories, visited the Northern Territory and returned full of enthusiasm for its development. I then said that the only way to develop Western Queensland and the Northern Territory is by cattle-raising. The Ottawa agreement will provide Australia with an assured market for its meat, but if we desire to capture for Australia the trade now done by the Argentine, we must improve our stock. So far, the Northern Territory has proved to be a “ white elephant “, but the possibilities of that territory as a producer of meat are tremendous. Although Queensland will gain most from the concessions in regard to meat, Western Australia will also share in the gain. That State deserves any benefit it will derive because of its action in keeping the Wyndham meat works going. I value very highly that pant of the Ottawa agreement which deals with meat. Unfortunately, Australia is subject to periodical droughts, but efficient management, good stock, and the provision of railways and transport facilities will do much to overcome the losses from that cause. Not many years ago, a bullock was not thought to be fit for market until it was seven years old. Later, it was thought that five years was a suitable age, and now a bullock is regarded as most profitable when from three and a half to four years of age. By improving the quality of our stock and taking steps to minimize the effect of droughts, we may look forward to brighter days for the Australian cattle industry. The development of this industry will also tend to make our non-paying railways profitable. Taken all round, I regard the Ottawa agreement as a step forward. It will tend to unite the component parts of the Empire.
Senator Colebatch wondered how some of the clauses of the agreement would be interpreted; but I believe that the spirit which prevailed at Ottawa will continue, and that the agreement will be interpreted in the interests of the British Empire as a whole. Difficulties may be encountered here and there, and it may be found desirable to alter the agreement at some future date. It is, however, an excellent start, and I strongly support it. Although not a meat-eater myself, I am convinced that cattle raising is the industry most suited to Western Queensland and the Northern Territory. With the application of an intelligent and properly conducted scheme for the improvement of our stock, a bright day should dawn for Australia as a result of the benefits secured by Mr. Bruce and Mr. Gullett, and the Northern Territory should be a bigger gainer than any other part of Australia.
– With the sentiments which, according to the speeches that have been delivered on the second reading of this bill, are alleged to underlie it, one can have no quarrel. I regret, however, that so far as it has proceeded, the debate has been all sentiment and no argument. We have heard many highsounding phrases, to which no one on this side objects, concerning the necessity for developing the British Empire in the interest of its component parts, but no practical illustration has been given of the manner in which that development is to be furthered by this agreement. I have long held the view advanced by Senator Kingsmill this evening, that the greatness of the British Empire in the future will be found, not so much in the densely populated islands from which our forefathers sprung, as in the more intensive development of self-reliant communities in those dominions beyond the seas which have been added to the Empire over a long period of years. It is in the discussion of the agreement from that aspect that 1 desire to devote the time at my disposal to-night; because I believe that this Parliament can best serve the people of the Empire, and certainly of Australia, by primarily devoting its attention to the well-ordered development of this country. Insofar as we have to depend upon imports to supply what we cannot ourselves provide, I take the same view in regard to the Empire as I take in regard to Australia in the case of commodities that we can provide. Not one pound should be sent outside for what can be produced in Australia; but in the purchase of what we must necessarily import we should patronize our kinsmen within the Empire before dealing with other countries. That may be a conservative view; and probably, if world conditions were different from what they are to-day, I should not subscribe to it; but I recognize that world economic and trading conditions are not as we would have them. Just as other countries seek to protect their interests and their people, so it is the duty of this Parliament to protect the interests of Australia and its people. The argument has been advanced that because the agreement is condemned by the Labour party in this chamber, by the Liberal party in the Canadian Parliament, and by the Liberal and Labour parties in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, it is a good one. I suggest that the unanimous condemnation of ‘different political parties holding diverse views in various portions of the Empire is the strongest indictment that could be levelled against it. We are told that there are great difficulties in the way of doing anything of a practical nature to foster that form of trade within the Empire in which I have just declared my belief, and which has been advocated by speakers who have preceded me. There is a very interesting paragraph in the publication called the Bank of New South Wales Digest, which, has come in for a certain amount of publicity and criticism during this debate. It has been quoted by different senators, and the charge has been levelled by one against another that only those portions of the resume of the Ottawa conference decisions have been quoted which suit a particular argument. It appears to me, however, that a quotation from views expressed by Alfred Marshall, described as one of the most distinguished economists of his day, anent somewhat similar proposals advanced in 1908, is worthy of study, in considering the initial difficulties that have to be met in the implementing of a policy of this kind. Marshall said -
There is danger in the fact that in these schemes the gain which either side is invited to expect is greater than tho loss it is to incur y and yet, as the scheme includes differential duties, which are essentially wasteful, the aggregate material’ gain must, in my belief, be less than the aggregate material loss. The schemes would be less dangerous if they started with the frank statement, “ Imperial unity is an ideal worth much material . loss : let us consider how best to share this loss among us “.
It seems to me that that is not the spirit in which the delegates from the different parts of the Empire approached the Ottawa Conference. As Senator Hoare pointed out, and as the leader of the British delegation, Mr. Baldwin, admitted in the House of Commous, the delegates from Great Britain went to Ottawa prepared to drive a hard bargain; and they did so.
– What is the reference to that quotation from Mr. Baldwin, about which we have heard so much but which we cannot find?
– The Sydney Morning Herald of the 22nd October, 1932. Without casting any reflections upon the representation of Australia at the conference, I say that the duty devolves upon this Parliament, in protecting the interests of this portion of the British Empire and its people, seriously to consider what are the benefits to be derived from Ottawa, what are the advantages to be gained from placing this measure on the statute-book, and at what cost are those advantages to be secured. There is a wide difference of opinion among those who support this measure as to what benefits are to be derived and what the cost is to be. There are honorable senators who, in urging the acceptance of the bill, say that the secondary industries of Australia have nothing to fear from its passage and from the implementing of the agreement. On the other hand, there is the declaration of Senator Colebatch - with whose fiscal policy I do not agree, but for whose logic I have a great respect and admiration - that he proposes to vote for the bill because it gives to ‘ those who want reduced duties something to work upon. He laid such considerable emphasis on the point that we are justified in believing that it is his principal reason for supporting the measure. What do reduced duties imply? They imply a return to freetrade conditions, to the conditions that existed at the time .when secondary industries could not live in this country - industries that have since been established, and have thrived and prospered as the result of a protective policy which has been overwhelmingly endorsed again and again by the people of Australia.
The benefits to be derived from Ottawa may be divided into two classes. Certain classes of Australian production are to receive a straight-out preference upon entry into Great Britain. That that will prove beneficial to those commodities, which include butter, cheese, fruit, wine, eggs, &c.,. I do not think any one can deny. But after all, even if it is an increased preference, it is comparatively slight compared with preferences in existence prior to Ottawa. I know that it is suggested in some quarters that, but for Ottawa, the preferences then being enjoyed by Australia, would, or might, have been withdrawn. I point out, however, that they were granted without Ottawa; and I am charitable enough to believe that when last year the Government of Great Britain was compelled to depart from what, for many years, had been “a revenue tariff policy, it gave those preferences to Australia in return for the very generous preferences which, oyer a long period, this country had accorded to British goods. I venture to say that, without the Ottawa Conference, these preferences would not have been withdrawn, as the Minister has suggested would have happened.
– All that I can say is that the British Ministers have declared that they would have been withdrawn.
– The British Ministers were at the conference, as Mr. Baldwin indicated in the speech to which I have referred, to drive a hard bargain. I believe that if the Minister who has interjected had been one of the representatives of Australia at Ottawa, this country would have obtained a better bargain than is afforded by the present agreement. Take the preference on wine, which relates only to wine of 27 degrees of proof spirit and under. This will not benefit that section of the industry which is finding the greatest difficulty in marketing its product. I refer to the producers of ports and the heavier types of wine which are obtained from the grapes with a high sugar content grown on the irrigation areas in South Australia, and on the Murrumbidgee irrigation areas of New South Wales, and produced largely by returned soldier settlers who have been placed on the blocks as the result of the repatriation work of various governments. The greatest difficulty of the viticultural industry to-day is to find markets for this product, which will not receive the preference accorded to the lighter types of wine which are produced by certain districts only, and are not produced in large quantities for export because there is apparently a good and growing market for them in Australia.
Another alleged benefit of the agreement is the shelter afforded in the British market to some of the larger industries, particularly wheat, metals and meat. This matter is worthy of more than passing consideration. In return for the shelter Australia is to receive it must offer its wheat for first sale in the British market at world parity. This leads me to ask, what right this Parliament has to pass legislation binding Australia to offer, on those terms, wheat grown by Australian farmers, and sold to Australian and overseas merchants under the system which honorable senators opposite have supported in season and out of season? What right have we to bind the wheat-farmers, or the merchants who purchase their crops, to offer the wheat on first sale anywhere? This wheat does not belong to the Government, but to the farmers who produce it or to the merchants who buy it. Some of the merchants have headquarters in foreign countries. If they purchase it on first sale, will that constitute a breach of this agreement? If the Government intends to adopt the policy of the Labour party, and to institute an Australian-wide wheat pool, the difficulty will be overcome. Alternatively, it would have to introduce, a system of licensing of wheat exporters, which might lead to considerable difficulties and some repercussions not in the interests of the Australian farmers.
– I am afraid that the honorable senator has not carefully read article 5, which contemplates that if the wheat is not offered, on first sale, to Great Britain, the benefit of the concession will be lost.
– What proportion of the wheat produced in Australia must be so offered?
– Not one bushel need be offered ; but if itis not, we do not get the benefit.
– Then this much-vaunted shelter is not worth a snap of the fingers to the growers of Australia. In order to get the benefit of the tariff concession of 3d. a bushel, we must be prepared to offer our wheat, on first sale, at world parity in the British market. The farmers of Australia will not receive a penny more for their wheat than they would if this agreement had never been signed. Another aspect of the agreement is that if the effect were to eliminate from the British market certain wheat produced in foreign countries, and to substitute for it wheat produced in Australia or Canada, the foreign countries would not destroy their wheat, but would seek an outlet for it in some other market - possibly a market now being exploited by Australia. We have a considerable market at the present time for our wheat in eastern countries from which a better return is obtained by the producers than from Great Britain, and that market may be lost for this willo’thewisp shelter in the British market, of which so much has been made in this debate. What is to be the determining factor in arriving at world parity? Obviously it cannot be the price of wheat in Liverpool; but will it be the price in Winnipeg or in any other city? These are points which should be elucidated before the producers are committed to the agreement for the period of five years.
Much has been made of the preference on meat. We are told that already as the result of the Ottawa agreement the price of stock has improved. I believe that it has improved in the United Kingdom, but it is still impossible to sell at a profit any meat from Australia, and the pastoral industry in Australia will be defunct in two years unless values improve. As far as the immediate future is concerned, the provisions of the agreement, even if they contain all the ultimate advantages alleged by honorable senators opposite, will be more detrimental than otherwise to the pastoral industry. This bill was introduced into the House of Representatives on the 13th October, and I quote from the Adelaide Advertiser of the 4th November -
Prices at the abattoirs market for all classes of stock have been at a record low level for three weeks.
This was the condition after this agreement had been disclosed to Parliament and to the people concerned in the production and sale of fat stock. The Advertiser continued -
Almost all farmers have fat sheep for sale and country butchers have no need to look beyond local sources of supply. The loss of this outside competition is an important factor in the. regulating of prices at the abattoirs. At Wednesday’s sale the best mutton made barely 2d. a lb. except for a few light weights which were a fraction of a penny dearer.
Export lamb buyers for the time being at least have ceased to operate in this State and prices in sympathy with those ruling for other stock are at a ridiculously low level. Heavy lambs were sold this week at a little more than 2d. per lb., although a few pens of light weights made nearly 3d.
Less than 3d. per lb. for the choicest lambs in the Adelaide market a month after the provisions of the bill were disclosed to this Parliament! The position was unchanged oh Wednesday last.
SenatorMcLachlan. - I was told in Melbourne yesterday that the price of lambs has increased by 3s. a head.
– The export buyers are still out of the Adelaide market, which is depressed. Country markets also are depressed.
– The price of lamb has doubled in the Smithfield market.
– Then what is wrong with the lamb exporters when they neglect to buy at 2d. per lb.? Why do they not take advantage of the prices which the honorable senator says are ruling in the Smithfield market? The buyers with 30 years’ experience who are to-day out of the Adelaide market because of the low prices obtaining for lamb abroad may know less than the Minister and his advisers, but as a layman I prefer to trust their judgment. The increase of prices alleged by the Vice-President of the Executive Council should be reflected in the sheep market, but a little over a month ago I attended a stock sale at Wilmington, and saw fairly good breeding ewes sold for 14s. 3d. a head. I received particulars to-day of another sale held onFriday last at Orroroo at which better ewes were sold for7s. 6d. a head. That is further evidence that the Ottawa agreement is not proving the boon to sheep breeders that honorable senators who support it would have us believe.
In regard to sheep-breeding, Australia has almost reached saturation point. It has approximately 120,000,000 sheep, and the flocks are increasing at the rate of slightly more than 6,000,000 per annum ; so that at the end of this year Australia will have 16,000,000 more sheep than at any other period in its history. Does the Ottawa agreement provide any channel for disposing immediately of this surplus ? On the contrary, Australia’s exports of meat to the United Kingdom are to be restricted next year. The restriction will apply to other meat-producing countries, therefore, we need not look abroad for markets in other countries that do not produce meat, because
Argentina will undoubtedly exploit them fully. The result will be that enormous numbers of sheep which are surplus to-day will be forced on the local market by climatic conditions during the next twelve months. What will happen if the local market is completely smashed as it was by the drought in the early pari of this century when fat sheep were selling for 2s. 6d. a head? One would imagine that we should be concerned only about the export market; but so far as sheep and lambs are concerned, the local market has carried the pastoral industry during the present depression. If it were not for the comparatively good local market for fat stock the pastoral industry could not have resisted for so long the impact of the fall in wool prices. In 1930-31, of 16,363,000 sheep and lambs slaughtered in Australia of a net weight of 626,590,000 lb., or an average of 40 lb. a head, the exports totalled only 2,700,000 carcasses. The local consumption amounted to 16,363,000. The full details are to be found in the following table : -
The above figures show that out of a total of 16,000,000 sheep and lambs slaughtered in Australia in 1930-31, over 13,600,000 were consumed locally. This is the market which is going to be smashed as the result of the Ottawa agreement to restrict exports to Great Britain; this is the market upon which millions of sheep and lambs may be forced by drought and climatic conditions. I therefore suggest that the stock-owners and export lambbuyers who are exhibiting such greatcaution at the moment because of prevailing low prices, perhaps know a little more about the meat position than those who are booming this much vaunted Ottawa agreement.
There is another aspect to this case. I refer to the increase of the home consumption of Australian primary produce due to the expansion of our secondary industries and the raising of the standard of living of our people. For the purpose of my argument I take, as the base year, 1907 - the year before the first protective tariff was implemented with nation-wide application, and the year before the first charter of wages was established in the Federal Arbitration Court. In that year, out of a total production in the four principal groups of primary production - agriculture, pastoral, dairy and farmyard, and forestry and fisheries- of £104,701,000, products to the value of £47,055,000, or 46 per cent., were exported, and products to the value of £57,646,000, or 54 per cent, were consumed locally. In 1929-30, the last year for which authentic figures are available, the production in these groups of primary products had increased in value to £222,541,000, but only £83,685,000 worth, or 37 per cent., was exported, and £138,748,000 worth, or 63 per cent., was consumed locally. If we examine the figures a little more closely, we find that the dairy and farmyard products rose from £15,667,000 in 1907 to £49,398,000 in 1929-30, and the local consumption increased from £12,000,000 to £40,000,000. This tremendous increase of local consumption was made possible by the building up of Australia’s secondary industries, and by the adoption of a higher standard of living for the men and women engaged in those industries. These conditions, I believe, are endangered by articles 9 to 13 inclusive of the Ottawa agreement, because they destroy the fiscal freedom of this Parliament. They bind it to do. something which no other parliament in -the world has ever before been bound to do, namely, to accept the dictation of a body of its own creation in a matter of vital importance to the nation.
– If the honorable senator will turn to article 4, he will find that the British Government undertakes not to lower the duties in respect of certain items without the consent of Australia.
– That provision relates to an agreement between the governments of two countries, which has to be ratified by the respective parliaments. It does not seek to transfer to a body subservient to this Parliament the vital principle of determining what the fiscal policy of the nation shall be. Article 4 has to be ratified by the Parliament of Great Britain.
– The agreement has been ratified by the British Parliament.
– That Parliament has had its eyes opened in the process. We are now asked to accept articles 9 to 12. The first deals with a formula which must be followed by the Tariff Board in determining what constitutes reasonable protection and so on, and the following article binds this Parliament not to increase the tariff above a rate recommended by the Tariff Board, so far as imports from Great Britain are concerned.
– It makes the Tariff Board superior to Parliament.
– That is so and, if the Tariff Board’s recommendations result in a reduction of duties as against Great Britain, other countries will bring pressure to bear on the Commonwealth to reduce, in a corresponding ratio, duties on their export products. Then we shall be brought back to the interpretation of the finer points mentioned in the monthly circular issued by the Bank of New South Wales, in which doubt is expressed as to what is meant by some of the terms used. Thus -
What, for instance, are we to understand by “ reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success”?
Again if “ relative costs of economical and efficient production “ is to be attempted as a basis for tariff, it is a denial of the fundamental basis of international trade, which is relative inequality of costs of production.
This is the opinion of the learned economist who compiled the document on behalf of the Bank of New South Wales, which is regarded as the foremost banking institution in Australia.
– Who was the learned economist?
– I heard Senator Colebatch state some time ago that the document was prepared by a gentleman who, he said, had rendered signal service to Australia at the conference. Although the honorable senator did not mention the name, I gathered from his remarks that he was referring to Professor Shann.
– Professor Shann must have written it while overseas, because he had not returned to Australia when the circular was issued.
– “Well the Minister and Senator Colebatch must settle that point between themselves. I accept the assurance of Senator Colebatch that it was prepared by a learned economist. Knowing the honorable senator’s accuracy in such matters, I assume that he knew what he was talking about. lt was merely my own suggestion that it was Professor Shann. If a “ learned economist “ cannot understand the agreement I do not intend to attempt to do so. But I see in these articles a grave danger to Australia and an undoubted surrender of our fiscal freedom so far as its five years duration is concerned.
This Tariff Board, in which we profess to have such profound confidence, permitted Australia to reach the brink of national insolvency; it allowed us to approach the danger of dishonour and default without raising a warning finger of protest. It was the duty of the Tariff Board in its advisory capacity to the then Government to draw attention to the dangers towards which Australia was rushing headlong as the result of its policy of importing goods for which it was unable to pay. That is the body which is to be set up superior to this Parliament, which at least is answerable to the people of Australia and is within their reach if it make3 mistakes that have serious consequences to the electors. Ever since I have been in politics I have objected to the growing tendency to shift on to some advisory body or creature of the Government which is beyond the reach of the electors the responsibility for any policy that is adopted. It is because I want Parliament to take full responsibility for any consequences of its fiscal policy that I vehemently oppose these particular articles in the agreement. I can visualize the possibility of Australia finding it necessary to impose duties for purely revenue purposes. None of us is gifted with the ability to determine what might happen in connexion with our economical policy during the five years that this agreement will be in operation. If during that period it is necessary for Australia to impose purely revenue as distinct from protective duties, I want to know how that is to be done, in view of the implications of article 12, which limits the duty that may be imposed on goods from the United Kingdom to a rate recommended by the Tariff Board. If we desire to impose revenue duties of an extensive character in order to raise immediate revenue, we shall have to ask the Tariff Board kindly to consider the whole tariff schedule. What will happen to the finances of the nation while that consideration is going on?
It is interesting to recall what Senator Greene had to say about the Tariff Board a comparatively few years ago when he was in another place, in the capacity of Minister for Trade and Customs. His remarks are to be found at page 9720 of Ilansard of the 6th July, 1921, and read -
After all, the application of the recommendations of the Tariff Board involves a great problem of economic policy regarding which there always has been, and always will be, groat difference of opinion. It may be demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that the findings of the board are unimpeachable, but there still remains the question of high tariff, a low tariff or no tariff. These are questions which, in the long run can only bc settled by the popular will as expressed through the chosen representatives of the people.
He went on to say -
The final judgment regarding a report made by the Tariff Board in any case of this sort will rest with Parliament.
Again, on the 11th May of the same year the honorable senator declared -
On the whole, I believe that an independent board, which is not under ministerial control, will bc found the best, the ultimate decision, of course, resting with the House.
In 1921 the honorable senator said what I say to-night, that the ultimate decision on matters of fiscal policy rests with Parliament, which is responsible to the people. To-night he is a member of a Government which introduces and asks us to ratify an agreement which virtually takes the nation’s fiscal freedom out of the hands of the people and deposits it in the hands of the Tariff Board.
Unfortunately, we have to rely on the press for our information regarding the trade agreements between Great Britain and other dominions. From this source we learn that article 14 of the agreement between Canada and Great Britain provides that -
His Majesty’s Government in Canada undertake that no existing duty shall be increased on United Kingdom goods except after inquiry and receipt from the Tariff Board of a report, and in accordance with the facts as found by that body.
Why should there be differentiation of treatment between the two dominions?
There is another objectionable feature to which I desire to refer briefly. While our delegates at Ottawa were prepared to concede to representatives of British manufacturing industries the right of audience before our Tariff Board, they apparently did not insist upon a similar right of audience being granted to Australian industries that might be affected by British tariff decisions. That is a point which requires some explanation. In the past, we have listened to panegyrics of the Senate for the way in which it has saved Australia. I remind honorable senators that they will have an opportunity, probably to-morrow, to save Australia by opposing the second reading of this hill. By doing so, they can convey a definite instruction to the Govern ment, not to destroy the principle of Imperial preference,but to enter into fresh negotiations on the basis of granting definite preferential duties on specific British goods in return for concessions by Great Britain on specific exports from Australia. That would leave us free to determine the extent to which we could engage in trade with other countries, and generally would smooth the way for trade to flow more freely. Such a policy would be of great benefit not only to Australia, but also to Great Britain, and would assist in sustaining in this country that standard of living for which we have fought for so long, and for which we shall continue to fight even more vigorously in the future. It is Australia’s great charter of human rights and human liberties, and despite the gibes of our opponents, I. claim that it has been responsible for bringing at least a measure of contentment, happiness and prosperity into the homes of the Australian people.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sampson) adjourned.
The following papers were presented: -
Air Force Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules1932,No. 133.
Arbitration (Public Service Act) - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 20 of1932 - Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia; and Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 21 of1932 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers Federation of Australia: Amalgamated Engineering Union; and Australasian Society of Engineers.
No. 22 of1932 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers Federation of Australia.
No. 23 of1932- Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers Federation of Australia.
No.24 of 1932 - Fourth Division Officers Association of the Trade and CustomsDepartment; and Commonwealth Public Service Artisans Association.
No. 25 of1932 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans Association.
No. 26 of1932 - Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia; Australian Postal Electricians Union; Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks Union ; Commonwealth Legal Professional Officers Association ; Commonwealth Postmasters Association ; Commonwealth Public Service Artisans Association; Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association ; Commonwealth Telegraph Traffic and Supervisory Officers Association ; Commonwealth Telephone Officers Association; Federated Public Service Assistants Association of Australia; Fourth Division Officers Association of the Trade and Customs Department ; Fourth Division Postmasters, Postal Clerks and Telegraphists Union; Line Inspectors Association, Commonwealth of Australia; Meat Inspectors Association, Commonwealth Public Service; Postal Overseers Union of Australia; Postmaster-General’s Department State Heads of Branches Association; and Professional Officers Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - StatutoryRules 1932, No. 120- No. 132.
Nauru -Report to the Council of the League of Nations on the Administration of Nauru during the year 1931.
NewGuinea - Report to the Council of the League of Nations on the Administration of the Territory of New Guinea from1st July,1930, to 30th June,1931.
Sugar Agreement - First Annual Report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, for the year ended 3 1 st August, 1932.
WineExport Bounty Act - Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1932, No. 128.
Senate adjourned at 11.14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 November 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19321123_senate_13_137/>.