13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon.P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to know, Mr. President, whether there is any standing order of the Senate which would prevent an honorable senator from smoking in this chamber, and if not, whether it might not be considered that smoking if permitted, would promote harmony and goodfeeling?
– Assuming the honorable senator is serious, I remind him that the Standing Orders provide that an honorable senator may ask a question of other honorable senators in connexion with any business on the notice-paper. As I see no reference on the businesspaper to smoking, the honorable gentleman must discover some other means of satisfying his curiosity.
– - I should like to know from you, Mr. President, as custodian of the Standing Orders of the Senate, whether the committee which sat recently to consider a revision of the Standing Orders, has made any recommendation that honorable senators, when speaking to a bill or motion shall be warned a few minutes before the expiration of the time allowed to them, and, if so, whether such warning willbe given by you or by a Clerk at the Table?
– I am not obliged to answer the honorable senator, but to satisfy him I may state that the Standing Orders Committee has considered not only that matter but also several other matters in connexion with Senate procedure. The report is now in course of preparation, and when completed will come before this chamber for discussion. The honorable senator will then have an opportunity to state his views upon the matter he has raised and other subjects.
– On a question of privilege, Mr. President, I direct attention to an alteration which has been made in my questions on notice relating to unfair competition of the Commonwealth railways against Western Australian railways. My second question under this heading was put by me in this form : “Does the Government intend to permit this unfederal competition to continue?” That has been altered to: “Does the Government intend to permit competition, if any, on the trans-Australian railway to continue?” I object to the question in this form as the alteration is, in my opinion, stupid, and as it destroys my meaning I have no desire to put it in its censored form,
– On the 17th November, Senator Sir Hal Colebatch asked the following question, upon notice : -
Concerning Statutory Rules 1932, No. 96, amending the Commonwealth Bank Regulations, FormH, Regulation 29, under which the assets of the bank are expressed in “Gold and English sterling”, is it proposed to give the value of English sterling at -
The Commonwealth Bank now advises that it is proposed to give the value of English sterling at par.
asked the Loader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : -
In pursuance of the recent announcement by the Government that an additional £100,000 would be spent on Commonwealth works, particulars will be submitted to Parliament within afew days.
Information is being obtained and will be furnished as soon as possible to Senator E. B. Johnston with reference to freight arrangements made by the syndicate of Kalgoorlie and Boulder hotelkeepers with the Commonwealth and South Australian Railways Commissioners.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
reported Utterances of Senator Hardy.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– I have not seen any reported utterances of Senator Hardy advising the use of force against the Government.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs supplies the following answers : -
Transfer of Government Departments
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In view of the reported availability of office space in Canberra, will the Minister for Defence recommend to the Government that the Defence Department be transferred from Melbourne to Canberra; if not, why not?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The question of the transfer to Canberra of departments at present in Melbourne is receiving the consideration of the Government and, as soon as it is deemed desirable to effect the change in respect of each one of the departments concerned, that course will be taken.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
In view of the reported availability of office space in Canberra, will the Postmaster-General recommend to the Government that the central staffs of the Postal Department be transferred from Melbourne to Canberra; if not, why not?
– The PostmasterGeneral supplies the following answer : -
The question of the transfer to Canberra of departments at present in Melbourne is receiving the consideration of the Government and, as soon as it is deemed desirable to effect the change in respect of each one of the departments concerned, that course will be taken.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Has the Government any statement to make to the Senate in relation to its policy with reference to the Hoover Moratorium; and has the Commonwealth Government been in touch with the British Government over the week-end on the general position of British debts; if so, why is the information being withheld from honorable senators?
– I would refer the honorable senator to the reply given to his question of the 23rd November, relating to war debts.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Did he see the press reports in the Sydney Sun of 19th November, 1932, in relation to the proposed conference between delegates of Soviet Russia and Great Britain, the further statement by Sir John Simon on behalf of Great Britain, and the reference to the signing of new trade agreements with Soviet Russia; if the reports are correct, is this not a direct negation of the Ottawa agreement, and is it the intention of the Government to cancel the Ottawa agreement owing to the actions of British Ministers of the Crown?
– I have seen the press report referred to. The position is that His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom recently exercised its right to give six months’ notice of termination of the existing commercial agreement between the United Kingdom and Russia, and at the same time proposed the discussion at a suitable opportunity of a fresh agreement. Such action does not in any way conflict with the Ottawa agreement.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The amount which will be allocated to Queensland under the Financial Relief Bill, which has been introduced in another place, is £40,744. The bill provides that the amounts allocated to the States shall be applied by the States for the benefit and assistance of wheatgrowers by -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows: -
Debate resumed from the 23rd November (vide page 2685), on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That thebillbe now read a second time.
– It is obvious that at this stage the full meaning of the agreements signed at Ottawa on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia and the other dominions, and Great Britain, cannot possibly be known. Despite all that has been said during this debate, it will take years before the full effects of the event are thoroughly realized. When we consider what the agreements really mean to the Empire, there is no doubt that the decisions reached are a great experiment, possibly one of the greatest experiments in the history of the Empire. Our economic organization within the Empire is altogether too big a thing to be brought down to the level of the wranglings and vituperations that mark petty party political squabbles in local parliaments. Indeed, it is criminal lunacy to regard it as though it were something capable of being settled by a squabble, between, say, Mr. Lyons and Mr. Scullin. It is something above mere party politics. Reference has been made by some honorable senators to the delegation which represented Australia at the Ottawa Conference, and to the preparatory work that was necessary before the conference actually met. Very few persons outside, and not many in this chamber, realize the tremendous extent of the preparatory work that was undertaken by the leaders of the delegation, and by the officers in various government departments in Canberra. With meticulous care, a mass of data was collected, and the work went on during all hours of the day and night for months. I venture to say that no delegation has ever left Australia better prepared for the work to be done. I also venture to say that no delegation has ever had a more inspiring leader than Mr. Bruce, who headed the Australian delegation to Ottawa. Whether we agree or not with that gentleman’s politics, we know that wherever he goes he is an outstanding figure, and possesses a dominating personality. Australia was well represented and well served by him at Ottawa. I think it was Senator Dunn who referred to the wonderful joy ride undertaken by a vast army of officials on the palatial liner Aorangi, but that statement is not in accordance with fact. I do not think that we flattered ourselves when we placed ourselves as ranking second or third to delegations of other dominions and the Old Country at the conference. We were represented by a delegation numerically small compared with others, but the work it did in the four weeks and two days during which the conference sat at Ottawa was hard and intensive. It was so strenuous that it was responsible for the breakdown in health of the Minister for Trade and Customs. The delegation worked hard before they left, and during the whole of the time that they were on the Aorangi.
– How does the honorable senator know that?
– It is sufficient for me to say that I know it. When they landed in Canada they were taken to Ottawa in a special Canadian-Pacific Railways train, the journey occupying four days and nights, and their accommodation was so arranged that they were able to continue their work during that period. They worked during the whole of the time that they were at Ottawa, and just as hard on the return journey to Australia. Therefore, it is utter rubbish to talk about their having been on a joy ride. Doubtless, some of us are disappointed in regard to certain aspects of the conference; possibly we expected far. too much; but if one fairly studies the agreement and the schedule, one cannot avoid the conclusion that Australia receives more than she gives, and Great
Britain less. There has been so much clamour and criticism, and such a lot of loose thinking and speaking, in regard to the agreement, that the man in the street must be in a state of absolute bewilderment. Before we knew anything officially of what had transpired, and had nothing but guess work to guide us, quite a number of responsible men rsushed into print; and one of the most extraordinary statements of the many that were made at that time was a declaration by Mr. Fenton that he regretted that Australia had not been treated with greater generosity by Great Britain at Ottawa. I can only characterize that declaration as stupid ; it will not square with the facts. The plain truth, which, so far as we can judge at the present time, emerges from a study of the schedule, is that the United Kingdom has given much more than she receives. We are too close to the event to make an accurate estimate, and shall not be able to do so until the agreement has had time to function ; but on its face there is jio doubt that what I have said is true, and that that is the reason for recent resignations of members of the British Cabinet. The Old Motherland on this occasion, as on every other occasion, has treated her younger partners generously. If one refers to the muchquoted pamphlet that has been issued by the Bank of New South Wales, one finds that, in the main, it agrees with that contention. At page 7 it says -
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 tho 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 therefore agreed that Britain was generous. In agreeing to restrict her foreign meat imports, Great Britain did something which few of us ever dreamt that she would do. I certainly did not expect it. At the same time, the increased preferences on wheat, flour, peas, barley, all of our dairy produce, eggs, apples and pears, base metals, and a host of other primary products, must be of the greatest benefit to Australia. With a few exceptions of minor importance, practically every primary producing industry in Australia is a beneficiary. There is one importa.nl exception, and that is the wool industry. Apparently, wool was never considered at the Ottawa Conference. Possibly it was thought that the wool men, who, s0 far as I know, have never had any help from governments, could escape from their present terribly serious predicament purely by their own industry or their own invention. It is a pity, however, that this matter was not discussed by the two great wool-growing dominions, Australia and South Africa. Apart from the woolgrowers, it is safe to say that the preferences obtained by us in the world’s biggest market for perishable products, that of Great Britain, must be of the greatest benefit to Australia. We have heard a tremendous lot about reciprocal trade, but I am afraid that many of us have forgotten the meaning of the term, because we want to have matters all our own way. As is known, since about 1908 we have given the Motherland definite preferences, and have gone a long way in that direction. Consequently, when our delegation went to Ottawa it was somewhat difficult for them to see in what direction they could further assist Great Britain. All the talk about breaking down our tariff barriers and letting in a flood of imports has absolutely no substance, because no duties have been reduced. What we have done to afford further assistance to Great Britain is to increase the margin of preference in her favour by slightly raising the duties on foreign goods. According to schedule G, 40,000 centals of bananas per annum will be admitted from . Fiji in reasonably equal monthly quantities at 2s. Gd. per cental, provided that the goods are entered at the ports of Sydney and Melbourne. Australia’s consumption of bananas totals 2,000,000 centals per annum. The gentleman who wrote the pamphlet of the Bank of New South Wales, to which I have alluded, is correct in saying that any concessions, or any attempt at giving concessions, to the Motherland, would be strongly resented and bitterly combated. I have in the locker of my desk in front of me a few bananas which I brought from the Parliamentary refreshment-rooms on the last three occasions when I had a meal there. They are not of good quality.
– There is never any good fruit in Canberra.
– Australia agrees to admit at the reduced rate of duty of 2s. 6d. per cental, 40,000 centals of bananas per annum from the British possession of Fiji. Australian bananagrowers are lashing themselves and their, political hacks into a frenzy over this matter. Their howls of distress are heartrending. The extravagant language employed by Senator Collings last week almost made me weep. He said that this small concession would glut Australia with imports, and cause ruinous competition. He even declared that the very existence of our banana-growers was threatened. A ruinous reduction of prices is forecast by the growers and their friends; but I point out that Australia consumes over 2,000,000 centals of bananas per annum, and the 40,000 centals which is to come in at the reduced duty of 2s. 6d. per cental amounts to less than one-fiftieth of the total consumption. Last week-end, in company with other members of this chamber, I endeavoured to discover exactly what, this concession meant. So far as we could tell, all this bother is over one banana per annum for every man, woman and child in Australia. Unfortunately, the Queensland growers, like the apple-growers of Tasmania, are at times careless with regard to the quality of the fruit they place on the market. This has disastrous results. We in Tasmania have not yet recovered from the effects of a short-sighted policy that was adopted some years ago, when the Government was induced to relax the stringency of the inspection of fruit about to be exported. Certain fruit that should have been dumped into the Derwent was sent to Britain, and we arc still paying the penalty for that mistake. I suggest to my Queensland friends that, unfortunately, some 50 per cent., I think, of their bananas is either badly grown or badly ripened. I am speaking of my experience of the bananas one purchases in Tasmania, in Melbourne, and in the Parliamentary refreshment-rooms in Canberra. Many of them are tasteless; very often they are’ not properly ripened, being “ gluey “ and most unappetising. I suggest that the introduction of 40,000 centals per annum from Fiji, at the reduced rate of duty, will probably prove a good move, and in the best interests of both the Queensland growers and the Australian consumers. One wonders if we Australians have any sense of proportion at all. This is but a small concession, and yet we have heard a dreadful howl about it. When we are told that thousands of people will be thrown out of employment, and that hundreds of banana-growers will be ruined as a result of this action, we may be excused for wondering whether the primary producers in Queensland are not “ outprotectioning “ the most ardent protectionist. I suggest to my Country party friends who champion this extravagant claim on behalf of Queensland, that they are rather foolish, because in advocating superprotection they are handing themselves over, gagged and bound hand and foot, to their political enemies. We talk of the selfreliance and sturdy independence of Australiana, yet it is suggested that over a matter of 40,000 centals of bananas per annum, the growers will be ruined, although the Fijian growers must pay a duty of 2s. 6d. a cental.
It is always wise to endeavour to consider a subject from every possible angle. Having done that, I am convinced that the Ottawa agreement must prove beneficial. It is interesting to recall the abuse, denunciation, and wild clamour that the agreement has engendered. Immediately its consummation was announced, the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), with characteristic impetuosity, described it as the greatest political ramp ever put forward on behalf of the British manufacturers; but I point, out that the Association of British Manufacturers operating in Australia has declared that the agreement will be useless to them. In fact, it has been so strongly denounced on bewilder.ingly different grounds, by both Australian and British manufacturers, that the Australian citizen may be pardoned for wondering where the truth lies. Liberals, both British and Canadian, have spoken of the agreement as being valueless. Both sections of Labour in Australia, and Labour men in Britain and New Zealand have also taken strong exception to it, and it has been roundly condemned by the Melbourne Age, which, I understand, is more or less a protectionist newspaper. On the other hand the agreement has been damned with faint praise by the Sydney Morning Herald, which is credited with freetrade leanings. If one can judge by the pamphlet that I have before me, issued by the Bank of New South Wales, it has been proclaimed useless by the general manager of that institution, and by a host of loud-mouthed demagogues who long to nationalize that bank. So what are we to believe? We find “ Yanks “ up in arms about this dreadful thing; but the fact that the British Empire is getting together is naturally a bad thing from the “ Yank’s “ point of view. All kinds and breeds of South Americans, including the people of the Argentine, to say nothing of our Russian friends, have expressed similar views regarding the agreement. So I am inclined to think that Messrs. Bruce and Gullett did good work at Ottawa. A recent issue of the New York Herald contains the following significant leading article in relation to the Ottawa agreement : -
We cannot complain about it as an injustice; our best customers are simply retaliating against our monstrous tariffs.
That statement should be a warning to those Australians who advocate a superhigh tariff.
The chief criticism levelled against the agreement has been directed against the tariff policy contained in articles 9 to 12. There is evidence of resentment at the new responsibility which is being conferred on the Tariff Board. Under the agreement, the Tariff Board is to review the tariff, and Parliament is to be invited to make any necessary changes in import duties. We have heard a good deal about taking from Parliament its control of tariffs. Such complaints come with ill grace from honorable senators opposite. Some of us remember that between November, 1929, and November, 1931,
Parliament had little to do with tariffs, because it was not given a chance to do anything.
– Parliament has had less chance since then.
– Some critics of the agreement profess to believe that these articles, which I regard as reasonable, will result in harm to local industries; others hold that they restrict the freedom of Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr. Scullin) has stated that had his Government been so fettered, it would have been impossible to correct the adverse trade balance. That statement assumes that the imposition of tremendous duties righted the trade balance; but the assumption is unsound. No doubt the high duties imposed had some effect upon importations; but an examination of the trade figures reveals that during the Scullin Government’s term of office there was little difference between the decline in the importation of goods subject to duty and that of goods free from duty. That is something to ponder over. In any case, the trade balance is soon adjusted in a free exchange market. An adverse exchange rate is by far the speediest and, in my opinion, the most equitable way of correcting an adverse trade balance. We can dismiss as irrelevant the complaint that Parliament will not be able to raise duties on British goods without an inquiry being first undertaken by the Tariff Board. Are we to leave tariff making to the haphazard control of Parliament? Does not Parliament require expert guidance in technical matters?
– Parliament can always get it.
– Honorable senators know that, at times, sectional interests apply considerable pressure to members of Parliament, and I, for one, welcome the enlargement of the authority of the Tariff Board.
– That may be the view of weak members.
– A study of the reports of the Tariff Board covering a period of several years makes it clear that, although the board is keen to assist in establishing efficient Australian industries, it recognizes that the local costs of production cannot be raised above a certain point without causing a loss of employment in other industries greater than can be met by a highly protected industry producing at great cost. During the Scullin Government’s regime, the tariff was increased indiscriminately, ostensibly with the object of reducing imports, and of giving employment to Australian workmen. For the last two years, the Tariff Board has been engaged in reviewing the effect of these increases, and in its last annual report it stated -
During thu year under review, the board, after due consideration, recommended, in the majority of cases, against the retention of the increased duties that have been imposed by tariff resolutions since November, 1929.
That statement is a condemnation of indiscriminate tariff making. A perusal of the board’s reports will make it clear to honorable senators that the benefit of the doubt is always given to the local industry, although the board is not impressed by the claims of manufacturers who are not able to show results comparable with those of efficient industries overseas. The principles on which the Tariff Board works are eminently sound, and why there should be any objection to the proposal that the board shall be given added authority, and that Parliament shall bind itself to pay more respect to its recommendations, is beyond my understanding. The history of the Tariff Board shows conclusively that the policy of protection will not suffer at its hands. The constant review of the tariff by the board, and the check that the board provides on the zeal of an impetuous Minister for Trade and Customs, are the only means that I can see of keeping the Australian protectionist policy reasonable and respectable - I use the word “ respectable” advisedly. Whatever our views regarding the Ottawa agreement may be, as a whole its provisions in relation to the Tariff Board are certainly in the best interests of Australian secondary industries. Let us make no mistake about the results of the Ottawa Conference. This is a matter in which party politics should not obtrude; and certainly nothing can deny us the satisfaction of achievement. We may not have achieved as much as some of us hoped, but that there has been achievement, there can be no doubt. There are three milestones in our
Empire progress: first, the granting of constitutional rights to British colonies; second, the raising of the dominions to the status of nationhood; and third, the recognition that economic ties are essential to the present needs, and can effectively supplement the intangible ties of Empire.
Ottawa represents the third milestone in our progress, and exemplifies the spirit of great flexibility, which, I suggest, is the rejuvenating force of the Empire. To get a clear idea of the magnitude of the task accomplished at Ottawa we need to survey the history of the British Empire for the last 100 years or more. Thus, we recall the names of Adam Smith, John Bright and Richard Cobden, those’ apostles of economic thought who implanted the policy of freetrade deep in the minds of the people of Great Britain. The Mother Country has been loyal to this fiscal faith for over 80 years. The Ottawa agreement represents a complete reversal of British policy. Possibly also it will mean political suicide for those British statesmen who made it, and those who support it. I sincerely trust that this will not be their fate, although I have no doubt that they, big- men as they are, consider that personal sacrifice or immolation is a small price to pay for the results achieved. Whatever may happen to them, their names will go down in history as men who put the cause of Empire first, before party thought or party policy. At Ottawa their minds were not clouded by those mean and petty motives which some critics endeavour now to ascribe to them.
Ottawa will rank as one of the Motherland’s greatest triumphs; and it is a triumph over herself - not over the dominions and colonies, as some without vision would describe it. But Ottawa is only a beginning. I believe that the resolutions agreed to at that conference will go far to weld all component parts of the Empire together in a great economic unit.
Australia, as one of the component parts, depends for its wealth and sustenance upon goodwill and reciprocity. Sectional interests, if allowed to intrude, will nullify the effects of the Ottawa agreement. What in the name of common sense is the use of Australia continuing uneconomic manufactures, if the stage at which economic production may be reached cannot be foreseen?Far better is it to foster economic structures within the Empire, and divert energies, now employed unprofitably and likely to continue so, to avenues which give promise of genuine reproductivity.
To gain success in this great experiment, because experiment it is, we must realize that mutual advantage is the key note of the Ottawa agreement. If one link in the chain of empire benefits at the expense of another, one link is weakened, and the whole Empire structure is affected. Empire security and prosperity are inextricably bound up in this great economic compact. It is foolish to expect, as some people did, that the immediate effect of the Ottawa agreement would be suddenly to lift world’s price levels. The whole question of price levels is a world problem, the significance of which has become more apparent in the past three decades.
It is not my purpose, nor have I the time or, possibly, the ability, to deal with this phenomenon other than to say that it is partly the aftermath of the great war, and is largely due to world-wide acceleration of production which has clogged the channels of trade. These channels are at last showing signs of clearing, and the Ottawa agreement will, I believe, pave the way for better times within the Empire. Our whole trouble is that we are too close up to this epic of British history to understand properly its significance. But I feel sure that it is a sane and sound step in the right direction, taken at long last by the people of Britain. Let us endeavour to visualize it from an Empire view-point; let us ignore sectional interests, and lift our discussions above the stifling atmosphere of petty party political considerations.
I am a great believer in the British Empire. I regard it as one of the greatest instruments for righteousness in the world to-day. I have fought in two of its wars, and helped to put down one rebellion. Notwithstanding the views of carping critics, the Empire has led the world in humanitarian ideals and legislation, and it has always endeavoured to deal justly with the people under its care. I know, because I have worked and lived in countries peopled by dependent races.
Great calamities such as war, pestilence and famine bring us together. The economic trouble now facing civilization is a world-wide calamity, and it should bring the people of the Empire together. I, therefore, suggest that we should regard the Ottawa agreement as a triumph of the Empire over its economic difficulties. It is, at all events, the beginning of a new era in Empire relationships. Let us, then, rejoice in the common cause, and take courage from the thought that the world at large is looking more than ever to the British Empire for relief.
– I am in much the same position as other honorable senators who have spoken from this side. We know very little of the probable effect of the Ottawa agreement, but we believe that its ultimate result will be to destroy the secondary industries of this country.
– The tariff schedule to be introduced does not support that.
– The honorable senator is supporting this bill because he hopes it will be a step in the direction of freetrade.
– I do not intend to support the tariff schedule.
– We shall see. I am at a complete loss to understand how some honorable senators who support the agreement can say that it means one thing when they know that it means another. Senator Payne, for example, some time ago severely condemned the Scullin tariff. Yesterday the honorable gentleman justified his support of this agreement because it will not mean a reduction of the Scullin duties. How on earth the honorable senator can face both ways, with satisfaction to bis own conscience, is a mystery to me. Holding the views I do on tariff matters, I cannot possibly approve any arrangement under which the people of this country will be deprived of first-hand knowledge of the effect of agreements made on their behalf. I am entirely opposed to any delegation going overseas to enter into negotiations with representatives of other countries and pledging the future of Aus- tralia without consulting the people of this country.
– The honorable gentleman was a member of the government which arranged this conference in 1930.
– I am not objecting to the arrangements for the conference, but I do object to the Australian delegation signing an agreement which, we are told, must be accepted by this Parliament.
– We need not accept it.
– What is thealternative ?
– It can be rejected if we disapprove of it.
– We know what the possibilities are if the agreement is not accepted. Personally, I have nothing to say against the Australian delegation ; I do not suppose that better men could have been chosen, but I contend that the personnel should have included a representative of the Labour party, so that its views could have been stated at the conference. I also object to an agreement which interferes with the functions of this Parliament, as the agreement does, by giving the Tariff Board authority to determine the fiscal policy of this country. The present is the wrong time to make any arrangement to fix the maximum volume of exportable commodities that shall be sent from Australia, because more than half the people of the world are on the rationed list as regards purchasing power, and possibly are not getting sufficient to meet their requirements. If, as we hope, the world returns to prosperity in the near future, and if world markets are again open to us, Australia will not be able to take advantage of them because of the limitations imposed by this agreement upon our volume of exports. Last year we supplied only 6 per cent. of Britain’s requirements of meat. The head of the firm of Vestey Brothers, which, during the war, transferred its head-quarters to America to escape war-time taxation, is now, because of this agreement, in a position to dictate terms as to the quantity of meat to be supplied to the Mother Country from the dominions. I agree that our delegates at Ottawa were faced with an exceedingly difficult task, because the producers of every country are starving for world markets, and the application of modern methods of production has enabled them to meet the requirements of the people with the expenditure of only a proportion of the human effort formerly necessary. As time goes on, that difficulty has become more pronounced until to-day we are producing more than sufficient to meet the requirements of the world’s markets. Senator Payne referred to the production of rice at Leeton in New South Wales, where it was proved beyond doubt that we could produce rice equal to that grown in any other part of the world. But within two years we were producing more than sufficient to supply the requirements of the Australian market.
– We are exporting rice.
– Yes, but only in small quantities. We cannot expect to compete with a commodity which is grown so extensively in countries where the wages and industrial conditions are much lower than they are in Australia.
– In those countries they do not produce the same quality of rice as is grown in Australia.
– That may be so; but Australian rice-growers could not in any circumstances compete with the producers of rice in cheaplabour countries. The difficulty with which we are confronted with respect to rice and other primary products could be overcome to some extent by finding some avenues in which our unemployed could be provided with remunerative work, and thus creating a greater demand within Australia.
– The local market is limited.
– There are many ways in which the demand in the local market could be increased. The Scullin Government endeavoured to provide employment by imposing embargoes and customs duties sufficiently high to increase local production. Frequent reference is made to the necessity for reducing the cost of production, particularly in our primary industries; but it must be remembered that the success of these industries depends largely upon seasonal conditions. It is worth while considering whether further irrigation schemes could pot be undertaken so that, instead of primary producers having to depend upon the rainfall, they could irrigate their crops and thus be assured of a reasonable return every year, lt is not so’ much a question of finding markets overseas for the goods we produce, as it i3 of providing employment for our own people in order to increase their purchasing power. At present many of them are unable to obtain even the necessaries of life. In considering our general economic position we should endeavour to determine whether reciprocal trade agreements, such as have been entered into at Ottawa, will be of any real benefit to Great Britain and the dominions. If we pursue a freetrade policy in Australia, our position will be even worse “than it is to-day. I do not think honorable senators opposite wish the Australian people to be mere hewers of wood and carriers of water. It appears to be the policy of this Government to adopt the suggestion of Sir Otto Niemeyer who, during the short time he was in Australia, collected a good deal of information, and came to the conclusion that we should abandon our secondary industries and concentrate upon primary production.
– He did not surest that.
– If he did not, the policy of this Government is undoubtedly leading us in that direction. As a new country we need additional financial assistance to increase development; we need nev/ industries which would provide employment and increase the spending capacity of the people. If we encourage secondary production in Australia additional markets will be available to our primary producers. Undoubtedly the fiscal policy of the Scullin Government was a means of providing additional employment and of adjusting our trade balance ; but it also resulted in increasing the consumption of our local products. I have no sympathy with those who supported this Government in the belief that it would do all those things which it promised to do.
– They are not asking for sympathy.
-Perhaps not, but they are entitled to justice, and even if they have not asked for sympathy they are entitled to that also. The people of Australia are expecting the Government to carry out the promises that it made, particularly with respect to the tariff.
– Which particular promise? That to the manufacturers ?
– The manufacturers were caught like many others. It was a cunning move on the part of the Government to secure the support of all sections of the community; but it now finds that in endeavouring to keep its promises, it is faced with a problem that it is incapable of solving. The Government said it would not interfere with the Scullin tariff, but that it was going to reduce the cost of production. To give effect to such a policy necessarily meant reducing wages, and increasing the hours of labour.
– The tariff policy of this Government is not satisfactory to the primary producers.
– It may not be; possibly the primary producers do not fully understand the situation. The people of Australia are looking forward to something better than is likely to follow the ratification of this agreement. While all this political wrangling is going on, Great Britain, the United States of America, and many other countries are seeking additional markets as an outlet for their surplus production. So far as I can see, this agreement will have a serious effect on our secondary industries, and consequently, the disabilities which they experience will be reflected upon our primary industries. I do not think it will be long before those engaged in primary production will be on the same standard as existed following upon the bank smash in 1393 when a large section of the Australian people were rationed on the ten, ten, two and a quarter basis - 10 lbs. of flour, 10 lbs. of meat, 2 lbs. of sugar, and i lb. of tea. Many of the unemployed are down to that level to-day. The workless in Australia have no desire to be unemployed, and in order to keep off the dole, many are working from ten to twelve hours a day. Only last week I saw men working very long hours searching for gold in order to eke out an existence, rather than pay a weekly visit to a police officer for rations. They wish to be treated as human beings, and not in the unjust way in which they are treated by some police officials.
As it is impossible for honorable senators on this side of the chamber to prevent the passage of this bill, it is not my intention to waste the time of the Senate in discussing it at length. There is nothing in it which will be of benefit to Australia. As the activities of the Tariff Board are to be so seriously curtailed, we may as well admit that in the matter of our fiscal policy we have been “sold.” The full details of what is proposed have not been placed before the Senate, and, as Senator Sampson said, the agreement is, perhaps, the greatest experiment in the history of the British Empire. In effect, he said that it was a step in the dark, and that he hoped some daylight would soon be thrown upon it. As the agreement has been signed, all that honorable senators on this side of the chamber can do is to protest against the passage of the bill. I oppose, the measure because 1 think it is valueless.
– Honorable senators opposite with others who have spoken before me, have left it somewhat difficult for anybody to say something which is quite new. I propose, however, to say something concerning this agreement, particularly with respect to the political side, and some of the points I desire to make have not, so far, been brought before this chamber, nor, so far as I know, have they been stressed in another place. Senator O’Halloran said last night that an attempt had been made by honorable senators on this side of the chamber to carry this agreement by an appeal to sentiment rather than by argument. I think that the position is entirely the reverse. Arguments have been adduced by many as to why this agreement should be adopted, whereas honorable senators opposite have not been able to say why they are opposed to it. But I gather that they are opposed to it, not so much from what they have said as from their manner of saying it. They have indicated a cer tain amount of contempt towards the agreement, but so far as I have been able to follow them, they have not given reasons why this experiment should not at least be tried. In what I have to say, I do not propose to make any appeal to sentiment. My appeal shall be, I hope,, based entirely on sound reasoning. I am. supporting this measure in the. first placebecause I feel that we must support it.. I do not mean that I am supporting it only for that reason. I should support it even though I were free to take some other course, but I am supporting it primarily for the reason that we must support it. I frankly confess that I would accept it in the spirit indicated by Senator Colebatch yesterday. I would, and do, accept it with some misgivings. I do not adopt the view of extreme supporters of it - as, for example, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) who originally had charge of this measure, and whose illness and the reason for it I am certain that every one in this chamber, and, indeed, throughout tine community, regrets. While I do not accept the somewhat extravagant estimate that every secondary industry will at once feel the benefit of the agreement, I am equally far from accepting the view which I saw expressed in the Melbourne Age only a few days, ago - that the issues will probably finally and speedily work out “in further accessions to the ranks of the unemployed, in factories closing, in families starving, and in men and women going about with bitterness in their hearts “. I do not regard that as anything but a thoroughly exaggerated statement of the possible consequences. It is noticeable - indeed, all speakers have noticed it - that entirely opposing views upon this agreement are held by men with opposite political leanings. Senator Barnes, for example, puts it that Australia has been too generous; also - I regret that he should have so expressed himself - that the Australian delegates are free traders and that they were OUtgeneralled The view put by Senator Crawford was that Britain had driven a hard bargain; and that of an exMinister for Trade and Customs, whose remarks were recited in full by Senator Sampson, is that “it was the greatest ramp that had ever been put over Australia “, and that “ our delegates had been completely out-classed “. Similar views have been expressed by Senators MacDonald and Collings. Although these gentlemen expressed such pitying contempt for the delegates who represented us at Ottawa, and although they did not put in words their view as to who really should have represented us, they did at least seek to convey the impression that had we been represented by other delegates, whom they might have named had their modesty not forbade their doing so, very much better results would have been obtained for Australia. Exactly contrary views in opposition to the agreement have been put by men who, so to speak, are on the other side of the political fence. Those expressed by Sir Charles Hobhouse in Great Britain are that Great Britain’s representatives were completely outgeneralled by the delegates from the dominions. It is noticeable, in dealing with the agreement as a whole, that it is condemned at this end of the world for one reason, and at the other end of the world for exactly opposite reasons. Senator O’Halloran is of the opinion that that suggests that the agreement must be bad. For my part, since both of these extreme views cannot be right - one being that Great Britain has had the best of the bargaining, and the other that Australia has had the best of it - they afford some grounds for believing that both may be wrong. The case is hardly proved as Senator O’Halloran seeks to prove it - that because it is condemned for exactly opposite reasons, therefore it must be worthy of condemnation for both reasons. That is the method of reasoning by which, it will be remembered, it was proved conclusively that Gladstone was at the theatre on the night that the death of General Gordon was announced. He was seen at one theatre, beyond any doubt, by one individual; and he was seen at another theatre, again beyond any doubt, by another individual. Adopting the reasoning of Senator O’Halloran, that would be regarded as cumulative proof that he must have been at the theatre; just as it is taken by him to be conclusive proof that this agreement is bad because it is condemned for opposite reasons.
While I am on this subject, may I give Senator O’Halloran the advice that it would be well for him to verify his quotations. He has read something that apparently was said in another place, in regard to what Mr. Baldwin is alleged to have said.
– Not at all.
– I insist that that must be the reason, because it is quite clear that the honorable senator did not read what Mr. Baldwin was cabled to Australia as having said.
– I read the cable in the Sydney Morning Herald.
– The honorable senator having, with great kindness, given me the reference to the quotation last night, I tore myself away from the pleasure of listening to his speech, went into the Library, took out the quotation, and found that it does not in the least bear out the construction that he put upon it. He told us that Mr. Baldwin had said that England had driven a hard bargain. What the right honorable gentleman is credited in the Sydney Morning Herald with having said is that, “ despite, hard bargaining at Ottawa, a genuine spirit of co-operation grew up during the conference “. If that passage can be construed into saying that Mr. Baldwin said that England drove a hard bargain-
– Who drove the bargain ; who was responsible for the agreement?
– The hard bargaining, according to Mr. Baldwin’s statement, was indulged in on all sides; whereas, according to Senator O’Halloran, Mr. Baldwin said that Great Britain had driven a hard bargain.
– Only a lawyer could see any difference.
– Any other intelligent man could detect a difference.
– In this case, the two terms ; “ lawyer “ and “ intelligent man,” are not synonymous.
– Although I have no great hopes that Senator Collings will be able to see the difference, I advise him to give the matter a little time, attention, and thought, and to speak less. If he did that, he would probably see that the construction which I put upon the paragraph is the correct one.
There is another type of criticism, and it was indulged in by Senators MacDonald and Collings. ‘ Senator MacDonald said that he was for Australia all the time; and Senator Collings went a little further and said that he was for Australia, first, last, and all the time. That is the sort of remark that is well-calculated to tickle the ears of the groundlings, and also - to follow the quotation out - to make the judicious grieve. It is not, I hope, a sentiment that is quite worthy of being given expression by an honorable senator in the Australian Parliament. It is a narrow view to take of the world situation; it is a narrow view to take of Australia; and it is a narrow view for anybody to put forward as the basis of a policy that we ought to follow. There surely is some sort of comparison between the nation and the individual. “What, I ask, would be thought of the man who said, “I am for myself, first, last, and all the time “ ? We, as Australians, claiming a place among the nations of the world, are entitled - indeed, are bound - to take into account not merely Australia-
– The policy under which we live to-day is “ Every man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost “. The honorable senator knows that.
– It may be the policy under which Senator Collings lives.
– It is capitalism.
– I gather from the honorable senator’s interjections that it is the policy under which he lives. But so far as I am concerned - and I hope that I speak in this respect for those who hold the same political views as I do - ‘it is not the policy upon which we act; and if we did act upon such a policy, I think we should be sufficiently shame-faced to keep it to ourselves and not to proclaim it to the world. What course are we invited to take in relation to this agreement? It is most noticeable that what happened in another place has not been repeated in this chamber - that no amendment has been proposed for the consideration of the Senate.
– The time has not yet arrived for that.
– The honorable senator will get all the details he wants in a little while.
– What we are asked to do is to reject the agreement. That is what honorable senators opposite presumably think we should do if we followed what they regard as the right reasoning or adopted the arguments that they put forward. Do they realize that what they are asking us to do is to dishonour our word, to disown our signature, to repudiate an undertaking into which we have entered?
– We were never consulted about it; that is what we are complaining about.
– The complaint, apparently, is that Senator Collings was not consulted before this agreement was signed. If ever the honorable senator represents the people of Australia in the sense in which they were represented by Mr. Bruce and Mr. Gullett-
– The people of Australia were never consulted.
– If, on behalf of his Government, he takes an executive course, or carries out an executive act, he will bind the people of Australia to honour his signature. He has not realized that.
– Nonsense !
– He says cow that we were never consulted.
– I say that the Australian people were never consulted.
– He said in his speech that Mr. Bruce and’ Mr. Gullett did not represent us. What did he mean ? Had his words any meaning at all ? Did they raise in his mind any definite concept, or are they mere empty words ? Are we to be represented at a conference such as this, or are we not?
– We should be.
– Very well, then. If we are to be represented at such a conference, how is our representation to be chosen ? We cannot send the 6,500,000 people of Australia to Canada to do the bargaining, therefore we can act only through representatives.
– Mr. Parker Moloney did exactly the same thing.
– I shall come to that in a moment. We can act only through representatives. How are they to be chosen?
– By a government party, so long as it is returned with one policy and not with two, as was the case with this Government.
Honorable senators interjecting,
– Order! I request honorable senators to refrain from interjecting. A running fire of interjections interrupts the speaker’s discourse.
– I thank you, sir. If I did not, as I said at the outset of my speech, desire to appeal to reason in advocating the giving of support to this agreement, I would not mind the interjections, irrelevant and inane - and, indeed, irritating - though many of them are. I was pointing out that we can attend a conference at Ottawa or anywhere else only through some system of representation. The Ottawa Conference has been looming in the distance for more than two years past. At the time that the last elections took place, it was well known that it would be one of the important gatherings in which the Commonwealth of Australia would have to’ take part. Knowing that the people of Australia had returned them to power with an overwhelming majority, the present Government selected from its ranks two men, and sent them abroad to represent us. How could we be represented unless in that way? But what is the further complaint ? Supposing the Government had, in fact, submitted the names of those delegates to Parliament, to either one House or to both Houses, would they not have been chosen? Supposing the names of Senator MacDonald, Senator Collings, or even the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes), had been suggested, would the Parliament have chosen them, or any of them, in preference to the men who were selected? Supposing we had appealed to the people of Australia as a whole, and had said “ We want two delegates to represent us at Ottawa, and these are the two we suggest “. Would the people not have decided that question in exactly the same way as when they gave the party now in power an overwhelming majority at the last election? Therefore, those delegates went to Ottawa representing Australia, and they attached their signature to the agreement as representing the people of Australia. When they did that, did they not represent us ? If they did, to ask us now to disown their signature is to ask us to commit an act of dishonour. If they did not represent Australia, the position is that we are asked to believe that to a conference to which we were invited to send plenipotentiaries we sent a pair of puppets - that we are the only dominion which sent to that conference delegates who had. no authority to speak for their country.
SenatorO’Halloran. - Senator Colebatch said that their authority was secured under false pretences.
– If I may completely contradict the honorable senator, Senator Colebatch did not say that. The position, then, is that if our delegates did not represent us, we can never be represented at any conference such as that which took place at Ottawa. What is sauce for the goose is surely sauce for the gander. If we on this side are not entitled to send delegates who are at liberty to bind the country to an agreement, then it must follow that the party on the other side of the chamber may not do so.
Now I come to the point raised by Senator Poll, by way of interjection, that the last Government committed Australia to a treaty with Canada, for which it had no more and no less authority than the present Government had in the case of Ottawa; yet nobody questioned its right to do so, and that is the only point at issue. We are not now dealing with the question ofwhether the Canadian treaty was better or worse than the Ottawa treaty, what we are considering is the right of any members ofa government, or of any representatives of the people of Australia to enter into a treaty that binds Australia. If Messrs. Bruce and Gullett were not authorized to commit Australia to any policy in the circumstances in which they attended the Ottawa Conference, then it follows that Mr. Parker Moloney and Mr. Scullin were not authorized to commit Australia to a treaty with Canada a year ago.
Now I turn to a criticism that has special weight with those of us who repre- sent Victoria. As Senator Colebatch said yesterday, I take it that we, as senators representing different States of Australia, are entitled to pay special regard to the interests of the States which we represent. I refer to the criticism which has been levelled at this whole agreement throughout the time it has been in process of incubation, and since it has come before the Parliament. As to some of the criticisms, they have been already replied to by the Prime Minister, but I desire to mention one passage in which it was said that the agreement had been placed before the Parliament, and that not in one jot or tittle was Parliament to be permitted to alter it. It is easy to state a plain fact in a way which may look as though it contains something offensive, but the plain fact in this case is that no Minister, either in this chamber or in another place, has told us that not in one jot or one tittle can we alter this agreement. But in the very nature of the case, it is obvious that we are not able to alter the agreement. “We did not enter into it. It was entered into at Ottawa by our representatives, and only those who enter into a contract - in this case as in any other - are in a position to alter it. We are precluded from altering this agreement not because of any tyranny on the part of the Government, but because in the very nature of the case it must be accepted or rejected as a whole. Its rejection in this chamber, which has not the making or unmaking of ministries, would not affect the situation, though its rejection in another chamber might. We are told that the delegates went to Ottawa to make reciprocally advantageous arrangements on the basis of trade preference. My answer to that is that that is exactly what they did according to their lights. It is said that they emerged with a cut-and-dried scheme which cuts into the very foundation of the Australian protective system. I point out that the parties in this House, and most parties in the country, accepted the trade agreement made with Canada last year. That is admitted. But it is said that that agreement contained a specific schedule and that we knew what we were doing. I admit the force of that criticism., if necessary, but I point out that in the schedule which has already been laid before another place there are 438 separate items and innumerable subitems and sub-sub-items, lt was utterly impossible for all those items to have been gone through at Ottawa. If our delegates had been endowed with immortality like Marcus Superbus, and had stopped at Ottawa to consider such a schedule, they would have come back here possibly to find Australia a freetrade country; they would have come back old men of the type of Methuselah, or to find if Senator Sampson’s views are to be accepted, their country in the possession of some other power. So there was no means of going through a definite schedule as was done with a very short schedule in the case of the Canadian treaty. Nothing could be done in the time available except to arrive at a certain formula, as it has been called, by which Australia undertook to operate with reference to her tariff in the future. It is said that the delegates had no right to commit Australia beyond the life of the present Parliament. I submit that that is not correct as a matter either of constitutional law or of ordinary parliamentary practice. Executives do commit, and have committed, their countries in very important matters, and the step that the Executive of this country takes has always been honoured. Even in making life appointments, the Executive takes action which binds future Parliaments, and the practice of parliamentary government has always been that succeeding governments honour arrangements entered into by their predecessors. It has also to be remembered in this matter that the Government was not dealing with purely governmental functions. It was dealing largely with trade functions, and in dealing with such matters we must do as traders do, and not altogether as governments do. We must take long views, and as the representatives of the Government believed in the policy they were advocating, they thought it only fair to provide time for it to be brought to fruition. I join with those who have quoted from the circular issued by the Bank of New South Wah?3, which states -
In building up and preserving the delicate economic and political fabric of such a widely scattered and diversified political unit as the British Empire, any other than a long-period policy would bo futile.
Australia had to accept or reject the agreement as a whole. We may not approve of all its details, but that does not alter the fact that it is an agreement and we cannot alter it; we have to accept it even if we may think it not altogether to our advantage.
Senator Crawford, when speaking on the measure, was sneered at because he criticized it, and wound up by saying that he would vote for it. I venture to tell my friends opposite that Senator Crawford took up a perfectly logical attitude. It may be that he adopted a somewhat Scottish attitude as illustrated by the story which Max 0’Rell told when he was travelling this country as a lecturer some years ago. He delivered one of his lectures on England, Scotland, and Ireland, and in dealing with Scotland concluded by saying, “ If you make a bargain with a Scotchman you can always be sure of two things. The first is that it will be carried out to the letter- “
– Hear, hear!
– Yes, there was loud applause from all Scotsmen present. But as soon as the applause had died down he added, “ and the second thing is that you have got the worst of the bargain “. That is Senator Crawford’s position. He thinks that Australia has got the worst of the bargain, but he is an honorable man, and he says that the agreement must be carried out to the letter. On this occasion, he has only made one of the points that the Scotchman made, but he has carried out that part of it which drew the approval of Senator Guthrie by saying that the agreement must be carried out to the letter.
We are also told in one of the criticisms of the agreement, “ Just to show you that our objection to this is not carping or critical, we accept all of the first part. It is the second part that we object to.” But it is impossible for us to accept those parts which give Australia an advantage, and at the same time reject those features of the agreement which may not be advantageous to us or may possibly be disadvantageous. If we enter into a contract, either as a nation or as private individuals, the assumption is that both parties think that it will be to their advantage to” do so. Each recognizes that there must be a quid pro quo, but this particular criticism is, in effect, “ Oh yes, the quid is all right, but when it comes to :he quo that is a different matter. We think, therefore, we should have had the advantage of it all along the line, and because we have not, we now ask the Parliament to reject it.” I submit that that is a thoroughly unfair attitude to take up. If we are reaping advantages from one part of the agreement we ought to realize that we shall most likely suffer some slight disadvantages under other parts of the agreement. That is the nature of the criticism that has come from Queensland representatives. I am sorry to tread on the ant bed again and stir them up.
The only detail in the agreement about which I desire to say anything is that which provides for the entry into Australia of bananas from Fiji There are 438 items in the tariff schedule, and at this stage no one can say how they will work out; we must wait and see. If ever there was anything which should make the people of Australia blush with shame, it is our treatment of the little island of Fiji, which may be called Australia’s half-sister. We in Australia claim a sort of hegemony over the southern seas ; we look forward to possessing a sort of leadership in this region. One would naturally think that, in that case, the little island of Fiji could look to Australia in somewhat the same way that Australia looks to Britain - if not as a mother, then at least as a big sister. At one time we traded in a friendly way with Fiji, but later we imposed on her trade with us something which, although we did not call it by that name, was in fact an embargo. The consequence was that we diverted the Fijian trade elsewhere; we created unfriendly relations where nothing but friendliness should have prevailed. Now that we desire to retrace our steps a little way, a howl is raised about a Queensland industry- being ruined. If the industry of bananagrowing in Queensland has not been so soundly established that it cannot survive the competition of 2^ per cent, of Australia’s banana requirements coming from Fiji, the question arises whether it is worth keeping alive.
Two honorable senators interjecting,
– I can deal with a solo, but not with a duet.
SenatorFoll. - Diseases in bananas, which came from Fiji, have cost Australia millions.
– I have referred to our national meanness in our relations with Fiji. If it is now alleged that all this opposition to the introduction of Fiji bananas is based on the fear that banana diseases will be introduced into Australia, I shall have to direct the allegation of meanness to individuals rather than to the nation. This objection is something which has been thought of at the last moment.
– It is not.
– Senator Crawford based his argument against the introduction of Fiji bananas on the ground that it would reduce not only the price of bananas, but also that of all fruit in Australia. He had no recourse to threats ; he did not mention the danger of introducing disease. His opposition was based on purely fiscal grounds. This is the first that we have heard of the danger that the Queensland banana industry may be ruined by diseases imported from Fiji. It is curious that those who are opposing this slight concession to the little island referred to, did not think of that before.
I desire to pass on to articles 9, 10, 11 and 12,about which there has been considerable controversy. Article 9 is as follows : -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that protection by tariffs shall be afforded only to those industries which are reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success.
– Will the honorable senator explain what that article means?
– The honorable senator’s prescience is marvellous; I read the article with the intention of saying that the words mean what they say. I shall not read anything into them. Senator Barnes said that, originally, some enterprising individual was relied upon to say whether an undertaking was assured of a reasonable chance of success, but that, nowadays, he is no longer to be the judge. I can only say that if any man thinks that he can start an industry which is reasonably certain to be successful, the world is open to him, and no one can say him “ nay “. Let him put his capital into it and start. But when he comes to the Government and says : “ My fellow citizens are importing articles which I can manufacture. Give me a subvention. Tell them that if they buy these things from other countries, they will have to pay more than in the past. Use the law in order to keep out the products of other countries and to assist me”, the Government is entitled to say in reply : “ What are your opportunities for success? Are they reasonable?” The body appointed under our laws to inquire into the chances of an industry being successful is the Tariff Board, a tribunal which was established in 1921 and has been operating ever since. It seems to me to be eminently reasonable that a manufacturer, or other person, who approaches the Government for assistance - which means seeking assistance from the people of this country - should be able to assure the Government, on behalf of the people, that his undertaking is reasonably sure of 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 the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative cost of economical and efficient production, provided that in the application of such principle special consideration may be given to the case of industries not fully established.
What is the objection to that article? Do honorable senators opposite think that it should be altered to provide for unreasonable competition? Surely the Mother Country is entitled to ask for opportunities of reasonable competition. Do honorable senators opposite realize that thatwas the very basis upon which the policy of protection in the Commonwealth was established ? As the Melbourne Age said recently, that policywas based not upon monopoly, but on competition. Duties were to be imposedwhich,while giving an industry a chance to start and to survive,would, at the same time, not give it a monopoly by removing ail competition. The basis of our protectionist policy is reasonable competition. That means that, in fixing duties, the conditions in competitive countries - mass production, a larger market, cheaper labour - will be taken into account, but so as to preserve to the Mother Country a chance of reasonable competition.
– Sir George Reid said something different from that in 1907.
– Apparently, the honorable senator has failed to see the point made by Sir George Reid. Sir George Reid drew a distinction between protection and preference. He said that it was not preference to make the lowest rail of protection so high that England could not get over it, no matter how high the top rail, which the foreigner had to surmount, was placed.
The terms of article 11 are -
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.
I invite the attention of honorable senators to the words “ 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”. In article 10 the Commonwealth undertakes to give to producers in the United Kingdom full opportunity of reasonable competition. In dealing with the 438 items in the tariff schedule, we are to see that producers in the United Kingdom have full opportunities of reasonable competition in the Australian trade.
– Article 12 should be read in conjunction with article 11.
– Article 12 is 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.
It is claimed by the opponents of the agreement that article 12 confers on a body created by Parliament powers which should belong to Parliament alone. Surely it is too late in the day to complain, about this delegation of statutory power. If there has been one distinguishing feature of modern legislation, it is the tendency to delegate powers. Honorable senators may remember that only a few years ago this Parliament passed an act which did nothing else but empower the Governor-General in Council to make regulations upon particular subjects.
– That was wrong.
– I was not in the Senate at the time, and I do not say that I approve of the specific act, or of the trend in politics. Rather do I consider that we have gone too far in that direction. I hold in my hand the acts of this Parliament for the year 1921. The volume contains about 300 pages. But the regulations approved by the Governor-General that year contain probably four or five times as many pages. All those regulations have the force of, law, notwithstanding that they were made by delegated authority. Those who Complain about Parliament giving up its power in this way, fail to realize that, in delegating its power, Parliament is exercising its powers. Indeed, it is the supreme exercise of its power to delegate to another its power to make laws.
– It is an abuse of power.
– It is a power which may be abused. And, in my opinion, it has been abused.
– It can always be recalled.
– In his book, The New Despotism, Lord Hewart deals with this point. This power of delegation receives its most extraordinary illustration in the policy of which honorable senators opposite approve. Do honorable senators realize that, under the provisions of the Arbitration Act, this Parliament has not the power to alter one single line in a judgment or an award of the Arbitration Court? According to the rulings of the High Court, at all events, it can delegate to the Arbitration Court powers which the Parliament itself does not possess and which Parliament could not alter.
– It can confer, not delegate. The function is judicial, not legislative.
– The honorable senator must know that the finding of the High Court is that the functions of the Arbitration Court are legislative and not judicial. This is the very thing that has given that court its great extension of power. Powers have been delegated in Victoria in connexion with the Railways Standing Committee, and it has been done also in connexion with our own Tariff Board Act, which provides that no proposals to impose duties shall be brought down unless the Tariff Board has submitted a recommendation to Parliament with respect to the proposed duties.
– A High Court judgment is against the honorable senator’s contention.
– The honorable senator is in error. Again and again in all these questions dealing with the powers of the Arbitration Court, the point has been raised by the present illustrious gentleman who now rules over us in another capacity, that the powers of the Arbitration Court, are legislative ; that they are a delegated power, and do not belong to the judicial arm of the Constitution.
– Like honorable senators on this side of the Senate, he was in the minority.
– He was, but he acted on the principle that all things come to him who waits. He waited, and the time came when he found himself in a majority.
I turn now to a point that was raised by Senator Colebatch, and also by Senator Kingsmill yesterday, namely, the interpretation of doubtful articles in the agreement. It was contended by the honorable senators mentioned that the articles in question were capable of being read in different ways by different people. On this point I would direct the attention of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) to observations which I am about to offer for what they may be worth.
This treaty, I submit, does not create legal relations, and therefore could never come before any court for interpretation. But as the agreement may, when in operation, reveal anomalies, and possibly give rise to difficulties, provision is made in the very last paragraph of article 16 to deal with the situation. The paragraph reads as follows: -
In the event of circumstances arising which, in the judgment of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, or of His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia as the case may be, necessitate a variation in the terms of the agreement, the proposal to vary those terms shall form the subject of consultation between the two Governments.
The two governments which consulted at Ottawa will, no doubt, both be reasonable, and if the necessity arose, I have no doubt they would consent to any variation deemed desirable to make the agreement workable. In the meantime, I would point out that this .is not, as I have said, an agreement which is subject to legal review. Furthermore, the bill is entirely nugatory, and has no legal effect. That is to say, when it is carried, and becomes an act of Parliament, nothing will be law that was not law before, and nothing will cease to be law that was law before. Nothing further is done by putting this bill through both branches of the legislature, than would have been done had a declaratory resolution been carried in both Houses approving of the terms of the Ottawa agreement.
The bill has no legal binding force. If, in the course of time, the party now in opposition in this Parliament is returned to power, and if, in pursuance of its declared intention, it declines to carry out the agreement, there is no law to compel it to honour the contract. But there is one thing which I suggest will compel it to observe the agreement, namely, the considerations of honour which bind decent citizens of this country to observe agreements entered into, nol on behalf of this Parliament, but on behalf of the people of Australia. The agreement was made in the only circumstances in which it is possible for an agreement of this kind to be entered into. I repeat that we do nothing by placing this bill upon the statute-book. The Government, however, does avoid the criticism which would have been directed against it had it not consulted Parliament; but Parliament would have been consulted just as fully if the Government had brought forward a declaratory resolution for the consideration of both Houses.
I hope, for reasons which I am about to indicate, that the schedule will be put to the committee as a whole. If this is jot done, there will bo the implied suggestion that Parliament has the right :o alter some detail of it. I submit «oat this Parliament has no such right; that if it alters one single detail, it rejects the agreement.
I do not hold extravagant views either as to the possibilities for disaster or as to the possibilities for success following the adoption of this agreement, that have been- expressed by a number of other honorable senators; but I do welcome it as something in the nature of an advance towards the freeing of trade. I regret exceedingly that the method by which preference has been granted to Great Britain is to raise the tariff barriers on 400 odd items and to reduce the duties on about twenty items only. This is not the way to grant preferences to the Mother Country. According to the terms of this agreement, the tariff schedule which has been introduced in another place has to be submitted to the Tariff Board for investigation and report. I agree with those who say that the board must be the authority to interpret the items affected by the agreement, and I suggest that it is the most competent body for that responsible duty. In addition to the natural qualifications of its members for the task, the board has had a great deal of experience in these matters.
– The honorable senator , does not approve of the Government’s action in giving instruction to the board not to take into account primage or exchange when making its recommendations?
– I agree that the Tariff Board should take into account all the things that matter when making its recommendations to Parliament. I do not know whether other honorable senators have seen the last report of the board relating to woollen yarns. It covers about ten pages of foolscap and gives evidence of the extraordinary amount of research, inquiry, and argument necessary before a conclusion can be arrived at. As members of this chamber are not in a position to give such close attention to details, we must be prepared to accept guidance. Those who have any pretence to any modesty at all will, I believe, accept the guidance of a body which has had experience in these matters. It will be the function of the board to make a thorough investigation into the duties on the 400 odd items affected by the schedule. T trust that, as the purpose of the Ottawa agreement is to revive trade between the farflung parts of the Empire, the operation of the Tariff Board upon that schedule will be in the direction of lowering the existing duties, so that, by that means, a start may be given to the stagnant trade of the world which has been so seriously affected by tariff walls erected by all manner of countries. The world is now beginning to realize that tariff barriers do not make for prosperity. This is one reason why I approve of what was done at Ottawa. It is a beginning of a new policy, and may - we hope it will, in the not very distant future - be attended by good results from all parts of the Empire.
– I can scarcely remember a debate in this chamber which covered such a variety of subjects. Several honorable senators have dealt very exhaustively with all phases of Empire trade and development, while others have spoken about every subject under the sun except the agreement. One honorable senator opposite expressed the hope that we should discuss the Ottawa agreement without prejudice, but immediately he took us with him away up a Paraguayan river or somewhere in Bolivia, and invited us to gaze on the malign hand of . Great Britain pushing poor Paraguayans up to the front to be shot down by Bolivians, and then on the equally malign influence of the United States of America on the other hand, pushing Bolivians up to the front to be shot down by Paraguayans, and all for the purpose, so he assured us, of fostering the trade of these two greedy, grasping, imperialistic countries! I could not help thinking while listening to the honorable gentleman, of the advice given by the court usher in Trial by Jury -
And when amid the plaintiff’s shrieks,
The ruffianly defendant speaks -
Upon the other side;
What he may say you needn’t mind -
From bias free of every kind,
This trial must be tried !
I gathered from the honorable gentle-, man’s remarks that at the Ottawa Conference Great Britain, through her delegates, played the part of the ruffianly defendant, and, therefore, is not now entitled to consideration at the hands of honorable senators. I do not agree with that, view, nordo I accept the view of some other honorable senators who contend that our delegates did not handle the Australian case as well as they might have done. Any unbiassed observer or critic must admit that the advantages to Australia from this agreement will far outweigh its disadvantages. In my opinion, it is a remarkably good agreement in view of the conflicting and diverse interests of all the delegates who met around the historic table at Ottawa - a table at which, may I add, Senator Sampson and I had the pleasure of sitting on the occasion of the visit to Canada of the Empire Parliamentary Delegation.
But while I have no fault to find with the agreement, I do find fault with the steps taken by this Government to implement it. I say this without any illfeeling or illwill to any one. Those who followed the proceedings at Ottawa must have realized that the conference had been arranged primarily for the purpose of promoting intra-Empire trade. The delegates at the Ottawa . Conference appeared to hold the opinion that there should be some reduction of tariffs, and a removal of those barriers and restrictions that make it difficult for the nations to trade with one another; but I do not believe that the efforts of this Government to give effect to the agreement have advanced the cause very far. I am one of those simple souls who believed that, when the agreement was signed, trade would soon begin to flow more freely, and that the agreement would have the effect of decreasing the cost of production and the cost of living in Australia. In that belief, I hailed it with a certain amount of satisfaction. Honorable senators can imagine my feelings when I realized that the Government did not share those views. In my opinion, it should have done a great deal more in the direction of realizing the aspirations of those responsible for convening the conference, without doing any injury to Australia’s existing trade and its prospective trade. In dealing with this subject, we have to place ourselves in the position of the other fellow, and study it from his view-point. For the moment we should place ourselves in the position of the people of Great Britain, who were rather hopeful of some good coming out of the conference. But, when they realized the steps that were being taken by the Australian National Parliament to implement the agreement reached at Ottawa, I can imagine them excusably saying in the words of Macbeth, after the witches had tricked him -
And be these juggling fiends no more believ’d,
That palter with us in a double sense;
That keep the word of promise to ourear,
And break it to our hope-
A great deal has been said to the effect that our delegates have not given us a square deal, and that they might have obtained a great deal more for Australia. I challenge any honorable senator to say that Mr. Gullett is a freetrader. I think that, without equivocation or reservation of any kind, he can be regarded as a sane protectionist. According to statements which have appeared in the press, he said that the Australian delegates were compelled to ask the British people, not only to buy as much from us as they had bought in recent years, but also to heavily increase their purchases. Our delegates had to go further, and tell the British people, through their delegates, that the prices at present paid by them for our products were profitless to our producers, and that steps should be taken to increase these prices against themselves for our benefit. That this’ was freely and generously recognized by the British delegates, the agreement entered into between Australia and Great Britain clearly shows. I do not think that any honorable senator will deny that there is a good deal of truth in the statement made by Mr. Gullett. Having made that request, we then asked Great Britain to increase the preferences on our products. We know the difficulties experienced in the Old Country. One of the most convincing election cries ever raised in Great Britain has been, “ Hands off the breakfast table.” Apparently, it did not matter about the luncheon or dinner table; but the breakfast table was to be free. That was always the difficulty to be overcome by candidates during elections in Great Britain. In dealing with Australia at this conference, Great Britain did not treat us in the niggardly way in which some say she has treated us. When we look at the agreement, we have to admit that it is more than a trade agreement. For instance, it contains one article which I have not heard discussed at length, and which to me appears to go far beyond any mere trade agreement between Great Britain and Australia. I refer to article 4, which, to me, gives the Government of Australia the right to have a voice in the domestic policy of Great Britain. That article reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom undertake that the general ad valorem duty of 10 per cent, imposed by section 1 of the Import Duties Act 1932 on the foreign goods specified in schedule D shall not be reduced except with the consent of His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia.
What would we think if our delegates returned to Australia after signing an agreement in which it was provided that we could not do anything in regard to our tariff or other legislative enactments without the consent of His Majesty’8 Government in Great Britain? Article 4 provides that no legislative enactment can be taken in the direction suggested without the consent of His Majesty’s Government in Australia. I do not think that any one, even in his highest flights of imagination, ever contemplated that Australia would obtain such power at the Ottawa Conference. Anything that we may have given away is more than compensated for by what Great Britain has undertaken to do under that article.
Whatever else has been achieved at Ottawa, we are assured that, for a period of five years or until the agreement is amended, we shall get preferences on the commodities enumerated in schedule B. I do not think that any government in Australia would be foolish enough to suggest an amendment of that article, as it contains one of the most far-reaching concessions ever given to any government by the government of another country. I am surprised that honorable senators who have condemned this agreement lock, stock and barrel, should have overlooked that article. They may have noticed it, but, if so, they have been discreetly silent about it.
It is not my intention to debate the agreement in detail. It has already been fully discussed, but I should like to refer to article 9, which reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that protection by tariffs shall be afforded only to those industries which are reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success.
I think that that is really an honest expression of opinion on the part of our delegates ; but it is one of the most humiliating admissions ever made by any government. Regardless of how we may view it, it is a frank admission on the part of the Australian delegates that in Australia, we have been in the habit of committing that silly-
– It is not a crime, but is one of the silliest things ever done by any government.
– There is a similar article in the Canadian agreement.
– That may be some consolation, but it does not relieve us of the folly of our own acts. In that article, we have admitted that we have been following one of the most foolish policies which any government could follow. I am not one of those who can be classed as freetraders. I am prepared to give reasonable protection to any industry that is of benefit to Australia ; but we can recall instances in which extravagant protection has been given to industries that have never had a chance of being anything but pampered little codlings swathed in cotton wool and kept alive at a great expense to the general community, when they would be better dead. They have never been healthy living organisms. This naturally raises the question of when industries are really grown up, and at what period they reach youth or adolescence. We have heard that it is necessary to give a rea- sonable amount of protection to infant industries.
– A lot of them seem to be Peter Pans.
– They are : but a time limit should be placed upon them. We should know .when infancy ceases.
– We might follow the example of Great Britain in that regard.
– If the honorable senator had followed Great Britain’s example since he entered public life, he would have been able to make notable contributions to our debates which would have been of benefit to the political life of this country.
– Is wheat-growing a juvenile industry?
– The wheatgrowing industry has been the poor unfortunate pack camel of Australia. It has been loaded to such an extent that it has at last broken down under the burden placed upon it. I sincerely trust that the Government will make every effort to see that effect is given to the spirit and letter of article 9. I do not expect him to do it to-day or tomorrow. I am not like Senator O’Halloran who yesterday drew attention to the fact that this agreement was signed late in August, and then went on to show that, according to the reports of sheep sales held in South Australia within a month of its signing, the prices were very low. I do not expect to pick in November plums from a tree that I plant at the end of August. Apparently something of that sort is what the honorable senator considers ought to happen in this case. A reasonable time must be allowed for these matters to adjust themselves. But I cannot refrain from reiterating my earnest hope that the Government will take in hand the question of giving effect without undue delay to the provisions of article 9. If our primary industries were relieved of the incubus of having to support , a tremendous number of small industries that can never add to the national well-being, and we concentrated upon those industries that are worth while, less would be heard from the big industries about the disabilities under which they suffer, and fewer requests would be made by them for assistance to enable them to carry on. I have in mind the case of a man, his son, and nephew, who are engaged in putting together parts of carburettors in the backyard of a house in Sydney, to assist whom a duty of £3 10s. has to be paid on every imported carburettor used in Australia.
– -MacRoberston’s confectionery business started in a backyard. There is nothing sinister about a backyard.
– The difference is that MacRobertson had as potential customers the whole of the children of Australia, but at the time to which the honorable senator refers, he had not the advantage of a highly protective tariff.
– He never would have built up hi3 business without- protection.
– The protection he now enjoys did not become operative until his business was established and could hold its own in competition with the world. It would appear that honorable senators opposite are endeavouring to draw me away from the agreement. They have held out every bait that their diverse and subtle minds can conceive. I am reminded of a certain dweller in the Garden of Eden, that was more subtle than all the other beasts of the field. It was opposed to the governing authority, and employed the whole of its subtlety in the task of breaking down the government - in which endeavour, unfortunately, it succeeded.
Leaving the general principles of the agreement, of which for the moment I approve, I shall touch, on the muchdebated question of bananas. I suggest to those who are deeply concerned in this matter that there is not a great deal of logic in some of their statements. I heard one honorable senator say that Queensland bananas are infinitely superior to the Fijian article.
– There is ‘ no doubt about that.
– I am glad to have that confirmation from the honorable senator. If that be so, what is the objection to the admission of the Fiji banana ?
– Because Fiji bananas will be labelled “ Queensland “ and Queensland bananas will be labelled “Fijian”.
– Such a difficulty could be overcome. I suggest that the 40,000 centals, which evidently some honorable senators believe will spoil the market for the 2,250,000 centals that are produced in Queensland and nothern New South Wales, be sent to Perth and Hobart, where at present the local product is not obtainable. Ever since the duty of 8s. 4d. per cental was imposed, the people of Western Australia have paid that tribute for the privilege of eating bananas grown overseas. The diversion of the Fiji bananas to Western Australian and Tasmanian markets would not interfere with the locally-grown banana, because the latter would not be a competitor in those markets.
– How can it be said that the people of Western Australia pay the duty of 8s. 4d. a cental if they do not get any bananas?
– I ask the honorable senator not to misquote me. I said that we had no Queensland bananas. We get, on the average, a very much better sample than I have seen displayed
An Honorable Senator. - In Canberra.
– In the streets of Sydney. I take no notice of what is sold in Canberra. Dishonest traders send their poorest and dirtiest specimens here, not only of bananas, but also of all other fruits. It is a very poor advertisement to those who visit the Federal Capital. I want to assist the local banana industry, not to kill it. It is possible to observe the terms of this agreement, even in connexion with bananas, and not injure the market. I make the suggestion for what it is worth. Whether those concerned have the grit and the ability to give effect to it, I know not.
I should like to touch upon article 12, in which Australia undertakes not to impose duties in excess of those recommended by the Tariff Board. I agree with those who say that it is a fairly wise precaution to act upon the recommendation of that body; that has already been ably pointed out by Senator Brennan.
The Tariff Board is in a very much better position than we are to investigate the whole of the facts of a case. Let us attempt to visualize what would happen if we undertook the examination at the bar of the Senate of a host of witnesses for and against a proposal. We should not complete a tariff schedule in the lifetime of any senator. We have to accept expert advice. Every government department does so. Senator Daly, when a member of a government, accepted the expert advice of the officers of the department he administered. Statements in this Senate that ostensibly were his own were in reality based upon advice rightly given by his officers. I do not impute anything wrong when I say that the Tariff Board is only human, as we all are. We all take colour from our environment. Some of our good friends opposite are really not so red as they might appear to be; they are tinged with red because of their association with others who are undoubtedly of that colour. Thus the judgment of the Tariff Board may be swayed at times by the colour df the government that happens to be in power. What would happen should there be rapid changes of government, I confess I cannot conceive. I have in mind a story that I heard of a little girl who kept a pet chameleon, with which she provided a good deal of entertainment for herself and her friends by placing it on differently coloured pieces of cloth. On a red cloth it gradually became red; on a green cloth it took on a beautiful verdant colour; and on a blue cloth it changed to that colour. One day a friend who visited her noticed that, she appeared greatly troubled, and, upon inquiring the cause, learned that the chameleon was dead. He expressed sorrow, and asked, “ Did it meet with an accident ? “ “ No,” she said, “ as you know, I place it on differently coloured cloths to witness its changes of colour. To-day I put it on a piece of tartan, and in attempting to change to all colours at once it killed itself.” Something like that might happen to the Tariff Board, if we had too rapid changes of government in this country. I do not imagine that any fair-minded man in Australia would find fault with that contention. According to Senator Daly, it is an abuse of power to allow the Tariff
Board to dictate as to what amount of duty should be imposed. It is rather late in the day to make any complaint on that score. I have previously said, and I repeat now, that the greatest abuse of power occurred when the Parliament placed in the hands of the Minister for Trade and Customs, the powers that he can exercise under the Industries Preservation Act. I still hold my own opinion as a layman that the action then taken was utterly unconstitutional, because in certain circumstances the Minister, without consulting the Parliament, can impose duties which must be paid into the Consolidated Revenue, although section 51 of the Constitution provides that it is Parliament which shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make lav/s for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth. The Constitution lays down clearly what the Parliament consists of, but it does not mention an individual. It is provided that after certain things have been done the power of the Parliament to impose duties of customs shall be exclusive. No right is given to delegate that power . to any individual. I claim that a breach of the Constitution has been committed in that respect.
– That matter was decided in the early days, and. the High Court held that what was done was within the Constitution.
– I believe that if the High Court considered the matter again, it would reverse its previous decision.
– The Minister can suspend a duty for an hour.
– That is where the abuse of power comes in. The Minister can waive the fiscal laws, and permit certain goods to come in free. I do not suggest that anything wrong has been done; but a corrupt Minister would have an opportunity to act contrary to the public interest.
Certain honorable senators have claimed that the agreement will allow Australia to be flooded with imports from overseas. Last Monday, I was speaking to the manager of one of the largest engineering firms in Sydney. I believe that this firm is the largest manufacturer in the Commonwealth of electric motors, and the manager told me that at no time had the firm asked for the duty that has been placed on electric motors on the recommendation of the Tariff Board. He stated that he could manufacture those goods with a much lower duty than has been imposed. The firm also makes electric switches without a duty at all, and it is holding its own in the market to such an extent that it has practically captured the whole of the Australian trade. Therefore, it is not true, in a great many cases, that the Australian manufacturer is unable to carry on in competition with other countries. The manager told me that the only competition which he could not meet was in regard to goods made by special machinery; but that where the costs of production chiefly represented manual labour, his factory could hold its own with the rest of the world.
Several gibes have been thrown at me by honorable senators opposite about wheat and other matters. Those who have been responsible for the fiscal policy of Australia have at last admitted the truth of what we who represent the rural industries have always claimed, namely, that there are two standards of living in Australia - one for the city and another for the country. According to a statement published in the press, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) said -
We worked in the belief that in the fashioning of tariff in this country the man on the land and his employees have hitherto como off second best . . . With respect to tho great export surplus of primary production, the man on tho land and those who work for him have been, to state it mildly, somewhat overlooked by this Parliament. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that hitherto this Parliament has been in tariff and industrial legislation a two-standard Parliament - a standard for the cities and another standard, very much inferior, for the country.
In that we have, at last, an admission that the contention for which we have been roundly abused is correct. No Minister holding a responsible position could make such an admission, and then perpetuate the injustice that has been done to a great and deserving section of tha community. When the agreement has be ratified by the Parliament, I hope that the Government will consider the steps to be taken to implement it, and see that all that is done under it conforms with the spirit of the Ottawa Conference, which was to foster and facilitate trade between the various units of the Empire. Every effort should be made to reduce the cost of production, and the costof living. It is of no use to endeavour to increase wages if we simultaneously increase the cost of living. It is high time the people took stock of the position, and realized that they have been travelling along the wrong path. No matter what the cost may be, an honest effort should be made to increase Australia’s productivity and usefulness within the Empire.
– It is not my intention to examine the scope and probable effects of this agreement, because we are approaching the end of the debate, and the agreement has already been analysed from practically every conceivable angle. It has been torn to shreds, and so much destructive criticism has been directed against it, particularly by honorable senators opposite, that I am beginning to wonder whether it has any real value. Honorable senators opposite have slashed the agreement about in a way which would do credit to the finest razor gang in Australia. I support the agreement in broad principle; but I desire to reserve my remarks about its interpretation until steps have been taken by the Government to put it into operation. Nobody has the right to say that there should not be closer co-ordination in trade matters between the various parts of the Empire. We were led to expect a great deal, chiefly through the press, from the Ottawa Conference, and we were assured that it would result in knitting the economic units of the Empire together, providing a foundation for future work. My mind naturally turns to the importance of the primary exporting industries. I wonder whether they will get additional markets and higher prices, and I particularly ask whether the internal cost of producing our export commodities will be increased. That depends upon the interpretation which the Government places upon the agreement.
I was pleased to hear Senator Colebatch, during his speech, remind the Government that it fought the last elections on the policy of revising the tariff in the interests of the primary producers. He pointed out that two election pledges had been given, one having been made to the manufacturers only three or four days before the voting took place. I happened to be one of the individuals who sat at a conference table in Sydney when the first election pledge was made between the Government and the Country party. We agreed to face the people of Australia on a common policy designed to revise duties on a scientific basis. We fought the election on that policy, and. I gave a pledge, not once, but a. hundred times, that the tariff would be reduced. Country people are to-day asking whether the Government has been true to its pledge in that regard. Many primary producers fear that the Government is taking a middle course between the manufacturers and the primary producers, and is attempting to please both of them. Their fear is the greater because of the fact that the Government has instructed the Tariff Board not to take into consideration exchange and primage when recommending duties. That means that, in addition to overcoming the fiscal wall, imported goods have to surmount a barrier of 10 per cent. primage and exchange, which to-day is 25.1 per cent. The Government, which claims to be desirous of removing the burden from Australian export industries, has instructed the Tariff Board to disregard one burden.
SenatorFoll. - The exchange may vary from time to time; how could it be taken into account in recommending a duty?
– There is no likelihood of the exchange rate falling for many months. These things are causing primary producers to wonder whether the interpretation placed on the Ottawa agreement will be in the interests of our great export industries. The agreement is an experiment, the worth of which time alone will prove. The principle underlying it is good. It is useless to let flow a flood of destructive criticism concerning an agreement the result of which no one can predict with any certainty. We do not know whether price levels will rise. The agreement is a gesture of co-operation ; it is the outcome of a conference of delegates from various portions of the Empire, who gathered round a table with a common desire to help one another. It is an attempt to regulate tariffs within the Empire on a reasonable basis, and is a great step towards economic recovery. I shall not discuss the bill in detail, but shall conclude by saying that, unless the Government directs the Tariff Board to take exchange and primage duties into consideration, it will prostitute the principle underlying the agreement, which is to increase our export trade and develop reciprocal trade within the Empire.
– I sincerely hope that the Government will not accept the advice tendered by Senator Hardy. If we are to have a Tariff Board, let us have a board which is free to exercise its own discretion. On the other hand, if we are not to have a Tariff Board, then let Parliament be free to exercise its discretion. I suggest that a direction to the Tariff Board to take exchange and other matters into consideration would be, to use the opprobious term used by Senator Hardy, a prostitution
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - “ Prostitution “ is ah ug-y word, which should not be used in this chamber. I did not hear Senator Hardy use it, or I should have called him to order.
– In my opinion, it would be a retrograde step for this Parliament to allege that it had set up an impartial tribunal, and then to attempt to fetter its discretion.
– Does the honorable senator believe in making public the reports of the Tariff Board immediately they are submitted?
– Tariff Board reports which recommend increases of duties obviously cannot be made public immediately.
– As a member of the last Government, I realize that it is impracticable to make available the Tariff Board’s reports immediately they are submitted.
– I did not mean that.
– But I see no reason why the recommendations and reports of the Tariff Board should not be placed on the table of the House as soon as practicable. I am not defending any government’s action in withholding from Par liament information as to the doings of the Tariff Board.
– Should the exchange rate reach 180 per cent., what would the Tariff Board’s report be worth?
– In making its recommendations, the Tariff Board takes into consideration all matters which affect the competition between Australian producers and outside competitors. It takes exchange into account.
– But the Government has instructed the board not to take exchange into consideration.
– I agree with the honorable senator that the Government has no right to issue any such instruction to the Tariff Board. If we set up a quasi- judicial tribunal, with power to decide questions on judicial or quasi-judicial grounds, we should see that its discretion is unfettered.
– “Who should interpret this agreement - the Tariff Board or the Government?
– In the final analysis, I imagine that the interpretation of the agreement will be left to members of the honorable profession of which I am a member. As my learned colleague, Senator Brennan, has said, the Tariff Board will have to take the words of the agreement to mean what it believes them to mean. It is on questions of belief that lawyers so often fall out.
– Has the Tariff Board power to initiate inquiries ?
– I understand that the Tariff Board may report only on matters referred to it.
– Under section 17 of the Tariff Board Act, the board may on its own initiative inquire into and report on any of the matters referred to in sub-section 2 of section 15. Those are important matters.
– Speaking by and large, the Ministry for the time being in office controls the matters on which the Tariff Board shall submit reports.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I am not unappreciative of the provisions to which Senator Brennan refers relating to the power of the Tariff Board to initiate certain inquiries, but considered in relation to this agreement, the powers of the board, I submit, have no relevancy to the present issue. The board cannot do anything to impose a duty; it cannot even recommend a duty until and unless the particular industry to be affected by it has been referred to the board by the Executive, and the Executive, in its turn, is bound to lay the schedule upon the table of the House.
As this agreement affects the actual imposition of duties as opposed to inquiries by the board into the economic effect of a duty, I disagree with certain contentions that have been put forward by members on this side of the chamber as to the real effect of the two articles mentioned. I take my objection upon the same ground as Senator Colebatch, namely, that in actual practice the agreement will mean nothing to Australia. Mr. Baldwin, the leader of the British delegation, has declared that the agreement will facilitate reciprocal trade within the Empire. If it means that, and if this Government is sincere in its declared intention to uphold the principles, of arbitration, what is meant by article 9? -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that protection by tariffs glial] be afforded only to those industries which are reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success.
As ‘Senator Brennan has remarked, those words mean what they say. But in deciding whether a particular industry is “ reasonably assured “ of sound opportunities for success, we should have to take into consideration the cost of production in that particular industry.
– If that were done, article 9 would be divorced from article 10.’
– Assuming that neither this nor any other government will attempt to undermine the standard of living which workers in our secondary industries to-day enjoy, under article 10 Australian manufacturers should be assured of sufficient protection to enable them to employ workers under conditions prescribed by the tribunals set up under the provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Article 10 provides -
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 us 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.
Do those words mean that the Commonwealth Government will undertake, during the currency of the agreement, that the tariff shall be based on the principle that protective duties will not. exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition, “ awards of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration notwithstanding?” Are we to read that meaning into article 10 ?
– Those facts are taken into consideration now.
– I am pleased to have that interjection. Obviously that is the intention of the Government.
I hope that the agreement will prove advantageous to Australia. I certainly have no desire to act as a carping critic of its provisions.
– “We could not expect the court to take into consideration those matters in respect of certain industries only.
– Article 10 clearly indicates that reasonable competition means competition “ on the basis of the relative cost of economical and efficient production.”
– Under this article, the Tariff Board will have power to decide what industries shall in effect be carried on in Australia. I believe that the Government intends that the Tariff Board shall take into consideration what has been termed on many occasions, the relatively high standard of living enjoyed by the workers in this country, but as this is already done, in what respect will article 10 alter the present law? Surely, it is not intended that the article shall be merely declaratory.
– The Government of which the honorable senator was a member imposed tariffs without consulting the board.
– I am not, at the moment, in the dock answering charges made against the previous Government. My point is that if article 10 is merely declaratory, why is it included? If. honorable senators will read the section which gives power to the Tariff Board to make inquiries, they will find that the board is compelled, at the present time, to have regard to certain economic considerations. The danger, as I see it, lies in the fact that when a particular statute is brought under notice of these judicial or quasijudicial tribunals for interpretation, they turn away from declaratory legislation. Unless this article is amended, they will assume that Parliament desires to alter the existing law, which provides that the standard of wages and conditions of labour in Australian industries shall be taken into account when making awards; and while they will probably pay regard to the economic effect of awards upon industries in the Commonwealth, they will also take into consideration the wages ,paid in Great Britain. Senator Hardy recently had an assurance from the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) concerning a certain undertaking to the Tariff Board. If I received an assurance from the Government that it would permit advocates of the workers to put clearly before the tribunals which decide these matters, what is the real intention of Parliament - that Parliament has no desire to undermine the wage standard of the Commonwealth - I should feel considerably happier in dealing with article 10.
I turn now to article 12. It reads -
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.
What position is likely to arise under this article? Are we to allow foreign companies to be established in Great Britain for the purpose of manufacturing goods there for export to Australia in competition with our manufacturers? I fully understand the attitude taken up by the Federated Chamber of Manufacturers in Adelaide, and I appreciate their motive in arranging for a deputation to the Prime Minister in Canberra for the purpose of warning him of the probable trend of events. I also sympathize ‘ with them for having assisted to bring about the defeat of the Scullin Government. As my colleagues on this side have pointed out, the manufacturers of this country were instrumental in returning this Government to power, and now they are loudest in their protestations against its actions.
I have to admit, with Senator Sampson, that the agreement leaves me in an absolute state of bewilderment as to its probable effects on Commonwealth trade and Empire relations. As Senator Sampson has told us, certain British politicians have interpreted the document in one way, American politicians have also given their interpretation of it, and now we have an assurance from this Government that all will be well, despite the fact that one of its own Ministers, after having had access to all the documents relating to the decisions, and after a careful study of all its provisions, recently took the extreme step of resigning from the Cabinet. Is it any wonder that we find the people in a state of bewilderment? Mr. Fenton resigned from the Cabinet because he believed that the agreement constituted an attack upon our protective policy and upon our arbitration system, or because lie thought that we were simply misleading the Motherland, so reverently referred to this afternoon.
– Mr. Fenton is not in a better position to interpret the agreement than we are.
– He was at that time.
– We have to interpret the document as it is.
– I understand that cream is extracted from milk. The cream of a political party in power is to be found in its Ministry, and Mr. Fenton was not in the jug in which the skimmed milk was contained. Mr. Fenton resigned from the Ministry.
– He appears to have made it a hobby to resign from ministries.
– There came a time when it was considered necessary in the interests of this great Commonwealth, that party politics should be dropped, and that those possessing the best brains should gather together, and by a system of mass production overcome our difficulties. Mr. Fenton, was selected as a Minister, but he eventually left the Ministry as a result of the agreement adopted at Ottawa.
– He was Acting Prime Minister in the Cabinet of which the honorable senator was a member.
– That was one of the qualifications he possessed when asked to join the United Australia Party, which, as Senator Colebatch truthfully said a few days ago, when it gets into trouble, invariably draws its leaders from the party to which it is opposed politically.
– It was the other way about. I said that it happens when the honorable senator’s party collapses.
– That is a distinction without a difference. The Labour party could not collapse unless the other party was on top, and when our political opponents are on top, they invariably select one of our men to lead them. At any rate, Mr. Fenton resigned from the Ministry because he could not support this agreement, and if I wished to obtain an unbiased opinion on the matter, I should ask Mr. Fenton. He was selected, not by any honorable senator on this side of the chamber, to take part in controlling the destinies of Australia.
– He was selected by the honorable senator’s party - for attack.
– The position from which he resigned as a result of his inability to support the Ottawa agreement is one to which he was1 selected by the party of which Senator Hays is a member. His selection at that time met with the unanimous approval of the United Australia Party. I do not think the honorable senator will deny that.
– I will not.
– His selection was unanimously approved.
– How does the honorable senator know?
– I am accepting the word of the honorable senator’s colleague from Tasmania. The action of Mr. Fenton in resigning from the Cabinet because he could not support the agreement shows that there is something wrong with it.
– The honorable senator will admit that Mr. Fenton looks under the bed every night to see if there are any freetraders there. He lives in dread of them.
– He could not have been afraid of freetraders when he joined the party of which the honorable senator is a member.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I ask the honorable senators to discuss the bill, and not the actions of Mr. Fenton.
– I am showing that Mr. Fenton resigned from the Cabinet because he could not support this agreement.
– Has the honorable senator any proof concerning his alleged dissatisfaction?
– I do not think that it would take much to convince the honorable senator that that was the real reason why he resigned. At that time Mr. Fenton was an outstanding figure in the political life of Australia, and I am convinced that he believed that this agreement would be interpreted to the detriment of the people whom honorable senators on this side of the chamber represent. I agree with Senator Brennan that any warnings I have to give should be on the second reading of the bill, because we have to accept the agreement in its entirety, or not at all. That is the reason why I have enlarged upon that particular phase of the subject. It appears to me that this agreement, which we have either to affirm or to reject, resembles a child born at Ottawa, brought to Australia, deserted on our doorstep and left for us to adopt. I do not propose to delay the Senate in further discussing the agreement, as I recognize that all that could be said against it has already been said by honorable senators on this side of the chamber. I realize that the Government has the numbers to carry the second reading, and that whether it has or has not made a mistake it will have to carry on under it. I intend to oppose the second reading of the bill, and when we reach the schedule I shall adopt a similar attitude.
At the last election, the Government definitely told the people that it did not propose to amend customs duties until they had been referred to the Tariff Board for investigation and report; it deprecated our action in bringing into existence certain tariff restrictions without prior reference to that board; and the Chamber of Manufactures having accepted an assurance from the Lyons Government that it would not reduce duties, that chamber must now take full responsibility for what that Government has done.
– I do not intend to speak at length on this subject, and probably I should not have spoken at all had it not been for the unfair criticisms that have been levelled against Australia’s delegates at that important gathering at Ottawa. I believe that Mr. Bruce and Mr. Gullett, and all those associated with them, did a splendid job for Australia. I should like to’ pay a special tribute to Mr. Bruce and Mr. Gullett for the splendid work they performed. I also wish to congratulate the members of a sub-committee of the Cabinet which carefully prepared the ground before the conference was held. It is ridiculous and most unfair that some honorable senators opposite should assert that Mr. Bruce and Mr. Gullett do not possess a fully developed Australian sentiment, and could not be true Australian representatives. They have both rendered splendid service to their country, in peace and in war, and there is no doubt that the enormous strain imposed upon the delegates while at Ottawa is largely responsible for the indisposition of Mr. Gullett. Mr. Bruce is, I think, an outstanding man in the public life of Australia, and his work at Ottawa, apart from anything else, entitles him to be regarded as a statesman. Not only did he render wonderful service at Ottawa, but since he has been in London, which is still the financial centre of the world, he has been in close touch with eminent financial authorities in the interests of the Commonwealth. Moreover, he was born and educated in this country. Our delegates handled the tremendous task very well indeed, and although we cannot expect immediate results as the result of the ratification of the agreement, a definite improvement in inter-Empire trade should be noticeable within a year or so. A great deal has been said to the effect that this agreement will have a detrimental effect upon our secondary industries, but so far as I can see, that will not be so, and the primary producers, who are the backbone of the country - that is not a figure of speech, but a reality - must benefit by its adaption. I cannot see how any efficiently controlled and economically sound secondary industry can be endangered by this agreement. I am a sound protectionist. I am “not a maniac in the matter of protective duties. I have always been opposed to prohibitions. I understand that Senater Hoare attacked me yesterday.
– The honorable senator deserved it.
– I shall endeavour to convince even Senator Hoare that I am as sound a protectionist as he is, in the case of efficiently controlled and economically sound secondary industries. I am not in favour of spoonfed, uneconomic, hothouse industries that are of very little benefit, that contribute to increases in the cost of living, and that are of a class which is not deserving of the treatment that has resulted in tin-pot industries springing up almost in the backyards of Sydney and Melbourne, dragging to those cities too big a population, on the supposition that regular employment under good conditions is obtainable. There are in this country industries that are ridiculously over-protected, such as those that are engaged in the production of galvanized iron, sheet glass, pearl buttons- if that can be called an industry - and some cotton and piece goods, the tariff imposed upon which is detrimental to users of these commodities in Australia. Senator Payne, in his very wellprepared and delivered address last evening, set out these industries in detail, and showed that the protection afforded them is ridiculous in the extreme. On the other hand, however, it must be remembered that for some years Australia has given to Great Britain a preference as against foreign countries of 15 per cent.: and up to 1929-30, I notice, 54 per cent, of the commodities imported from Great Britain were admitted into Australia free of duty. If they represent requirements of our people that cannot be efficiently and economically manufactured in this country, that is the best procedure to adopt. Under the Scullin tariff, plus embargoes, the preference to Great Britain became a mockery. Every true Australian should endeavour to foster trade, not only with the mother country, to which we owe so much, but also with our sister dominions. But there again, I realize that we have to be careful in the framing of our tariff schedules, so as adequately to protect our workers against the black labour of South Africa, India, and elsewhere, and to maintain a reasonably good standard of hours of labour and rates of pay. Before the Scullin tariff almost precluded trade with the mother country, Australia was Great Britain’s second best customer. Britain, we must remember, is and always has been our best customer. Take the great primary products which Australia produces in such vast quantity and so well. Year after year, the Mother Country has taken from 25 per cent, to 30 per cent, of our wool clip of 3,000,000 odd bales, from 25 per cent, to 30 per cent, of our wheat crop, 90 per cent, of our butter, 76 per cent, of our meat, 75 per cent, of our fruits, and 95 per cent, of our “wines. But even though she has been by far our “best customer, there is still room for the expansion of her trade with us. That was shown by Senator Elliott, in the speech that he delivered in this chamber last week. He and other speakers have shown that Great Britain has been a very large purchaser of the products of foreign countries. It may be impertinent of me to say so, but I believe that Great Britain should have bought more of our raw products. She should have given us greater preference in regard to meat, instead of taking such a huge quantity from the Argentine. Honorable senators have argued, of course, that it is only natural that a great financial country like Great Britain, should trade heavily with foreigners, because she has such vast sums of money invested in the Argentine, the United States of America, and other parts of the world. I still maintain, however, that she should have purchased a larger quantity of our products; and I hope that in the future, largely as a result of this very excellent agreement, she will do so.
An honorable senator opposite argued that our delegates had not properly fulfilled their functions at Ottawa, because they had not even discussed the granting of preference in the case of pur wool. We do not need such a preference, and it would be of no value to us if we had it. Our wool is of such high quality, and the industry is so efficient, that it has always been able to stand on its own feet. The wool industry is the greatest of our industries, and it has never asked for governmental assistance in any shape or form. But, at the same time, it must be admitted that the 86,000 growers of wool in Australia are compelled, through under-consumption and lack of purchasing power throughout the world, rather than through over-production, to sell their production for the fourth year in succession at a price that is very much below the cost of producing it. I do not anticipate that this year’s clip will realize more than 8-^d. per lb. gross, cx seaboard warehouses, which is equivalent to 7-Jd. per lb. at railway sidings.
– The report of the wool committee states that it costs more to sell the wool than to have it shorn.
– That may be so. I have not yet had the privilege of reading that report; but I do know that the committee found that, to give the moderate ‘return of 5 per cent, on the capital invested in the industry, the cost of production must be set down at 14d. per lb.; and, as I have said, the sale price for the fourth year in succession is in the vicinity of 8£d. per lb.
– What is the remedy?
– I have not the time just now to suggest a remedy. But I hope to be able to study the report of the wool committee very carefully, after which I may have some suggestions to offer. A lot of absurd nonsense is talked about using the whole of our wool clip in Australia. It is a fact that honorable senators cannot dispute, that if a total embargo were placed on the importation of woollen goods into Australia, only from 10 per cent, to 12 per cent, of our wool clip would be needed to clothe the 6,500,000 men, women and children in this country, and we should still have to export and sell in open competition on the markets of the world from 88 per cent, to 90 per cent, of our annual production.
– No one on this side has made that suggestion.
– I heard it made more than once before the election of the honorable senator to this chamber. It would be a wonderful thing if we could do it; but our cost of manufacture precludes it. I am pleased to say, however, that recently some progress has been made in this direction. Our woollen mills are extraordinarily efficient, and one of them has succeeded in selling ladies’ dress goods and tweeds in Canada. I should like, as honorable senators opposite would, to have a very much larger percentage of our wool clip worked up in Australia. “VVe are capable of doing that if the costs were low enough to enable vis to compete with manufacturers in other parts of the world. I know of no industry in the world that is more efficiently conducted than the wool industry, from the growing of the wool to the manufacturing of the clip to the extent needed in Australia. I do not give the whole of the credit for that to the sheep men. The Almighty has made Australia the healthiest and the best sheep country in the world. The stockmasters and the whole of the workers who handle and shear the sheep, sort and scour the wool, handle it in the warehouses, and manufacture it in our woollen mills, are extraordinarily efficient.
– Does the honorable senator know that quite a number of shearers are to-day carrying bags about the country to sleep on, because they cannot afford blankets?
– Plenty of our so-called squatters in Queensland and other States have had to walk off their properties, after having spent from 30 to 40 years in improving them, and are now tramping the roads of Australia looking for jobs.
The position of wheat is very much the same as that of wool, except that the proportion of the annual crop consumed within Australia is larger. The wheat industry also is most efficiently managed. Owing to the assistance given by scientists, and by government colleges such as those at Dookie, Longrenong, Wagga and Roseworthy, the State farm in Western Australia, and the Waite Institute of South Australia, the quantity of wheat produced to the acre has been doubled within recent . Our wheats are of exceptional quality, and to-day are fetching in Liverpool 2s. a quarter more than those of other countries. The average price obtained for our wool is nearly double that paid for the average wool of the world. It is a keen satisfaction to us to know that these, our two greatest primary industries, arc so efficient. It is deplorable that, on account of conditions over which we have little or no control, our primary producers, who are so efficient and who work such long hours, are forced to sell their products so greatly below production costs. We could do a good deal more than has been done in endeavouring to develop markets in the East. It seems only a few years ago, although it is nearly 30 years, that I disposed of the first wool that was sold to Japan - about 1,000 bales of scoured merino. It was thought that a large trade would not be developed; but last year Japan took over 600,000 bales of wool from Australia, and this year she promises to be our second best customer for that product. .Fortunately, the people of the East are also developing a taste for our wheat in preference to their own rice and rye. A very large percentage of last year’s wheat crop was sold in the East, and a good part of the coming season’s crop is likely to be disposed of there. We have not fully recognized the possibilities of greater consumption of our meats in Eastern markets, and we have done little to investigate the opportunities for increased trade in that direction.
Meat is the most important of our primary products with which the Ottawa Conference dealt. Very little Australian meat is sold outside Great Britain, which, to my mind, has been taking too much meat from the Argentine. Of course, Britain has a large amount of capital invested in that country, and no doubt she takes the interest on her investments there in the form of meat and other products. Although Australia’s lamb and mutton are distinctly better than Argentine lamb and mutton, I admit that Argentine beef is superior to ours. For that fact there are several reasons. The Argentine has spent more money than we have on high-priced stud cattle. It is, of course, much closer to the British. Isles, which produce the best stud stock in the world. Nearly all the great sires that go out to the four corners of the earth - no matter whether we are discussing horses, cattle, or sheep - come from the British Isles. Argentine cattlebreeders have been going to the south of Scotland and paying £2,000, £3,000, £4,000, and even up to £5,000 for stud bulls. Some breeders in Australia have paid up to £3,000 for stud bulls. But that is not the only reason why Argentine beef is better than ours. The main reason is that there is cheap alfalfa land in the Argentine. There are millions of acres of this land on which water is available to the alfalfa at a depth of a few feet, and well-bred Shorthorns, Herefords, Black Angus, and other breeds are brought to early maturity. They are never short of feed, and, consequently, the meat can be sold as young beef. Today the world is demanding young lamb, mutton and beef.
It was suggested last evening by certain honorable senators that inefficient methods were adopted in connexion with the cattle industry of the Northern Territory and Queensland; but I do not agree with that statement. There are magnificent herds of Shorthorn, Hereford, Bed Poll, and Black Angus cattle or cross breds from them in the Northern Territory and Quesnsland but early-maturing beef cannot be produced in that country because the seasonal conditions are irregular, and the areas on which the cattle are run are vast. The distances to water are very great, and no matter what class of stud stock is sent into the Northern Territory or western Queensland - I refer particularly to the Barkly Tableland, because I am familiar with it and because I regard it as the pick of the federal territories - the progeny of even high-priced shortlegged stud bulls is invariably longlegged cattle, because nature provides the animals with the means of walking from 10 to 15 miles to water and back again to their feed. I do not think that our cattle-breeders in the Northern Territory or Queensland can be said to be inefficient, or deserving of the criticism levelled against them last night by honorable senators who know little or nothing of the subject. I have found that in the Old Country there is ignorant prejudice against Australian meat; even when our lamb and mutton are of good quality. I worked as a young man in the woollen mills of Yorkshire. My employers were supposed to be millionaires. They were certainly among the largest woollen manufacturers in Great Britain, and their output in those days mostly went to America. I used to try to induce the employees with whom I worked - we were employed twelve hours a day at the wretched wage of 25s. a week - to go with me to the market on Friday nights and buy Australian meat. But they would not touch it, and I do not blame them. All the good Australian lamb and mutton then, as I am afraid now, was most unfairly sold in London as Canterbury New Zealand meat. Only the thin, dark-fleshed, emaciated stuff was ticketed in. Yorkshire as Australian meat. But even if the people were offered the best Australian lamb, they had such a prejudice against Australian frozen meat that they would not look at it. Yet my millionaire employers had Australian lamb on their table ! I discovered that it was Australian meat, although it had been sold as Canterbury lamb.
I think that Australia has been very lax in the marketing of its products. Our wool and wheat are so superior that no N difficulty has been experienced in marketing them; but we have been very slack in regard to our meats, fruits, fresh, preserved, or canned, and our cheese, and many other products. There has been no continuity of supply, and the advertising, if there is any at all, is bad. Sometimes we have sold goods, such as tinned, meat, fruits and jams, which, upon delivery to our customers, have proved not to be up to sample. Our advertising methods are very faulty, and I do not know of any place in Australia where they are more faulty than in this capital city of Canberra. The fruit that is placed on the tables at the hotels, and even in the parliamentary refreshment-rooms, is of very inferior quality. This is a bad advertisement for Australia. The bread that is supplied here is not what it ought to be, although the price is ls. a 4-lb. loaf. With, the price of wheat as it is to-day, the cost of bread should be more like 6d. a loaf. But there is no justification for turning out a half-baked loaf of inferior quality a3 is done here in Canberra. We should take care that in the Federal Capital, at least, where we have many visitors from abroad, the hotels should supply better fruit than has been served up for years past. It is a i disgrace to a country which produces the best fruits in the world.
Australian spring lamb is equal to any. This is proved by the fact that certain Victorian breeders, who have sent lambs home for sale at Smithfield, have beaten New Zealand year after year.
– But that meat is not representative of the bulk of the shipments of Australian lamb.
– No ; but we have plenty of lamb as good as that, if it were properly graded and marketed. We do not pay sufficient attention to packing, grading, and advertising, although I recognize that we comply more with the requirements of the British market now than we did some years ago. 1 commend the Melbourne Herald for its suggestion that Australia should send home to the Old Country carcases of prime sucker lamb, at the right time oi the year. This year the Herald has given such publicity to the matter that nearly 20,000 first-class spring lambs have been sent from Victoria alone to individuals in Great Britain, each with a covering card or letter. This lamb will be tender and juicy, and it will be a splendid advertisement for Australia. It will go direct to the homes of people in the Old Country as a Christmas present. Much could be done by Australia by this form of advertising, if our people would send Australian tinned and dried fruits, instead of useless cards as Christmas gifts. Our wool and wheat have found their way into the markets of the East, but practically none of our meat is sold there. That proportion of our mutton which is not attractive to the consumers in Great Britain, because it is probably too old, and sometimes dark-fleshed, although a good, healthy, nutritious food, could be disposed of in the East at a very cheap rate. To-day mutton and beef are not returning the cost of killing, freezing, and freight. The price on the London market does not cover the handling costs. Wether mutton can be purchased on almost any Australian market at 2d. per lb.; ewe mutton at Id. per lb. ; and lamb at about 3d. per lb. I do not say that housewives can obtain it at those prices; but I have never known prime mutton, beef, and lamb to be so cheap wholesale as it is to-day.
There has been a glut of frozen meat on the London market; but the Ottawa agreement has already done some good. By mutual arrangement there is to be some curtailment in the exports of lamb and mutton from Australia during the months of November and December, and, of course, some restriction has been placed upon the importation into Britain of meat from the Argentine. During the last week or two, since this action has been taken, there has, fortunately, been a substantial rise in the price, particularly of lamb, upon the London market. But it is still being sold at a ruinously low price, as are all our primary products. I am of the opinion that as the result of the Ottawa agreement, Australia and New Zealand will gain a considerable advantage, perhaps not in the immediate future, but probably towards the latter half of next year. The quantity of meat consumed in Great Britain is astounding. Each year the people of that country import 600,000 tons of beef, of which 450,000 tons is chilled. Unfortunately, Australia has not been able to supply chilled beef and mutton to Britain, but has had to freeze the meat sent there. For that reason, it has been handicapped in its competition with the Argentine.
– The authorities at, Cambridge say that they have now mastered that difficulty.
– That is so; but up to date Australia has not benefited from their investigations. These scientists are, no doubt, working on right lines, and before long it should be possible for Australian meat to be placed on the markets of the Old Country in a chilled state. In that case, we should be better able to hold our own against the Argentine. Each year about 300,000 tons of mutton and lamb is imported into Britain. Last year, the quantity was greater, the importations reaching the record figure of 355,000 tons. Unfortunately, the purchasing power of the masses in England was so low that a glut resulted.
I shall not weary the Senate with details of the importations of meat and other foodstuffs into Britain from Australia and other countries, because they have already been given by Senator Elliott. The honorable senator has furnished us with a most valuable table of accurate information prepared by himself in collaboration with his friend, Lord Beaverbrook, in the Old Country. Those two gentlemen, from opposite ends of the Empire, have done much to stimulate inter-Empire trade. We should all do our best to foster that trade within the Empire which he has so ably advocated. Our delegates to the conference, Messrs. Bruce and Gullett, and those who accompanied them, as well as the members of the Cabinet sub-committee which prepared the case for Australia, have done Australia a great service, and are deserving of the country’s gratitude. I shall support the bill.
– I feel somewhat diffident in discussing the Ottawa agreement, in view of the able speeches to which I have listened during the last couple of days. As a believer in the principle of reciprocal trade within the Empire, I intend to support the bill. Much criticism has been hurled at those who attended the conference as representatives of Britain, Canada and Australia, but, in my opinion, all the delegates should be given credit for striving to reach an amicable and mutually satisfactory trade agreement. Although I favour the agreement generally, I am of the opinion that it contains some weaknesses from which Australia, as a primary-producing country, will suffer. The bargaining which took place at Ottawa has been condemned in each of the sections of the Empire to which I have referred. So strong has been some of that condemnation that one would be justified in concluding that the conference had proved a failure. From within its own ranks, the British Go vernment has been assailed, and a number of British Ministers have resigned as a protest against what was done at Ottawa. In Canada also, the Prime Minister has met a tirade of abuse from those who considered that he had given away too much. The Australian delegates to the conference have also been abused for having entered into a bad bargain. Here, also, one member of the Cabinet has resigned as a protest. In the face of all these happenings, it is difficult to say whether any dominion derived anything of value from the conference. From the criticism that has taken place, it would appear that no one is any better off than before. Nevertheless, I submit that much good must result although I consider that more would have been gained had the Commonwealth Government entered into the real spirit of preference. Now that we have the agreement, we should strive to get as much as possible out of it. Surely, no one will contend that there was no necessity for the several parts of the Empire to enter into negotiations for inter-Empire preference. Our economic situation demanded some reciprocal arrangement within the Empire. In Australia, which is essentially a primary producing country, we have seen the spectacle of hundreds of thousands of men seeking employment and unable to obtain it, notwithstanding that nature has been bountiful, and that the country has produced an abundance of food. Before the Ottawa Conference, the several parts of the Empire acted independently; and, indeed, erected barriers against one another. During the Great War, they were welded together because of a common desire to prosecute the war to a successful conclusion ; but since that time, there has sprung up, particularly in Australia, an anti-British spirit. The dominions were drifting away from each other and from the Motherland, and the whole nation was in danger. The welding or cementing influence which was needed was supplied by the Ottawa Conference. It is true that petty jealousies still exist - jealousies which certain sections of the community do their best to foster and maintain - but they should not be allowed to stand in the. way of the welding process to which I have referred. I, therefore, welcome the agreement as a tangible evidence of a desire for closer relationships between the component parts of the Empire, and I approve of its clauses. It is better that the tariff policy of Australia should be controlled by an independent body like the Tariff Board than that, it should be thrown into the melting pot of party politics every three years.
Australians, generally, are agreed that some form of protection of Australian industries is necessary. I am a protectionist, but not a high-tarrifist. I consider that we should be able so to adjust our tariff that it will not be burdensome or. our staple industries; our primary and secondary industries should live and grow alongside each other. There are some who advocate freetrade in the interest of our primary industries. Although a low.tariffist, I am prepared to fight to prevent the dumping into Australia of goods which can be made here at a price which is satisfactory to the home purchaser. I do not agree with some of the high prices charged for goods manufactured in Australia, because of the heavy burden they place on our primary industries, and on consumers generally. The agreement should be welcomed by all if it will assist in lowering the costs of production. Britain has been condemned for having driven a hard bargain, but if we analyse the position carefully, we shall find that Australia has gained more from the conference than has Britain. Australia’s adverse trade balance during the years 1927, 1928, and 1929 demanded a review of our trading operations. Britain’s position was similarly bad, her freetrade policy having resulted in a tremendous adverse trade balance with many countries. The following statement showing Britain’s unfavorable trade balance with a number of other countries during the year 1929 is interesting: -
These figures reveal the fallacy of Britain’s former freetrade policy. During the same year, Australia traded largely with the United States of America. Our imports from that country in 1929 were valued at £35,250,000 compared with exports valued at £5,750,000, thus leaving an unfavorable trade balance of £29,500,000. Prior to 1930, 75 per cent, of Britain’s trade was outside the Empire, and only 25 per cent, within the Empire. In this respect other countries set the British Empire an example. For instance, 80 per cent, of the trade of the colonies of the United States of America was with the parent republic, 65 per cent, of the trade of the Japanese colonies was with Japan, and 55 per cent, of the trade of French colonies was with France. Of the total exports from the United States of America 44 per cent, went to the British Empire. This meant that the republic sold more to British dominions than Britain herself did.
In recent years the Mother Country has been the dumping ground for wheat from East Prussia, France and Russia. All this foreign grain has been marketed in competition with Australian wheat. The French Government actually subsidizes wheat from its colonies to the extent of £1 a quarter, and last year, Russia dumped her wheat on the British market at 2s. a quarter below Australian prices.
This trade agreement will prevent Russian wheat from entering the British market on the same terms as previously. In future it will have to pay a duty of 2s. a quarter, whereas dominion wheat will be on the free list.
– The agreement will not prevent Russian wheat from being sold in the British market.
– I am aware of that, but it will have to pay a duty of 2s. a quarter. Britain has been generous in her trade relations with the dominions. The duties now imposed in our favour for butter, cheese, and fruit will be of great advantage to our producers, who, I am sure, will appreciate the concessions that have been given to us. In return for these concessions should we not give some preference to Britain by lowering our tariff barriers against her manufactured products? On this point
I disagree with the action of the Government. The margin of preference for British goods should have been provided by lowering the tariff against British goods, instead of increasing it against foreign goods. The duties against foreign goods have been raised in respect of about 440 items, but the number of items in respect of which the duties have been lowered is only . 26 - 20 British, and six, foreign. Australia’s already high tariff has been made higher. Manufacturers who, at the outset, condemned the agreement must surely now appreciate it. It is to be hoped, however, that no undue advantage will be taken of their favoured position, and that no attempt will be made to increase the prices of either British or Australian made goods.
The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) claimed that these tariff changes had been made in the interests of the Australian primary producer. The Ottawa agreement does not bear out his statement. The only way in which our primary producers could be assisted would be by lowering the tariff. I hope that the Tariff Board will give consideration to this aspect of the agreement when reviewing the duties.We cannot blame other countries if they raise their tariff barriers, because such action would be the logical outcome of Commonwealth tariff legislation. In our anxiety to obtain preferences from Britain we should be careful not to antagonize other countries. Senator Guthrie said just now that, as Japan and France were taking a considerable proportion of our wool, there was a risk that if we raised our tariff wall against their goods, our trade relations with them would be jeopardized. I agree with him. If we continue our present course we may find tariff obstacles placed in the way of our export trade to other countries, and our primary producers may be subjected to greater disabilities than they are suffering to-day.
I do not agree with those who say that the Ottawa agreement will accentuate our unemployment problem. The extremely low prices ruling in the world’s markets for our export products are, more than anything else, responsible for so much of the unemployment that exists in this country to-day. When Australian imports were at their highest level, employment in local manufacturing concerns reached its highest point. Tariffs during that period were high, but we were also receiving high prices for our wheat and wool. Consequently, the effect of the high protection was not felt so keenly as it is now, when trade has become stagnant. If we raise our present high tariffs against the importation of foreign goods, in all probability we shall not be able to export as freely as heretofore to those countries with whom we have friendly trade relations. More concessions should be given to our primary producers. This can be done by lowering the tariff, thus enabling them to reduce their cost of production.
[9.23]. - I wish to reply briefly to one or two points that were raised during the discussion. Senator Carroll referred to article 9, which reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that protection by tariffs shall be afforded only to those industries which are reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success.
The honorable senator also made some rather sarcastic remarks concerning the tariff-making propensities of Commonwealth governments. I direct his attention to the fact that the same article appears in the agreements between the Mother Country and Canada and New Zealand, and as the honorable senator seems to think highly of the latter dominion, I can only say that if article 9 is a reflection on our tariff, it is equally a reflection on the New Zealand tariff, which, to say the least, is very moderately protectionist.
Senator O’Halloran seemed to be in some difficulty about the meaning of article 5 which provides that the duties on foreign wheat in grain, copper, lead and zinc shall be conditional in each case on Empire producers continuing to offer those commodities “on first sale” in the United Kingdom at prices not exceeding world prices. I should like to set his mind at ease by telling him that those terms simply mean the sale by the producer or his bona fide agent to the consumer. In the case of metals, it refers to the sale to the fabricator in the United Kingdom, and in the case of wheat it refers to the sale of wheat by a wheat pool,
– Must those commodities be offered for sale in the United Kingdom before they are offered elsewhere ?
– No; the producer can seek his market where he pleases.
The most surprising criticism in this debate has, strangely enough, come from Queensland senators. Senator Brown, from the other side of the chamber, has declared that our primary producers in Queensland would suffer tremendous disadvantages from the Ottawa agreement. Senator Crawford, from this side, has asserted that Queensland had to give something away in order to secure advantages for some of the other States. With regard to sugar, he said that Great Britain had given a larger measure of preference to the products of her colonies which employ coloured labour than she had given to her own kith and kin in Australia. To me it is astonishing that an attempt should be made to create the impression that Queensland is not sharing sufficiently in the benefits that will come to Australia from the Ottawa agreement, because no State in the Commonwealth stands to gain more from the negotiations than Queensland does. The Australian delegation devoted more time to the solving of the meat problem than to any other question that was dealt with at Ottawa. It was the central feature of the discussions, and it is acknowledged on all hands, that most of the benefits secured for the meat industry will go to Queensland. Let me show exactly to what extent the northern State will benefit from the concessions given by Great Britain. Queensland possesses 4,500,000 beef cattle, or 52 per cent. of the total herds in Australia, and the exports from that State in 1930-31 were valued at £2,000,000 out of £2,250,000 for the whole of Australia,
– It is a great State !
– It is, and it is reaping the greatest benefits from the Ottawa agreement. An increase of1d. per lb. in the wholesale prices of those two commodities, as the result of the preferences given by Great Britain, means to the Queensland butter industry £300,000 a year, and to the cheese factories £30,000 a year, in addition to the £500,000 which goes to Queensland because of the increase of the price of beef.
Butthe most ungrateful references from Queensland senators was with regard to sugar, because the Mother Country takes practically the whole of the available export surplus from Queensland.
– The sugar preference is not part of the Ottawa agreement.
– I know it is not, but there is a British preference of £3 12s. per ton, and on the basis of 1931-32 exports it meant £1,000,000 to Queensland. No other Australian industry has received greater benefit from British preferential duties than has the sugar industry.
Complaint has been made that, in respect of sugar, Great Britain is allowing an additional preference of £1 a ton to the
British colonies, but I point out that those colonies are dependent upon Great Britain for their finance, and that many of them are financial liabilities to Great Britain.
– As our territories are to Australia.
– Yes; but to have extended the concession of fi a ton would have meant a further charge of £250,000 to the consumers of Great Britain. Honorable senators representing Queensland have made that suggestion, but I have not heard them submit any proposition by which we can in return extend a benefit of £250,000 to the British producers.
– - Is the Minister now referring to the differentiation between British colonies and dominion territories ?
– That is my next point. I have been referring to the alleged differentiation between British colonies and the State of Queensland. I now come to Senator Kingsmills point, in which he made an appeal on behalf of those territories under the jurisdiction nf Australia, and which lie within the tropics - I refer to Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. Australia has already done something for those territories. I remind honorable senators that we have provided for the free admission into Australia of a number of commodities considered suitable for production in those countries, including coffee, nuts, seeds and certain dried fruits, and have also provided certain concessions on coco beans, sago, and other such commodities. The total imports of these articles into Australia from all sources are valued at . some millions of pounds annually. That is a direction in which we have given substantial benefit to our territories, and it will be seen that in this respect Australia has not been unmindful of its responsibilities. The honorable senator also suggested that, under the Ottawa agreement, these territories should have been placed in a similar position to the British Crown colonies. That is an unreasonable proposition, for the reasons I have given with respect to sugar. These territories are in our charge, and it is for us to take action, at the cost of our own taxpayers if necessary, to see that they get a fair deal. To argue that Great Britain should go out of her way to confer on them an advantage similar to that which she has given to her own colonies is not a fair proposition.
– The point may be raised if the agreement should be varied.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.It can be raised at any time. It is not being considered at present, because sugar is not being produced in our territories.
Senator Kingsmill also raised the question of who should act as arbitrator in the event of a difference of opinion with respect to an interpretation of the agreement, and asked whether a court would have to decide the point. Senator Brennan has dealt so ably with that phase of the subject that there is no occasion for me to make any further reply.
Senator Collings quoted a circular issued by the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company on the 14th November, 1932, dealing with the state of the British butter market. That report referred to the decline in prices of butter in recent years, and stated that during the last few months the London market has been considerably depressed through abnormal quantities of butter arriving from Denmark and other continental countries. It also stated that the duty of 10 per cent, imposed by the United Kingdom on foreign butter has been of no immediate benefit to the dominions, as the London market has been . flooded with foreign importations which have caused prices to fall to their present low level. Senator Collings also quoted a letter which he had received which stated, inter alia, that the 10 per cent, preference had helped dominion producers very little, and that the 15s. per cwt. duty will hardly assist them. Both the circular of the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company and the letter quoted by the honorable senator are wide of the mark. It is true that the price of butter has declined seriously in the last two years, and that the price is no higher to-day than when the 10 per cent, duty was imposed; but honorable senators should know that the price decline is due primarily to the depression, and that the aggravation of the fall in prices caused by an increase of supplies is due chiefly to the increased exports from the dominions. In 1929 the total quantity of butter imported into the United Kingdom was 320,000 tons, of which foreign countries supplied 187,000 tons, and Empire countries 133,000 tons. In 1931 the total supplied was 400,000 tons, of which foreign countries supplied one-half and Empire countries one-half. That is, during the two years foreign supplies increased by 13,000 tons, and Empire supplies increased by 80,000 tons. During the same period Australia’s SUP- plies to the United Kingdom increased from 38,000 tons to 78,000 tons, that is, by 40,000 tons, or over 100 per cent. Early in 1932 two changes took place in market conditions, one of which was favorable to Australia’ and the other unfavorable. The favorable change was the imposition by the United Kingdom of the 10 per cent, duty, equivalent to about Id. per lb., against foreign butter. The unfavorable change was the new German duty imposed early this year which varied from 2^d. to 8fd. per lb., according to whether the countries affected had commercial treaties with Germany. This tariff is now to be varied. Germany, which formerly imported up to 130,000 tons a year, will fix a quota permitting the import of 55,000 tons a year at a duty of 4d. per lb. It might well be imagined that the German duties would have caused a flood of imports into the United Kingdom from foreign countries despite the 10 per cent. duty. The indications are, however, that European producers are feeling the stress of price conditions and are already curtailing exports. Compared with Germany’s 1930 imports of 130,000 tons of butter, her imports this year up to the 30th September were 50,000 tons, that is at the rate of approximately only 70,000 tons per annum. This decline in German imports might be expected to throw increased quantities on the British market in 1932, . because the United Kingdom- and Germany between them absorb 90 per cent, of the world export. Let us consider the position. In the six months ended 30th September, 1932 - that is the peak season of European exports - the supplies from Europe to the
United Kingdom were 2,000 tons less than in the corresponding period of 1931, while supplies from the Southern Hemisphere, chiefly New Zealand, increased. This decline in European exports to the United Kingdom can be attributed to the operation of the 10 per cent. duty. The effect of the 15s. per cwt. duty will be watched with interest during the coming European winter. It will discourage the purchase of those foodstuffs which are necessary to keep cows in profitable production during the long period when grazing is impossible. Foreign competition will be weakened and the way will be cleared for Australia to win an increasing share of the British market. The Government looks to the preferential duty as a powerful aid to Australian dairy development. No climate in Ohe world is more suitable for dairying than the Australian climate, and few have anything approaching its advantages. With the aid of the duty of 15s. per cwt., which is almost equal to our total marketing cost3, dairy farmers may look to the market possibilities in the future with more confidence than in the past. The facts which I have just given illustrate the danger of relying upon statements made without a knowledge of the true facts of the situation.
In dealing with the subject of meat, Senator Elliott said that it should have been possible to secure a duty even on beef, that the quota granted in respect of frozen meat will get Australia nowhere, and that we must force the people who control the me,at business in the United Kingdom to look to British and dominion sources for their supplies. That, he said, cannot be done by any quota system, particularly when it applies only to frozen meat; it can be done only by the imposition of a duty on meat entering the United Kingdom. Senator Crawford said that after the Ottawa agreement, prices of beef and mutton fell lower than ever before, and that Australia has had to agree to reduce her exports of beef and mutton. Senator MacDonald quoted the Graziers Association as having stated that no benefit will be reaped in regard to meat during 1933. To deal first with the assumption that the meat supplies in the United Kingdom should be provided from British and dominion sources. The figures which I quoted! in ray second-reading speech, indicate clearly that the United Kingdom at present depends upon imports for approximately 50- per cent, of her supplies. During recent years imports of meat into the United Kingdom have- been valued at approximately £100,000,000, and Empire countries have supplied a comparatively small proportion, of this. Australia’sshare is in the1 neighbourhood of £5,000,000 pea- annum.. Under the Ottawa agreement, with respect to meat, theUnited Kingdom has declared that its: policy is to- encourage, firstly, the home production- of m.:Lt and secondly, to afford to the dominions an increasing share in the import trade- It wenk! be ridiculous to assume that Empire countries could in the near future- supply the whole- of Britain’s import requirements, and it is equally ridiculous to suggest that the agreement does not provide for increased imports from the dominions to take the place of portion of the imports at present supplied by foreign countries. It is not true to assert that a duty of any reasonable amount upon foreign meat would be more effective than the system of restrictions in diverting trade from foreign countries to die dominions. The United Kingdom is practically the only world market for meat, and the foreign countries at present supplying meat to Great Britain have neither an alternative market nor a readily available alternative form of production. It is clear, therefore, that any duty, unless it were prohibitive, would only have a limited effect and the extent of its effect would be uncertain. On the other hand, the system of restrictions is certain and definite in its effect.
The United Kingdom has undertaken, to regulate imports of bacon so as to increase the price of that commodity to a level which will enable British farmers to produce bacon at a profit. Incidentally this will remove bacon from the sphere of competition with other classes of meat, and will do more than anything else to terminate the glut of meat in the United Kingdom, and thus improve the general level of wholesale prices. Commencing from the 1st January, 1933, ‘foreign countries will be required to limit their supplies of chilled beef to the level of the year ended the 30th June, 19.32. In that year the supplies were- lower ‘ than in any year since. 1925 - owing to the reduced consumption of beef, which has. of late been, intensified by the depression. South American countries have the capacity greatly to increase their supplies,, and they would do so with a return of prices to profitable levels.. The agreement prevents them from doing this, and thus prevents the Empire producers from reaping the advantages of a general uplift in prices. In addition to the limitation of chilled beef supplies-, the supplies of foreign frozen beef, mutton- and lamb, are to be reduced progressively until by the. 1st April, 1934, they will be 35 per cent, less than in the year ended the 30th June, 1932, and will be limited by that percentage during the term of the agreement. For the year ended 1933, Australia has agreed to limit her mutton and lamb export -to the United Kingdom to the level of the peak year ended the 30th June, 1932, and to limit tha exports of frozen beef to a figure exceeding the exports of the base year by not more than 10 per cent. After the end of 1933 Australia will secure two benefits under the agreement. We shall reap the advantage of improved prices and will in addition secure an increasing proportion of Britain’s imports owing to the limitation of foreign supplies. It is estimated that imports of foreign pig meats will bc reduced to 100,000 tons less than the imports in 1931. The imports of foreign frozen beef will be 10,000 tons les3 than in the base year, and imports of foreign mutton and lamb will be 34,000 tons less.
I shall now deal with the statements that no benefit will be reaped in regard to meat during 1933, that since the Ottawa agreement prices of beef, mutton, and lamb have fallen to lower levels than before and that Australia has had to agree to reduce her exports of beef, mutton and lamb. It is also true that, soon after the conclusion of the agreement at Ottawa, prices of meat in the United Kingdom markets suffered a further decline. But this was not due to the agreement, because the restrictions provided% for in that document are not to operate until the 1st January, 1933. The further reduction in prices was brought about by the accumulated glut of meat, due to the increased imports for many months. Recently the principal source of increased supplies of beef, mutton and lamb was New Zealand. Foreign countries, as a matter of fact, have sent reduced quantities of these commodities during 1932, compared with 1931. To meet the desperate situation created by the continued glut, the Government of the United Kingdom decided to impose restrictions on foreign meat during November and December of this year. To this arrangement I referred in my second-reading speech, and I also pointed out that Australia had agreed upon a temporary restriction of her exports of mutton and lamb - but not of beef - during the same months. The good effects of that policy are already evident. I draw the attention of Senator MacDonald to the fact that Australian frozen beef, which early this month was selling in. London at 2¼d. per lb. for forequarters, and 3d. per lb. for hindquarters, is now bringing 3¼d. for forequarters and 4d. for hindquarters. Australian frozen mutton was 2½d. per lb. early this month, and is now 3¾d. per lb. Australian frozen lamb, which was 4¾d. per lb., is now 6¼d. The improvement in wholesale prices, which has been achieved so rapidly, will be of very great value to Australia. It is difficult, of course, to forecast future price trends; but the stability given to the market by the clearance of the glut and by the assurance of future regulation, gives promise of greatly improved conditions ahead.
– The agreement, by having restricted our exports, prevents our taking advantage of those prices at the moment.
– It does not, because we are unable to increase our exports. We still have a margin within which they could be increased. I point out, too, that no restriction is placed on the export of beef.
– I am referring to lamb.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I am sorry that my honorable friends opposite appear to lament these increases in prices. I should have thought that they would have been noted with a chorus of approval, instead of one of disapproval. Let me emphasise that even in the tem porary restrictions to which we have agreed, exports of frozen beef from Australia to the United Kingdom are not affected. Beef producers will, therefore, benefit both in unrestricted exports and in improved price conditions. Even the friends of the Ottawa agreement did not. expect that such a rapid improvement in. the meat market could be brought about ; that it has been done is evidence of’ the value of the collaboration between the Governmentsof the United Kingdom and! Australia, commenced at Ottawa and extended by the special arrangement made during November and December of this year.
Senator Colsbatch criticized articles 9 to 12, both in regard to the interpretation of them, and also because in the Australian agreement the language used differs from that employed in the relative articles in the United Kingdom-New Zealand agreement. He asked for an explanation of the difference, and I shall supply him with the information that has been furnished to me.
In the first place, these agreements were not drawn up in concert, and one dominion was not aware of the articles proposed in the agreement being made by another dominion. Owing to the different methods of tariff-making in the various dominions - a point that I am sure Senator Colebatch will appreciate - it was not practicable to have identically similarly worded agreements. The agreements were doubtless so drawn up as to cover the conditions existing in the particular dominions with which the United Kingdom was making them. If the New Zealand agreement confers on the United Kingdom greater benefits than are conferred by the Australian agreement, the responsibility for it is on the New Zealand Government, and the Australian Government is not concerned in the matter. This Government’s policy was stated at the last elections, and is stated now, to be one of a competitive, as opposed to a prohibitive, tariff. We say that that policy is expressed in this agreement. Honorable senators listened with very great interest this afternoon to Senator Brennan’s masterly exposition of the particular portion of the agreement, which we believe expresses that principle.
– The right honorable senator’s time has expired.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Motion for Select Committee.
.- I move -
I move this motion for the reason that so many parties will be affected by the agreement. One has only to gaze at the map of the world to see how far-flung the British Empire really is. The component parts of that Empire, which on the map are shown in red, are to be subjected to what we know as the Ottawa agreement. The most important of them, I should say, are Canada, Australia, South Africa, and possibly, New Zealand, but their people are only few in number compared with the total of those who are really concerned in the agreement under which, as an Empire, we are supposed to protect ourselves as nearly as possible in a family sense, and to do our best for each other. So far as I have been able to gather from press reports, no part of the Empire with the exception of Great Britain has yet adopted the agreement.
– I rise to a point of order. The new Standing Orders which were adopted on the 11th March last provide for the procedure to be followed in regard to this motion. Had these Standing Orders not been adopted the honorable senator could not have submitted his motion. Standing Order 195a provides -
When it is the intention of the senator in charge of a bill to move that the bill be referred to the select committee or standing committee, the second reading may be moved pro forma, and in such case there shall be no speech by the mover and no debate: Provided that notice of intention to move pro forma must be given either at the time of fixing the date for second reading or not less than two clear sitting days before the date fixed for second reading, and such notice shall be placed on the notice-paper.
It is clear that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) has not submitted his motion under that Standing Order. Then Standing Order 196 states -
After the second reading, unless a motion (of which no tice need not be given) be moved for referring the bill to a select committee or a standing committee, or unless notice of instruction has been given, the Senate shall forthwith resolve itself into a committee of the whole for the consideration of the bill. Provided that when the second reading has been agreed to pro forma, on the first occasion for consideration of the bill in committee of the whole Senate the question shall be proposed “ that this bill be now committed “, and such motion shall be open to debate as though it were a motion for second reading.
That clearly is the Standing Order under which the Leader of the Opposition has submitted his motion, but I point out that the second reading was not agreed to pro forma. If a debate is to be allowed on a motion to refer a bill to a select committee we shall have two second-reading debates on a bill, although it is clear that the object of these Standing Orders is to avoid that. Surely the inference to be drawn is that the Senate never intended that there should be two debates on one measure. When the bill was read a first time action should have been taken to move pro forma that it be referred to a select committee.
– Would not the debate now be confined to the stating of reasons in favour of the bill being referred to a select committee?
– I should say that a debate, if permitted, on the motion would open up the whole subject again. I point out that whatever is done now will establish a precedent for the future. I should think that if it is desired to have a debate on a motion to refer this bill to a select committee, action should have been taken to have the bill read a second time pro forma. The opportunity to do that has gone, but I contend that there can be no debate on a motion to refer a bill to a select committee if the second reading has not been taken pro forma.
– I agree with the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) that the matter should be cleared up. Apart from the merits of the case, as to what is the intention of the Standing Order, it seems to me that the Leader of the Opposition is quite in order in submitting this motion. My desire is to prevent an honorable senator from being precluded on some subsequent occasion from debating such a motion as this.
– I amnot suggesting that the motion is out of order. All that I am asking is whether debate can be permitted upon it.
– If the first point of order is disposed of in a certain direction it will give me no opportunity to raise a further point of order to which I desire to direct attention. After having perused carefully not only the two new Standing Orders relating to this matter, but also the old Standing Order, it seems to me that the motion is entirely out of order.
– I am relying on Standing Order 196, which has been read by the Leader of the Government. I contend that my right to submit the motion is unassailable.
– I am not challenging the honorable senator’s right in that direction.
– Surely, if I had the right to submit the motion, I am entitled to state my grounds for doing so. I was proceeding to do so when the point of order was taken.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - The point of order raised by the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) is that under the new Standing Orders adopted in the early part of this year, there is no provision for a debate upon a motion such as that submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) to refer the bill to a select committee, and I am asked to rule that no debate can be allowed. It is true, as the Leader of the Government has said, that this is the first occasion on which these Standing Orders have been put to the test. They are silent on the point as to whether debate on a motion of this kind is permissible, whereas the Standing Orders they superseded provided that debate could take place upon an amendment, moved upon the motion for the second reading of a bill, to refer the bill to a select committee. It stands to reason, to my mind, that the liberties of honorable senators should not be curtailed, and in the absence of any express power being given to the Chair to forbid debate,I have always been in favour of interpreting the Standing Orders in such a way as to give honorable senators as much liberty as possible. Standing Order 407 reads -
Unless otherwise provided, every senator may speak once on -
any question before the Senate;
any amendment thereon;
in reply, if he is entitled to reply.
In committee, senators may speak more than once.
It is not “ otherwise provided “ that under the new Standing Order, discussion shall be prevented, and I rule that the Leader of the Opposition is in order in debating his motion, but he must confine his remarks strictly to the question- “ That the bill be referred to a select committee.”
– I have moved the motion because I believe that the Senate and the country generally would benefit from a thorough investigation by a select committee. I have no desire to delay the business of the Senate, or to act other than in the best interests of the British Empire. I am wholeheartedly in favour of bettering the position of all men everywhere. Australia is a part of the British Empire, and I do not dispute the benefits which civilization generally has gained from the unity of that Empire. I have no desire to see that unity disturbed. Nor do I charge any one who las had a hand in the preparation of this agreement with any desire to injure Australia. But I do claim that the agreement may not be in the best interests of the people in whom I am particularly interested - the younger generation of Australians. I a.m the father of a family, and I know that throughout Australia, many other fathers are gravely concerned because of the lack of opportunities for their sons and daughters. Thousands of our people are out of work, and it appears to me that this agreement will cause further unemployment. It is for that reason that I view it with grave concern. I want the Senate to be fully informed of the probable results of this agreement; and that can best be done by a thorough investigation by a select committee. I believe that our delegates to the Ottawa Conference did the best that they could.
– I ask the honorable senator not to wander from the motion before the Chair.
– I have no desire to carry on an extended argument. The committee that I have suggested comprises able men, who should be able to obtain information of value to the Senate. I am content to leave my motion in the hands of the Senate, and in view of its reasonableness, I cannot imagine an adverse vote.
-. - I support the motion, for which there is a precedent. When the Scullin ‘ Government was in office, the then Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Pearce) used the majority at his disposal to set up a select committee in connexion with the Central Reserve Bank Bill.
– The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the motion.
– I was referring to the precedent established by the. present Leader of the Senate, aided and abetted by his offsider Senator McLachlan. Now that the present Opposition attempts to follow in his footsteps’-
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable senator discussing the motion for reference of this bill to a select committee?
– I was about to call Senator Dunn’s attention again to the fact that he was wandering from the motion. I ask him to keep strictly within its limits.
– The Leader of the Opposition is within his rights in moving that this bill be referred to a select committee. The country should know why comrade Fenton resigned from the Ministry, and why Lord Snowden-
– I again remind the honorable senator that he must keep within the limits of the motion.
– I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition did not include in his motion a member of the party which I have the honour to lead in this chamber, because 1 believe that Senator Rae, with his long experience as a parliamentarian, in both the State and the Federal sphere, would be a valuable member of the committee. While the. committee would no doubt do good work during the four weeks mentioned in the motion, it would have been better had the period been fifty-two weeks, because in that, longer time it would be able to visit the Motherland, which is a party to the agreement, and obtain at first hand the opinions of the Labour party there. Similarly, the committee should have the opportunity to get into direct personal touch with the people of Canada, who also are affected by the agreement.
– Who would pay for their visit?
– The money which the Government inteuds to remit to wealthy squatters could be used for the purpose of sending the committee to the various portions of the British Empire, sn that it could submit a comprehensive report. I hope that the motion will b» agreed to.
– A few moments will suffice to enable me to say that this motion was moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) in all seriousness. Notwithstanding the facetious references of Senator Dunn to a world tour by the committee, for which no provision has been made in the Estimates, we on this side honestly feel that not sufficient is known about the agreement. We are of the opinion that the appointment of a select committee would enable much valuable information to ho placed before the Senate. Its appointment would, at least, enable us to know what the several dominions, including Australia, as well us the Mother Country itself, are to gut and to give. I am confident that every honorable senator whose name has been suggested by Senator Barnes, would be prepared to work honestly with a view to obtaining information on which a comprehensive report could be submitted to the Senate, which would then at least have sound reasons for making the decision which I assume a majority of the Senate has already agreed upon. The motion is submitted with a view to enabling every member of this chamber to understand more fully than is possible to-night exactly what this agreement means to the Commonwealth.
– I have no desire to traverse the reasons already advanced by honorable senators who have preceded me in this debate, nor shall I attempt to amplify the excellent arguments which have already been advanced in favour of the motion for the appointment of a select committee to consider fully the implications of the agreement with a view to furnishing a report to this chamber. The possibility of different interpretations being placed upon certain articles in the agreement suggests the wisdom of a complete investigation in the interests of the two contracting parties. As has been pointed out by Senator Collings, an examination of the agreements with other dominions may disclose considerable variations in their terms as compared with the document which we are now asked to ratify. But the strongest argument in favour of the motion is that the agreement, in its present form, will vitally affect certain primary industries in Australia and the whole of our secondary industries. The appointment of a select committee will give representatives of those industries an opportunity to state their views, and the Senate, when it receives the report of the committee, will make its decision with a full knowledge of what the agreement means to Australia- whether or not it will be detrimental or advantageous to the interests mentioned. For these and many other reasons which could be advanced, I support the motion.
Motion (by Senator Sampson) put -
The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. P. j. Lynch.)
N oes . . . . 9
Majority . … 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question - put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch.)
Majority . … 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 1 agreed to.
The following paperswere presented : -
Australian Wool Industry - Reportbythe Commonwealth Wool Inquiry Committee, dated 26th October, 1932.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 130).
Senate adjournedat 10.46p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 November 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19321124_senate_13_137/>.