13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President(SenatortheHon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinance No.6 of 1932- Export of Bananas.
Papua Act- Ordinances of 1932 -
No.6 - Arms, Liquor and Opium Prohibition. No. 7 - Native Taxes.
Science and Industry Research Act - Sixth Annual Report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, for year ended 30th June, 1932.
Seatof Government, Acceptance Act and Scatof Government ( Administration)
Act - Ordinances of 1932 -
No. 20 - Trespass on Commonwealth Lands.
No. 21 - Court of Petty Sessions.
Reportof Inter-Departmental Committee
– I ask the Leader of the Senate if the committee appointed by the Government to investigate questions concerning aviation has completed its inquiry and presented a report. If not, can the right honorable gentleman say when the report is likely to be available, or when a statement of Government policy will be made with respect to the future control of aviation in Australia?
– The committeehas presented its report, which is now being considered by the Government. It is expected that a decision upon the matters investigated will be made shortly. Anannouncement of Government policy will then be made, and the report of the committee will be available.
Wearing Apparelof Visitors
– Will the Leader of the Senate state whether there is a regulation which prohibits the entrance toany of the public galleries of the Senate of a person who is not wearing acoat? The reason that I ask is that men who are keenly interested in our debates, and are affected by some of the legislation that comes up for consideration, cannot obtain entrance because they do not possess coats.
– The control of the House lies with the presiding officers.
SenatorBARNES. - Will you, Mr. President, reply to the question that I have asked ?
– A curtain standard of decorum must be observed in the Senate, and I should say thata person who seeks admission to one of the galleries minus his coat has certainly not endeavoured to comply with it, regardless of what excuse he might advance for the omission.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the Standing Orders Committee be requested to give consideration to Standing Orders 195a and196 with a view to their simplification, andalso to consider the advisability of their amendment so as to prevent repetition of debate.
Alleged Disaffection - Prosecution of Newspaper
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers tothe honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Would the diverting of the 40,000 centals of imported bananas (allowed under the Ottawa agreement from Fiji), to the bananastarved peoples of Western Australia be constitutional. If so, would the Government take immediate steps to divert these imports from Sydney and Melbourne to WesternAustralia?
– Sydney and Melbourne are specified in the agreement as the ports at which bananas fromFiji admitted to Australia, pursuant to the agreement, may be landed. Any diversion to a Western Australian port would involve a variation of the agreement which could only be offered with the consent of all the parties.
Consideration resumed from the 25th November (vide page 2958).
– I move -
That the following new clause be added: - “3. In operating theagreementthemargin of preference in favourof British goods set out in Schedule F shall be obtained by lowering British,and not raising foreign duties, except on items where British duties are so low that the margin could not otherwise be obtained.”
– I rise to order. If wo have approved of the agreement how can we now amend it ? I submit that the only course open to the honorable senator is to move to have the bill re-committed for the purpose of enabling him to move his amendment on clause 2. Otherwise I submit that the proposed new clause is out of order.
– Speaking to the point of order, I may say I cannot think that the honorable and learned gentleman has read the amendment; it, does not propose to alter any portion of the agreement.
SenatorDaly. -What does it propose to do?
– It does not propose to affect in any way the ratification of the agreement. If adopted, it would not have the effect of amending the agreement in the slightest degree. I should not have moved it if it would have that effect, because it had already been fully explained that any alteration of the agreement would mean its nullification and I was one of those who were anxious to see the agreement ratified, as has been done under clause 2. The proposed new clause which I have moved is merely providing machinery instructing the Government as to lines upon which effect shall be given to the agreement. It does not affect the agreement any more than does clause 1. It merely sets out the way in which the Government should administer the agreement. As showing that it is strictly in order, I may say that it is to ensure that the agreement is administered in keeping with its spirit.
TheCHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays). - Early in the committee stage I gave a ruling as to the procedure to be adopted in considering this bill in committee.
I have given thought to the amendment moved by Senator Johnston and it appears to me that the only point of order that could be raised is one of relevancy. In my opinion, the new clause moved by Senator Johnston does not affect the agreement which has been made between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the Commonwealth - this Parliament was not a party to it - but it does suggest a way in which, without altering the margin of preferences, effect shall be given to the agreementby the Commonwealth Government without in any way involving the Government of the United Kingdom. It seems to mo that if the proposed new clause were agreed to, the course it suggests would not clash with article 16, under which the two parties to the agreement may settle any difference that may arise between them. It is quite within the province of this Parliament to say how the Government of the Commonwealth shall carry out the agreement provided it does not, in any way, interfere with the terms of the agreement itself; it is quite in order for it to say that the British preferential duties should be reduced. I, therefore, rule that the proposed new clause is in order.
– Schedule F of the bill provides for certain margins of preference being granted to Great Britain. This proposed new clause seeks to ensure that the real spirit of the Ottawa agreement shall be observed, and that we shall live up to the undertaking given by Mr. Bruce andMr. Gullett at Ottawa on behalf of the Commonwealth. I contend that so far we have failed to do so, as out of the 440 items on which the tariff schedule tabled by this Government has been increased to give effect to the agreement, in no fewer than 317 cases could the same margins have been retained by reducing the British preferential duties. In 123 cases it has been found necessary to increase the tariff to the foreigner to obtain the necessary margin of preference, but in. 20 cases only has the Government reduced the existing British rates, compared with the 317 in connexion with which there was ample room to vary them either way. The Government, however, preferred to increase the duties against foreign countries rather than lower the duties against Britain. Any onereading the agreement would not have expected the result desired to be achieved by increasing the duties against foreigners. I have before me a copy of the United Empire Review, a journal published by the Royal Empire Society, which for many years was better known as theRoyal Colonial Institute. It contains an article on the Ottawa Conference headed, “ The Historic Achievement of its Deliberations “, and written by Sir Benjamin Morgan. It says -
In the recent past it is not an unfair generalization to say that while, in the main, dominion preferences have been effective, alarge proportion have been totally ineffective through the growth of the practice of increasing British preferences by increasing the duty to the foreigner in an alreadyhigh tariff. In the present agreements, the opportunity and more effective practice has been widely followed of decreasing the duties on British goods to effect a preference in addition to extending the free list. It has, moreover, been generally widely recognized that protective duties should only be applied in future to industries that have a fair prospect of success, judged by ordinary manufacturing considerations, or alternatively, unless the industries protected are essential to the particular dominion fromthe point of view of national security or otherwise.
I have read many other articles on similar lines, but there is no doubt, as the portion of this article which I have just quoted says, that it was expected that under this agreement the British preferential duties would be reduced. I have shown that that course has not so far been followed by this Government, although it has had the opportunity to do so. It is clear that Mr. Fenton thought that the policy of reducing the tariff against Britain would be followed, as the people of Britain also” expected. Had Mr. Fenton realized that the Government would put this agreement into operation by increasing the tariff against the foreigner in the majority of cases he would probably not have resigned. He expected that the Government would carry out both the spirit and the letter of the Ottawa agreement. It seems to me that we have sold the Old Country a gold brick. In increasing duties against the foreigner, we have not given Britain preferential treatment. The high tariff policy of the Scullin Government has, to a great extent, been retained, and, in addition, we have increased the tariff againstthe foreigner, in a large number of cases, allegedly in accordance with this agreement. The Government appears to have overlooked the fact that since the Scullin tariff was imposed, primage duty amounting to 10 per cent. in many cases, and also the exchange rate, has placed an added burden on our people.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that in referring to the Scullin tariff and the effect of the exchange rate, the honorable senator is not discussing his own amendment.
– I have been waiting for the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the amendment, and I now ask him to do so.
– In support of the amendment, I am submitting that the high tariff of the Scullin Government, together with the primage duty and the high exchange rate, has placed an extra burden on the consumers of imported goods. These extra charges are an added reason for reducing the tariff on British goods.
– The honorable senator would be in order in making passing references to these matters; but he should not dwell unduly on subjects not directly associated with his amendment.
– In his budget speech, the Treasurer forecast a lower customs revenue because of the reductions of customs duties which would result from the Ottawa agreement. But instead of reducing duties, the Government has adopted the opposite course; it has raised the tariff barrier against the foreigner, leaving the Britishtariff where it was. My amendment is in direct opposition to that policy. If carried, it would implement the announced policy of the Government, and ensure that the Ottawa agreement, the object of which is to permit trade to flow freely between Australia and the Motherland, would be carried out. The carrying of the amendment would assist Britain, and also Australia, because it would reduce the costs of production and thereby give increased employment in primary industries. The barrier against Britain is already too high, and it will not help the Old Country if we run another barbed wire along the top of the fence in order to keep out foreign goods.
[3.25]. - I remind Senator Johnston that this agreement is one between Great Britain and Australia, and that Britain is not concerned with the duties we impose against the foreigner. The amendment deals with the action of the Government in raising the duty against foreign goods. If honorable senators will study articles 9 to 12 of the agreement, they will see what was agreed to by the Governments of Australia and the United Kingdom. No promise was made by Australia, either verbal’y or in the agreement itself, that the duties against Britain would he lowered. The promise made to Britain is contained in articles 9 to 12. First of all, articles 9 and 10 lay down the principles which are to be observed. Then article 11 provides -
Hia 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 8ha.ll be invited to vary, wherever necessary, the tariff ou goods of United Kingdom origin in such manner as to give effect to such principles, while article 12 is as follows: -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that no new protective duty shall bc imposed and no existing duty shall be increased on United Kingdom goods to an amount in excess of the recommendation of the Tariff Tribunal.
Australia’s obligations to Britain are set out in those articles, and it is, therefore, useless for the honorable senator to attempt to make it appear that the action of the Government is in any way opposed to either the spirit or the letter of the agreement. Nor was the honorable senator quite fair to the Government when he said that only twenty duties had been decreased. Reductions of duty have been made by the Government in 100 cases on the recommendation of the Tariff Board. The honorable senator also suggested that Mr. Fenton resigned because he thought that the Government would reduce duties against Britain, but he ignored the fact that, at the time of his resignation, Mr. Fenton knew that the Government did not propose, by its own act, to reduce the duties against Britain, but that it intended that the relevant part of the tariff schedule should be reviewed by the Tariff Board in the light of the articles contained in the agreement.
– I did not know that.
– That was the policy to which the Government was pledged. The honorable senator’s suggestion is unfair to Mr. Fenton who, in a public statement, explained that he resigned because he objected to the articles in the agreement.
I was surprised at the argument of the honorable senator that a high exchange rate is equivalent to an increase of the tariff. I have a lively recollection of the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) conducting a campaign throughout the country in which he urged that a higher exchange rate would benefit primary industries. It may be well if I were to give the reasons why the Government increased the duties against the foreigner instead of reducing the duties against Britain. The Government acted in accordance with its promise that duties would be reviewed by the Tariff Board. The present tariff is a temporary one. The Tariff Board will review all the remaining items which it has not yet considered. Had the Government reduced the duties against Britain, it would have prejudged the case to be submitted to the Tariff Board, and it would have broken its promise to follow a certain procedure. Under the agreement, protective items will come under review by the board, after which the Government will take action. The honorable senator may then vote either for the retention of the existing duties or for the duties recommended by the Tariff Board. I contend that the Government’s action is in accord with the spirit of the agreement, and with the pledges that the Government made to the electors. Moreover, I say it is the fair course to take, because it does not prejudice Britain - the other party to the agreement - and it leaves Australia free to review, not only the British duties, but also the duties against the foreigner, for the Tariff Board will review the duties against both Great Britain and the foreigner. Therefore, I appeal to the committee to reject the amendment. I assure honorable senators that it is the desire and the intention of the Government that the Tariff Board shall. as speedily as possible, pass under review both the foreign and the British duties. The Government will thus honour its promise to the electors - a promise which is repeated in the agreement - and Parliament will have ample opportunity to take action in whatever direction it desires in regard to the reports of the Tariff Board. The Government will, of course, announce to the Parliament the board’s decisions, and the action proposed to be taken upon them. To take any other course would be to act in violation of the pledges that the Government would not, of its own volition, arbitrarily alter the tariff. To give effect to the agreement, which provided for a wider margin of British preference than in the existing tariff, there were only two courses open to us - either to increase the duties against the foreigner or to reduce the duties against Britain. We have undertaken to review the duties against Britain, but any reduction of duties against Britain will come about through the Tariff Board, and not as the result of arbitrary action on the part of the Government.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [3.33]. - I trust that the committee will accept the proposed new clause. It seems to me that the Leader of the House (Senator Pearce) is losing sight of all the facts of the position. He is not taking cognizance of the fact that the present tariff” schedule was tabled in 1929, and has been buttressed too by increased primage and exchange. It is the tariff which the great majority of members of this chamber denounced as extravagantly high. Surely we are now entitled to maintain the attitude that we took up when that schedule was tabled in 1929. We are told that a number of duties have already been reduced in compliance with the Tariff Board’s report. Surely that is utterly inconsistent with a statement made the other day that no instruction had been given to the board to base its recommendations on undertakings given to Great Britain in the agreement; and if honorable senators will take the trouble to read the Tariff Board’s reports, they will see that it is entirely inconsistent with any suggestion that the board has been instructed to act in accordance with the agreement; because, in case after case where a reduction of the Scullin duties has been recommended by the board, it has specifically said, “ The duty we now recommend will secure the entire market to the Australian manufacturer, even without the advantage of exhange “. So, in these cases, the Government is not carrying out the spirit of thi* agreement. Neither is the board, and tfe were told the other day that it had not yet been instructed to carry out the agreement. Senator Pearce now says that certain duties have been decreased in accordance with the recommendations of the board - recommendations that are not based on the Ottawa agreement. Finally, “we are told that this is only a temporary tariff. How is that statement to be reconciled with the avowed determination of the Government to push on with this “temporary” tariff and secure for it parliamentary authority, something which has not been obtained for any tariff since I have been a member of this Senate? Surely these two statements are utterly inconsistent. If it is only a temporary tariff, why is it proposed to put it in the statute-book?
– Not until we have received the reports of the Tariff Board.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Senator Pearce knows as well as I do that, so long as the tariff remains in its present form - merely a tariff collected upon resolutions submitted in the House of Representatives - it is competent for the Government to reduce any one of those items directly it receives a Tariff Board report upon it. But once the tariff is passed by Parliament - and the Government persists, apparently, in getting its schedule passed through Parliament - a Tariff Board’s report can have no effect, and effect cannot be given to this agreement except after a lengthy process, lasting many months, possibly years. It is ridiculous to suggest that the Senate is not within its power in prescribing, consistent with the views expressed by the majority in this chamber twelve months ago, that the method by which effect shall be given to the agreement is by a lowering of the British duties, and not by increasing the duties against the foreigner.
– The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat said that he hoped that the Government would accept the proposed new clause. There are others who hope so, particularly the members of the Australian Association of British manufacturers, who arc anxious, not that the duties shall be lowered in the interests of British manufacturers, but that they should be lowered all round in the interests of im- porters, and to the destruction of Australian industries, and the throwing out of employment of a great many Australian workers.
Honorable senators interjecting,
– I hear expressions of dissent. I am as much entitled to express my views as are those who hold freetrade opinions, and are always seeking to have tariff schedules amended in the interests of the importers. Complaint is made that the Government is not carrying out the Ottawa agreement. I understand that the agreement will not operate until it has been approved by the Parliament. Why should any action have been taken to forestall what either branch of the legislature might do with regard to the agreement. I consider that the Government has acted consistently throughout, and I hope that it will stand firm to the agreement, and repel all attacks made against it by those who are seeking to forward the interests of the importers.
.- I intend to follow the course that I indicated in my secondreading speech on this measure. I then said that it was a matter of disappointment to me that the Government had made up its mind to afford the preference to the Mother Country by a system of increasing foreign duties and leaving the British duties where they now are. I remember very well that when the Scullin duties were tabled and became effective, a number of honorable senators on this side said that they were not protective but prohibitive, and were intended to be prohibitive. That is what impressed me, and, believing as I do, without being a freetrader and without “ wishing to protect the importer “, that the only way in which a fair thing can be done by the people of the States of Australia is by giving preference in the way that I have indicated, by reducing British duties, and leaving foreign duties as they stand, I shall support the amendment. If honorable senators will read the various articles of the agreement, they will see that behind it there is the fear that duties may be increased so as to prejudice the natural trade of Britainwith her dominions. That is one thing which makes me think that, when the conference was being held, and when the agreement was being reached, the underlying thought, at all events of the British delegates, was a fear of duties being increased beyond a reasonable limit. It is provided in the articles in at least two cases that the duties are not to be increased to the exclusion of Britain. When the Scullin tariff schedules were introduced, many honorable senators expressed the view that the duties were prohibitive. I am still of that opinion. I fail to see how we can talk of giving preference to Britain if we allow to remain duties which practically keep her goods out of the Australian market. It seems to me that a majority of the people’s representatives in this Parliament have gone protection mad. Because of the tariff increases in recent years, the smaller States have not been given a chance to developalongsoundlines.As a representative of Western Australia, and as one who has at heart the interests of Australia, I hope that the duties on British imports will be lowered.
– I am more concerned about the maintenance of the existing Australian tariff than I am about the admission of foreign goods. Although the amendment has been submitted by Senator Johnston, it is really the handiwork of Senator Colebateh, whose freetrade views are so well known.
– There is not a word of truthin the statement that I drafted the amendment.
– I recognize, of course, that Senator Johnston is entitled to bring forward his amendment in the name of the United Country Party.I admit that, in these abnormal times, tariff protection is merely a palliative for the financial and economical troubles that beset all countries, Australia included; but it is the best expedient that we have yet devised for the protection of Australian industries and Australian workmen, and I cannot support any proposal to lower duties merely to enable farmers in Western Australia to obtain a little more cheaply a few sheets of galvanized iron for the construction or repair of farm outbuildings. My concern is to protect Australian industries against the foreigners, including the United States of America which is now demanding its pound of flesh, not only from Australia, but also from the British Empire. I feel very much annoyed at this an ti- Australian attitude of the honorable senator and of Senator Colebatch who is supporting him. I also give notice of my intention to move an amendment to article 10 to provide that nothing in the agreement shall affect the standard of wages of the Australian workers.
– I admit that, in view of what I said in my second-reading speech, it might be thought that, to be consistent, I should vote for the amendment; but I hope to be able to show that it is possible to reconcile those views with an objection to the amendment now before the committee. It is quite clear that, if this amendment is in order, it would be equally in order to move an amendment expressing the view that preference to Great Britain should be given by raising the duties against the foreigner, and not by lowering them against Great Britain. “What would Senator Johnston say if a majority in this chamber carried an amendment on those lines? What objection would be urged? It would be said, “ You are seeking to direct the Tariff Board as to how it shall recommend that this preference shall be given. You are interfering with a quasijudicial tribunal which this Parliament has set up, and that is most improper.” With that criticism, I should feel bound entirely to agree. By means of the proposed new clause, Senator Johnston seeks to direct the Tariff Board as to what line it shall pursue. I cannot but think that constitutionally that is entirely improper. In the present state of feeling in both Houses of this Parliament, we must rely more and more upon the judicial calm of the Tariff Board for any relief that we are to obtain. Senator Colebatch has referred to the fact that no instruction has yet been given to the Tariff Board as to how it shall pursue its inquiries, in view of the fact that this agreement has been signed. With great respect to the honorable senator, with whose political views generally I. usually find myself in agreement, I consider that the reply made to him by the right honorable the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) puts the position in the correct light, namely, that this agreement not having been ratified by both Houses of the Parliament and given the force of law, it would be premature for the Government to issue instructions to the Tariff Board. But so soon as it becomes a part of the law of the land, it will then be the duty of the Tariff Board, and of any other board or tribunal set up under the powers of the Parliament, to take cognizance of the fact that it is upon the statute-book. The Tariff Board will bear in mind that the Commonwealth Government has agreed, in the language of article 10, that “the tariff shall be based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative cost “. In considering what is a full opportunity of reasonable competition, the board will have to take into account both branches of the tariff, namely, that which operates against Great Britain and that which operates against foreign countries. It will surely realize that if the tariff is so raised against Great Britain that that country has not a full opportunity of reasonable competition, the terms of an agreement solemnly entered into between the Australian and the British people are not being observed. Therefore, when the board comes to consider the tariff in the light of this agreement, it will have to mould it in such a way that, irrespective of British or foreign importations, the British manufacturer will have reasonable opportunity of fair competition. That appears to be the fiscal policy of the Government, and the protection which Senator Johnston is seeking to obtain by what I venture to suggest are constitutionally improper means-
– What about article 16?
– I see in article 16 nothing except the common-sense arrangement that if, in the working of the agreement, the course of time reveals difficulties that could not have been foreseen, they shall be made the subject of discussion, and, I have no doubt, the subject of accommodation. For my part,
I look with considerablehope - I was about to say confidence, but perhaps that is going too far - to the part that the Tariff Board will play in future in moulding our tariff. I look forward to the day when the Tariff Board will be strengthened, and when we shall realize that it is utterly impossible for members of Parliament, as a body, to go through a tariff schedule containing over 400 items, and give to each of them the attention that it deserves.We have resorted very extensively to the practice of delegating our powers. If ever there was a subject upon which a delegation of powers might be made with advantage, I submit that it is this extraordinarily complicated subject of the tariff; because what has first of all to be learned, what is the very foundation of an intelligent discussion of the tariff, is that it is much more difficult than honorable senators opposite and one honorable senator on this side appear to realize.
– Nonsense ! The honorable senator is not the repository of all the wisdom of the Senate.
– So far as I was able to hear the honorable senator, I understood him to say that I did not possess all the wisdom on tariff matters. Apparently he has not realized that I am disclaiming wisdom, not only on my own part, but also, if I may do so, on his part. I am pointing out that what honorable senators opposite have not realized is that the whole question of economic relations between countries possesses immense difficulties.
– Again I say that the honorable senator has no right to make such a statement. It is insulting.
– Far from insulting the honorable senator, to my mind, when I place him on an intellectual level with myself, I flatter him.
– The honorable senator is now more insulting. His remarks are objectionable to me, and I ask that they be withdrawn.
– If the honorable senator will state what remarks are objectionable to him, I feel sure that Senator Brennan will withdraw them.
– Senator Brennan has made the statement, and reiterated it more than once, that honorable senators on this side and one honorable senator who is a member of the Country party do not understand the magnitude of tariff propositions, and the relations that exist between different countries. That remark is a reflection upon my intelligence, and is objectionable to me; consequently, I ask that it be withdrawn.
– The remark to which the honorable member refers is not unparliamentary.
– I did not say that it was unparliamentary.
– Order ! The honorable senator will have ample opportunity to show that he has intelligence on the subject.
– May I take it that I am now allowed to proceed?
– Is the honorable senator thus to be allowed to aggravate his offence?
– For the time being, I am in charge of the proceedings of the committee. If I consider that the honorable senator’s remarks are objectionable, I shall call him to order. If he makes a remark that is objectionable to the honorable senator, and upon my attention being drawn to it I consider that it is objectionable and unparliamentary, I shall call for its withdrawal.
– I have endeavoured, while I have been in the Senate, and shall continue to do so however long I may occupy a seat in this chamber, not to say one word that is personally offensive to any member of it. I hope and believe that, so far, I have carried out that determination. Surely, it is not going too far to say thatthe question of fiscal relations between countries is an extraordinarily difficult one.
– Hear ! hear !
– I was merely linking up my expression of that belief with the expression of the hope that we should realize more and more the propriety of delegating the whole question of the tariff to a competent body which is in a position to take evidence, examine the facts, and make recommendations. I linked that up with the proposed new clause by directing attention to the terms of article 10. in the light of which, 1 said, I regarded as constitutionally improper the proposal brought forward by Senator Johnston, because, in my opinion, it would be an improper direction to give to a quasi-judicial, if not an entirely judicial, tribunal. The results hoped for from the proposed new clause, I trust, will follow from the operation of article 10 of the agreement’ as it stands. Therefore, I consider that the committee should reject this proposal.
– I did not intend to speak to the proposed new clause, which I oppose, because it’ does not appear to me to get us anywhere; but certain remarks that have been made during the debate demand a reply.
It has been said that the last Government altered the tariff without consulting the Tariff Board, and that a similar practice has been adopted by the present Government. I wish to make clear my opinion of such a practice. The Government, and not the Tariff Board, is responsible for the tariff, and any administration would be utterly stupid if, to avoid the destruction of the country, it failed to alter it, even though the alterations might be contrary to recommendations of the board
.- “Who is to be bound by. the terms of the proposed new clause, if agreed to - the Tariff Board, or the Government?
– It does not bind any one.
– It must bind some one. If it is to bind the Tariff Board, I say, with respect, that article 12 of that agreement must be deleted.
– It merely binds the Government to carry out a principle.
– Under article 12, the Tariff Board is to be given the right to carry out a definite principle; that is unquestionable. Then we’ have the suggested new clause, which proposes a reduction of duties against Britain. If adopted, there would be no restriction on the Tariff Board, as article 12 is binding upon, that tribunal. I cannot, therefore, support the proposed new clause.
.- I intend to support the proposed new clause because I believe that it embodies the principle that should govern this legislation. It is proposed to give preference to Britain wherever possible, and that is all that the proposed new clause seeks to do.
– It seeks to direct the Tariff Board.
– I submit that it does not. If Senator Brennan will read the articles in the schedule, he will find it difficult to mention one in which any instruction is given to the Tariff Board. Article 12, which has already been referred to, instructs the Government not to impose duties higher than those recommended by the Tariff Board, but there is nothing in that article to say that this Parliament shall not reduce the existing British preferential rates instead of increasing the duties on foreign goods in order to preserve the margin of preference set out in the agreement. The existing tariff schedule was tabled last month, and we know that it will operate for some time. Most of the prohibitive duties contained in it have been imposed without any reference to Parliament excepting by way of a resolution. In view of the attitude I adopted, and the illustrations which I gave during my second-reading speech, I cannot doother than support the proposed new clause moved by Senator Johnston. I do not regard it as embodying an instruction to the Tariff Board. The only instruction it contains is that the Government shall not impose duties higher than recommended by the Tariff Board; but there is no instruction to the Government not to impose duties lower than those that may be recommended by that board.
– I agree with ‘the opinion expressed by Senator Millen, and I hope that the committee will not waste too much time over this proposed new clause. If “we were to accept the advice of Senator Payne and Senator Johnston, we should make the committee appear ridiculous. To ascertain what is desired all that we have to do is to read the proposed new clause. Senator Brennan forcibly explained the position and Senator Millen also put his finger on its real effect. It would be better to get the committee to the height of intelligence displayed by Senator Brennan than to aspire to the height desired-
– I should like to get the honorable senator to the heightaspired bySenator Brennan.Will the honorable senator read the amendment ?
– I have done so. Whatdoes the agreement provide? Two formulas are prescribed, one in respect of certain goods and another in respect of other goods. Great Britain is satisfied with the preferences decided upon under this agreement, and we are merely tinkering around to sweeten up some one.’ The proposed new clause should be disposed of to enable us to proceed with more important business. I therefore move -
That the committee do now divide.
Question put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon.
Herbert Hays.) Ayes . . . . . . 12
Noes . . . . . . 19
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
– While I agree entirely with the object of the proposed new clause moved by Senator Johnston, I feel that the honorable senator has overlooked the fact that its adoption by the committee would have the effect of delaying the ratification of the agreement for some considerable time. For that reason I intend to oppose it.
– I am generally in favour of supporting any proposal to provide the fullest opportunity for freedom of speech, but, on this occasion, I supported the motion moved by Senator Daly, “ That the committee do now divide “, because if I have even a glimmering of the intelligence to which Senator Brennan referred, I see in this proposed new clause an attempt to direct the Tariff Board to introduce even a greater measure of freetrade than exists to-day. The proposed new clause provides that -
The margin of preference in favour of British goods set out in Schedule F shall be obtained by lowering British, and not raising foreign duties, except on items where British duties are so low that the margin could not otherwise be obtained.
The object is to lower the British preferential duties against the’ Australian manufacturers who, if that were done, would be severely hit.
SenatorCollings. - That is the intention.
– It is.I strongly resent the suggestion of Senator Brennan that this Parliament is incapable of doing its job, and that, in tariff matters, we are incapable of exercising ordinary intelligence. It is ridiculous to suggest that, in tariff matters, the 76 members of another place and the 36 members of this chamber cannot arrive at a fairly accurate decision. I do not suppose that one item would come up for consideration in another place upon which at least one honorable member would not have an intimate knowledge. In this chamber there are also a number of business men who have a close knowledge of practically every large industry in the Commonwealth. I am opposed to this measure principally because under it Parliament is losing its control in tariff matters. That that is one of its weaknesses is shown by the proposed new clause moved by Senator Johnston, who wishes the committee to give a direction to the Tariff Board. It is a most damnable proposal.
– Then I shall say that it is most provoking that Parliament should be asked to surrender its powers to some outside authority. Senator Brennan informed Senator Collings, in his usual mildly contemptuous way, that we are not sufficiently intelligent to do the work which the Tariff Board undertakes.
– The honorable senator is now showing that he is not sufficiently intelligent to follow my line of argument.
– The honorable senator suggests that we should regard the Senate as a playground; that we are incapable of understanding tariff schedules. We should get to work and understand them. We are paid to do our job, not to come for an occasional week and then say helplessly, as has Senator Brennan, that we know nothing of Australian industries as affected by these schedules. That is what we are expected to do. There is no necessity to delegate our powers to boards and commissions. During the regime of the Bruce-Page Government from 20 to 30 boards and commissions were appointed.
– I ask the honorable senator to discuss the proposed new clause.
– I intend to do so; but I cannot sit here and listen to such nonsense put into our ears that, on tariff matters, we arc unable to come to an intelligent decision. We have to pay through the customs. It is one way in which the people are taxed. My objection to the amendment is that it will merely have the effect of telling the Tariff Board to decrease the protection given to Australian manufacturers.
– I intend to support the amendment moved by Senator Johnston, for the reason that, since I have been a member of the Senate, no opportunity has been afforded to honorable senators to express their opinions on the general question of tariffs. Even the Customs Bill which was introduced some months ago, and dealt with until the last clause was reached, has apparently, been put into store. It now appears at the bottom of the notice-paper, and it is doubtful whether it will again come before the Senate, notwithstanding that some of its clauses were held to be most important. After all, the Senate is one of the two Houses of the Federal Parliament, and surely its members should have an opportunity to say what they think of any tariff that is in operation. The lack of opportunity afforded to the Senate in this connexion is not peculiar to this Parlia ment, for honorable senators with more experience of this chamber than I have had know that that state of affairs has existed for years. I shall, therefore, vote for the amendment, not only as a protest against the Senate having had no opportunity to discuss the tariff, but also because I told my constituents that, in my opinion, a reduction of tariffs would be in the interests of South Australia, the Commonwealth, and, indeed, the whole world. I see nothing inconsistent with the Ottawa agreement in the amendment which has been moved.
– Would not its acceptance delay the passing of this measure?
– No. The only reason given why the Government did not reduce duties was that it stated it had given a pledge to the electors that it would await the report from the Tariff Board before doing so. Personally, I gave no such pledge. I have always held my own view regarding tariff matters. I made no pledge that the tariff would not be reduced. In fact I went to the other extreme. In article 12-
Hia Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that no new protective duties 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.
There is no undertaking that existing duties shall not be decreased. Apparently, the governments were careful to avoid including any such undertaking. In any case, I do not think that Great Britain would object if we reduced duties.
– A reduction of duties would be in keeping with the agreement.
– And with the general attitude of the whole conference. On his return to New Zealand the Premier of that dominion, in a speech delivered in the House of Representatives, made the position clearer than it has been made in any speech by a member of the Australian Government which I have read. I presume that the Tariff Board deals impartially with matters that come before it, and is not concerned whether a duty is raised or lowered. The amendment, in my opinion, does not interfere with the board. In any case, I shall vote for it because it provides the first real opportunity that I have had to say whether I favour a general reduction of tariffs.
– As I interpret the amendment, it gives a specific instruction to the Tariff Board. Otherwise, what is its purpose? I regard the Tariff Board as exercising what are practically judicial functions, and it seems to me that the amendment interferes with its authority in that it does not leave the board free to base its decisions on the evidence submitted to it.
– Does the honorable senator think that it would be right for the Tariff Board to take primage ami exchange into consideration in fixing duties?
– In my opinion, it would be wrong to base its duties on conditions which may alter at any time. Of course, the existing high exchange rate may ,10 6 be evanescent, because both freetraders and protectionists appear to favour it. A large majority of our primary producers favour the retention of the existing high rate of exchange, if not ai» Increase of that rate.
– A general discission on the question of exchange is not permissible under this amendment’.
– I hope that the Senate will reject the amendment and so uphold the independence of “ the Tariff Board.
– In reply to Senator Brennan’s remarks, I point out that the agreement came into operation on the signing thereof, subject to certain legislative or other action being taken as soon as practicable thereafter,.. The agreement was signed on the 20th August last, and the Government then proceeded to aUer the tariff schedule to give effect to the margin of preference set out in it. In 317 cases in which it could have reduced the duties on British goods, it took the opposite course and raised still higher the duties against foreign goods. My amendment expresses my disapproval of that action on the part of the Government.
The remarks as to the necessity for the Tariff Board being consulted before alterations of duty are made, do not affect my argument, because in 317 cases duties have been increased without that body having been consulted. On the 15th October last the present Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), at a meeting of the majority of the Senate, moved a motion along the lines of my amendment. From that meeting Labour senators were absent, as was also Senator Crawford.
– I declined to attend the meeting because I disagreed with the motion which was to be moved at it.
– At the meeting referred to, a motion was moved by Senator Pearce and seconded by Senator Elliott.
– Is this a disclosure of caucus secrets ?
– No. The motion, together with the name of its ‘ mover and seconder, was published throughout the British Empire within a day or two of its being passed. That motion was as follows : -
This meeting of the majority of the Senate affirms its intention to endeavour to obtain amendments to the tariff schedule by a reduction of excessive duties and by such a further reduction of the duties against British imparts will foster Empire trade, and lead to the adoption by Great Britain, Australia, and the other dominions, of effective reciprocal trade agreements benefiting every unit of the Empire.
In the face of that patriotic resolution, the Government has increased the duties in 317 cases, when it could have given effect to it by reducing the duties on British goods.
– There will be other opportunities to give effect to that resolution. Why delay this measure?
– If we are ‘to adjourn for the Christmas vacation this week, any delay cannot extend beyond the day after to-morrow. If w wait until the tariff schedules, con:.before us for consideration, as Senator Elliott has suggested, we may have to wait a long time to give any real British preference. Some of us may not be here when the matter comes before the Senate. One of the principal objects of my entering the Senate was to assist in reducing tariffs ; but, although I have been a member of this chamber for three and a half years, I have not had an opportunity to do so. It is true that the Senate spent about four weeks dealing with a few of the items of the schedule, but it got no further than that, and I doubt whether, before my present term as a senator expires, another opportunity will present itself. My amendment is in accord with, not only the opinions already expressed by a majority of honorable senators, but also the statement made by Mr. Baldwin, on the eve of his departure from England for Ottawa, when, in a message to the Empire, he said -
The object of the Government is freer trade. At Ottawa the objective was the expansion of Empire trade to be brought about as far as possible by the lowering of trade barriers as between the several members of the Empire. . . This object can be best attained by assuring traders of markets for goods by the removal or limitation of existing barriers to trade, particularly arbitrary and erratic quota systems.
Honorable senators are, of course, aware that the British delegates at Ottawa were provided by Mr. Chamberlain with a series of resolutions, which declared boldly and definitely thatthe objective was a diminution of tariffs. If honorable senators support the proposed new clause, they will be giving expression to the view that the British preferential rates of duty should be lowered, and will be showing opposition to the policy recently adopted by the Government.
– Has Britain asked for this?
– Having spent the week-end in reading the opinions expressed in British magazines, I have come to the opinion that there was unanimity of British thought that this was the way in which effect was to be given to the agreement.
Question - That the proposed new clause (Senator E. B. Johnston’s amendment) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
SenatorDUNN (New South Wales) [4.43]. - In accordance with notice already given by me, I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - 2a. Provided that nothing in the agreement shall affect the standard wage of the Australian worker.
The CHAIRM AN. - The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the point of order.
His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom will invite Parliament to pass the legislation necessary to impose on the foreign goods specified in Schedule B appended hereto, the duties of customs shown in that schedule in place of the duties (if any) now leviable.
Senator Dunn merely proposes to insert, after clause 2, a proviso that the standard of living of Australian workers shall be maintained. I submit that Senator Dunn’s amendment is clearly in order, and that the committee should have an opportunity to say whether it stands for the maintenance of the Australian standard of living.
In the Senale:
The Chairman of Committees. -i have to report, Mr. President, that during the discussion in committee of the United Kingdom and Australia Trade Agreement Bill, Senator Dunn moved for the insertion of a new clause which read as follows: - 2a. Provided that nothing in the agreement shall affect the standard wage of the Australian workman.
A point of order was taken by the righthonorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) on the question of relevancy, and I ruled that the amendment was not in order, for the reason that the bill has nothing whatever to do with the fixation of wages or working conditions in Australia; that other tribunals govern those matters. Thereupon, Senator Dunn moved dissent from my ruling.
I submit that it is out of order.
Trade Agreement Bill approves the provisions of an agreement made at Ottawa between the representatives of the Mother Country and its dominions and colonies. Any country, a party to the agreement, is entitled to protect its people’s standard of living. For this purpose, Senator Dunn moved an amendment, the effect of which would be, if carried, to protect the standard wages of the Australian worker. It is the right of every country to safeguard its wage-earners. In certain parts of the British Empire, the wages paid and the conditions observed in industry are not comparable with Australian wages and conditions; so it is essential that we should do what is possible to protect the interests of our workers under this agreement. Doubtless, our delegates at Ottawa gave. their assent to proposals which, in their judgment, were in the best interests of the Commonwealth, but we take the view that this Parliament should express its views concerning the arrangements made, and honorable senators on this side wish to safeguard the working conditions of our people. “We demand the right to insert in the agreement a provision which will do this. This is a condition that has not been ensured. To me the proposal is an eminently reasonable one. Its object is merely to safeguard the rights of the workers, whom we are supposed to represent. We all stand more or less for the preservation of the rights of the people of this country; that assertion has been made from many platforms. Are we, then, to reduce our people to the level that is occupied by those of some other countries? Is this country blindly to enter into an agreement that does not make proper provision for the maintenance of the conditions under which our workers are employed? That is unthinkable.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - Order! The honorable senator is not entitled to use the term “ outrageous,” and I request him to withdraw it.
– The question is, the relevancy or otherwise of the amendment.
– I am endeavouring to show that the amendment is so relevant that its being ruled out of order is inconceivable. The acceptance of such a ruling without dissent would astound me. This is the most democratic chamber elected by the people of Australia, and I cannot imagine its refusing to consider the conditions under which our workers are to be employed. All that I want i3 a debate upon the amendment. If the majority of honorable senators are opposed to it, I shall have to be content with the decision given ; but the responsibility should rest, on them to either accept or reject it.
– The whole issue hinges on the question of relevancy. I direct the attention of honorable senators to article 10 of the agreement, which 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.
I contend that that article alone invests with relevancy the amendment proposed by Senator Dunn, because the standard of living of those who are engaged in production surely is bound up with economical and efficient production. It is common knowledge that there is neither economical nor efficient production in countries where there are low wage standards; what is saved in one way is. lost in another. I cannot conceive how any- one could contend that there is no connexion between the objects sought to be attained by the agreement and the standard of living of those who must necessarily carry on production. The more one studies article 10, the more one is convinced that the question of efficiency is bound up with the consideration of the tariff. Consequently it cannot be questioned that the cost of production and its efficiency are closely allied to the standard of living and the general level of remuneration of those who are engaged in production. To rule that there is no relevancy between the conditions of the workers find the efficient and economical production of goods that are to be affected by article 10 is to strain beyond the breaking point the question of relevancy.
– I join with Senators Barnes and Rae in the contention that the amendment is- relevant to the bill. Land, labour and capital, are the chief factors in production. Consequently the wages and conditions of the workers must have an effect upon the relative costs of economical and efficient production. We may expect honorable senators opposite to vote against Senator Dunn’s proposal, but that should not prevent our endeavouring to protect -the wage standards of our industrial kind; yet it has been ruled that this most important question is not relevant to the bill. Those whose memories are able to carry them back over the last 25 years, will recall that in earlier days, when protection was fighting for recognition as a national policy, the cry arose for a new protection. When protective duties were proposed, the Labour party and the old Liberal party fought for the principle that greater protection should not be afforded to big industries unless some little return was made to the people as a whole by the provision of decent standards of living for the workers. That is what Senator Dunn has in mind - to afford one kind of protection within another, the “new protection” as it has been termed. I submit that his amendment is entirely relevant, and I hope that a ruling in those terms will be given.
– I claim that my amendment is relevant to article 10. 1 moved the amendment to prevent the “white-anting” of the protective policy of Australia which has been of such assistance to our secondary industries. Apparently, the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) and those with whom he is associated are anxious to give away everything.
– What has that to do with the motion?
– It has a lot to do with, it. .The right honorable gentleman can run the steam roller over the Chairman of Committees, but he cannot run it over me.
– Senator Dunn suggests that in carrying out my duties as Chairman of Committees I have been influenced by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I object to the honorable senator’s remarks, and ask that they be withdrawn.
- Senator Dunn is not in order in reflecting on the Chairman of Committees, and I ask the honorable senator to withdraw the words to which objection has been taken.
– I withdraw them. Article 10, if adopted in its present form, will have a most detrimental effect upon the standard of living of the Australian workers. Our arbitration system was introduced to protect Australian workers, but under article 10 British manufacturers will have the right to enter into unfair competition with Australian manufacturers who have to comply with awards of the Arbitration Court, which provide for wages much higher than those prevailing in Great Britain. These decisions were reached at the Ottawa “ joss house “.
– The honorable senator is not in order in referring to the Canadian Houses of Parliament in those terms. The honorable senator must withdraw the term “ joss house “.
– I withdraw it. I shall say that the conference met at the Canadian Houses of Parliament, where petrified ideas were put forward with the object of putting them into operation in Australia. Those proposals may suit the Government and the members of the Country party, but I should like to know whether article 10 will be of any benefit to the Australian manufacturers or those whom they employ?
– I rise to a point of order. In discussing the relevancy of the amendment is an honorable senator in order in debating the merits of article 10?
– I have previously reminded honorable senators that they must confine their remarks to the relevancy or otherwise of the amendment.
– I respectfully submit that I cannot do so unless I direct attention to the effect which article 10 will have upon Australian manufacturers.
– The honorable senator will be quite in order in making incidental reference to the substance of the amendment; but he must confine his remarks to its relevancy.
– So far, I have only led up to ‘the point. I have still a long way to go. What is meant by “ the relative cost of economical and efficient production”? In some parts of Great Britain the industrial conditions are not any better than they were in 1S34, and I challenge Senator Brennan to dispute the accuracy of that statement.
– I again ask the honorable senator to discuss the relevancy of the amendment. An incursion into the industrial affairs of Great Britain has no bearing on the motion now before the Senate.
– With all due respect to you, sir, I think that it has. The word “ production “ is mentioned in article 10, and I submit that the interests of those engaged in production in Australia should be fully safeguarded. Senator Brennan, who is secure for six years in his position in this chamber, is’ not prepared to go before the Chamber of Manufactures in Victoria, where the seeds of protection were first sown, and endeavour to justify his defence of this bill. I submit, with due respect, that the ruling of the Chairman of Committees cannot be sustained, and in fairness to the Australian workers I trust that it will not be upheld.
– I direct attention to Standing Order 201, which provides that -
Any amendment may be made to any part of the bill, provided the same be relevant to the subject-matter of the hill, and be otherwise in conformity -with the rules and orders of the Senate.
Objection was taken to an amendment moved by Senator Dunn, on the ground that it was not relevant to the subjectmatter of the bill. To ascertain the subject-matter of the bill we have to refer to the bill itself. The preamble reads -
To approve of the provisions of an agreement made between His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and the His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia, and arising out of the conference of representatives of the Governments of the British dominions, held at Ottawa in July and August, One thousand nine hundred and thirty two.
The bill is to approve an agreement between the two countries mentioned.
– With respect to trade relations.
– There is no need to go beyond the bill. All that the bill purports to do is to approve the provisions of an agreement. The bill itself, contains no ground for the suggestion that, the amendment is relevant; but there has been called in aid of the contention that it is relevant a subtle argument based on the provisions of article 10.
– The whole point is whether or not this Parliament has the right to alter the agreement.
– The Chairman of Committees decided that it was not competent for this committee to alter the agreement. It has been argued that article >10 interferes with industrial conditions in this country. It does nothing of the sort. The argument based on article 10 is destructive of the honorable senator’s contention that the amendment is relevant, because this bill does not purport to interfere with industrial conditions; it is a bill to approve the provisions of an agreement. The agreement provides that His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia is to have regard to certain things, one of which is that “ the tariff is to be based upon the industrial conditions in the Commonwealth whatever they may be. There is, therefore, an implicit provision in article 10 which safeguards the position sought to be safeguarded by Senator Dunn. The subjectmatter of the bill is the approval or otherwise of an agreement. By no subtle argument can the honorable senator get over the ruling of the chairman that we cannot alter the provisions of the agreement.
– Then why bring the agreement before the Senate at all?
– The Senate may reject it if it so desires.
– In that case, what is the object of the committee stage?
– In committee vu have dealt with a number of amendments which were held to be relevant. The British Parliament has accepted the agreement in its original form, and we must either do the same, or reject it; we cannot modify it. This matter has been debated fully before, find I should not have intruded in the debate had I not. thought that something more than the usual camouflage had been raised by the Opposition. The amendment of the honorable senator introduces something foreign to the subject-matter of the bill, and is, 1 submit, therefore, out of order.
– “Whatever the opinions of honorable senators may be as to the merits or demerits of Senator Dunn’s amendment, I sincerely hope that they will not allow the rights of the Senate to be taken away in the manner suggested by the two Ministers who have spoken. “With profound respect, I submit that the decision given by the Chairman of Committees is absolutely indefensible, and that the defence offered by the Vice-President of the Executive Council is one of the most illogical statements one could conceive. I agree with the premises on which the honorable senator based his arguments; but I submit that his reasoning was entirely wrong. I agree with him that any amendment must be relevant to the bill; but the honorable senator also said that Senator Dunn’s amendment was not relevant to the hill because its purpose is simply to ratify an agreement.
– The words of the Standing Order are “relevant to the subject-matter of the bill “.
– I agree with the honorable senator that any amendment must be relevant to the subject-matter of the bill, which in this case is an agreement to define the trade relations between two countries - England and Australia. Senator Dunn seeks to introduce into the agreement a. condition which no honorable senator will say is not relevant to the matter of trade relations. That, Mr. President, is where article 10 will assist you - if any assistance is necessary - in arriving at a decision that the amendment is relevant, a decision which I feel sure you. will make. Article 10 defines certainmatters connected with trade between Australia and the United Kingdom. The-. purpose of Senator Dunn’s amendment is to introduce into a trade treaty a con”dition that nothing that the Tariff Board’ may do, or that Parliament or theExecutive may do, shall prejudice thewage standard of the Australian worker,. I cannot conceive of anything more relevant than that. If it is not relevant, I ask Senator McLachlan how it is that in a bill, the subject-matter of which was the granting of a bounty, an amendment relating to wage conditions was relevant.
– That was not the ratification of an agreement.
– This agreement defines the trade relations between England and Australia.
– That may be the meaning of the agreement; but the bill itself does not say so.
– “We are now dealing with the schedule to the bill.
– No. We have not yet reached the schedule.
– The Chairman of Committees ruled that clause 2 has been dealt with. That clause is followed by the schedule, to which Senator Johnston moved an amendment.
– He moved for the insertion of a new clause.
– Senator Dunn was asked ‘by the Chairman of Committees where he desired his amendment to be inserted, and he replied that he wished it to be an addendum to article 2 of the schedule. He specifically stated the words which his amendment would follow.
– I ruled that clause 2 had been dealt with.
– That is what I have been trying to tell the Minister. The Chairman of Committees accepted an amendment to article 2 of the schedule - not clause 2 of the bill.
– A new clause - 2 a - was moved.
– The bill is one “ to approve the provisions of an agreement made -between His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and His
Majesty’s’ Government in the Commonwealth of Australia, and arising out of the conference of representatives of the governments of the British Dominions held at Ottawa in July and August, 1932.” Senator Dunn desires that in the interpretation of the agreement Australian working conditions shall be maintained.
– That matter is not touched by the agreement.
– Was there any suggestion of irrelevancy in relation to the motion moved by Senator Johnston-
– The honorable senator himself said that it was irrelevant.
– Senator Johnston’s mot.ion was obviously irrelevant because it had nothing to do with the trade relations between Great Britain and Australia. Perhaps honorable senators opposite were somewhat confused by the words used, and did not then take the point of order that has since ‘been raised in connexion with the amendment moved by Senator Dunn.
– Had Senator Johnston moved the amendment which Senator Dunn has moved, Senator Daly would probably have urged that it was irrelevant.
– I have sufficient regard for Senator Dunn’s intelligence to know that he would not move an amendment so obviously out of order. I do not think that Senator Johnston himself thought his amendment was in order.
– I knew that it was in order, and so did the honorable senator.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask whether Senator Daly is entitled to reflect on a decision given by a vote of the committee.
– It is not in order to reflect on a vote of the committee.
– No vote was taken in committee to decide whether the motion was in order.
– The Chairman gave a decision, which was a good one.
– I have no desire to reflect on the decision given by the Chairman, but if the Chairman was right in ruling that Senator Johnston’s amendment was in order, then Senator Dunn’s amendment is also in order. If it be parliamentary to use the expression, I say that it seems absolutely ridiculous to suggest that in regard to a bill, the subject-matter of which is to ratify an agreement, the subject of wages, hours, and working conditions cannot be discussed. If Senator Johnston’s amendment was relevant, then I submit that Senator Dunn’s is even more relevant to the bill. I feel confident that the Senate will be afforded an opportunity to make its recommendation upon the matter raised by Senator Dunn. I remind honorable senators that there are several stages of a bill; if the amendment submitted by Senator Dunn is agreed to, further consideration of the measure can be postponed on reaching the third-reading stage, and the Government can take the matter up with the British Government. I hope, Mr. President, that you will not establish the precedent that, in a bill the subjectmatter of which is the ratification of a trade treaty between two nations, we are not permitted to submit amendments involving proposals similar to that mentioned by Senator Dunn.
– The Leader of the Government has raised a point of order on the relevancy of a proposed new clause moved by Senator Dunn. I shall necessarily be obliged to inquire into the merits of the clause, and shall do so at a later stage. In the meantime, I point out that I am bound to administer the Standing Orders which, as honorable senators are aware, have long stood the test of time. Parties having varying shades of political belief have been represented in this chamber and, from time to time, action has been taken to alter or amend certain standing orders, but those which bear upon the question now before the Chair have never been varied. The presumption, therefore, is that they have been acceptable to all parties in this chamber in the past. The words of the proposed new clause are -
Provided that nothing in this agreement shall affect the standard wage of the Australian worker.
As has been previously pointed out by honorable senators, Standing Order 201 provides -
Any amendment may be made to any part of the bill, provided the same be relevant to the subject-mutter of the bill, and be otherwise in conformity with the rules and orders of the Senate.
Another standing order that bears directly on the same point, because it deals with the quality of relevancy, is No. 224, which states -
No amendment shall be proposed to an amendment of the House of Representatives that is not relevant thereto; nor can an amendment be moved to the bill unless the same be relevant to, or consequent upon, either the acceptance, amendment, or the rejection of a House of Representatives amendment.
I cite this latter standing order in order to show the importance that in the past has been attached to the quality of relevancy. These Standing Orders have never been challenged ; as I have already said, they have stood the test of time.
I must now seek definitions of “ relevancy “ and “ subject-matter.” According to the Students English Dictionary, the latest authority available in the Library, “ relevant “ means “ Having applicableness or pertinence; applicable; pertinent; to the purpose; appropriate “ ; and “ subject-matter “ means “ That matter or theme presented for’ consideration “. Having those two difinitions I now proceed to “a further examination of this point of order. I am asked to say that the proposed new clause is not relevant - that it would not be in order to insert it in a bill of this description. Broadly, the purpose of the bill is to ratify an agreement; nothing more and nothing less, and I cannot find in it any reference to “ the standard wage obtaining in Australia “. So from a literal point of view, the proposed new clause is not appropriate to the bill. The bill contains two clauses, sixteen articles, and a schedule embracing eight subdivisions from A to H, and its terms clearly show that its purpose is solely to approve of an agreement; and since it contains no reference to the standard wage of Australia, I must conclude that the proposed new clause is not only literally, but also substantially not appropriate to the matter presented for consideration. In other words it is not relevant to the subjectmatter of the bill.
I always hope that whatever grounds I give for my rulings will be upright - perpendicular so long as Mother Earth stands under them to keep them so. I. do not believe in basing rulings on subsidiary or inferential grounds. It would require a very severe strain of the imagination to bring to my aid the application even of inferential grounds to support the amendment proposed by Senator Dunn. The condition sought to be incorporated in this measure, is, after all, a social one and part of our national economy. Apart altogether from the question of relevancy, it has to be borne in mind that there are other social conditions that could easily occur to me. For instance, if the honorable senator’s proposal were relevant it would be quite permissible for an honorable senator to propose that the value of the goods passing under the terms of this agreement should be subject to assessment by some tribunal. That would be a social condition equally important to that mentioned by Senator Dunn. It would be also permissable for an honorable senator to propose that nothing in the agreement should affect the standard rates of interest payable in this country. How would Senator Dunn view a proposal of that kind? If the amendment were permitted, other honorable senators would also be in order in submitting amendments dealing with other phases of our social and industrial life. In the circumstances, I have no option but to uphold the point of order raised by the right honorable the Leader of the Senate, and rule that the new clause proposed to be moved by Senator Dunn is not relevant to the subject-matter of the bill.
– As I have not the opportunity to criticize your ruling, Mr. President, will you indicate how I may give effect to the suggestion which you have made?
– The honorable senator must know that this is not the time or place to discuss that matter. I suggest that, he is sufficiently resourceful to devise the ways and means to give effect to what may be in his mind.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator McLachlan) read a first time.
Sitting suspended from 6.11 to 8 p.m.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Nauru Island Agreement Bill.
Wire and Wire Netting Bill.
New Guinea Bill.
Public Works Committee Bill.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Those honorable senators, at all events, whose memory stretches back over the history of the Commonwealth Parliament, will agree with me that there is, perhaps, no subject to which the Parliament, at different periods, has devoted more time than that of sugar. Many debates upon sugar have taken place in this Senate, although, perhaps, not in Canberra; and I may be permitted to make one or two passing references to the legislation that has been passed in connexion with it. It will be within the memory of the majority of honorable senators that when federation was consummated, the sugar industry in Queensland, and to some extent also in New South Wales, was conducted very largely with black labour. One of the first tasks which the Commonwealth Parliament set itself was to rid the industry entirely of that class of labour.
– At the instigation of the Labour party.
– I am not dealing with the subject from a political viewpoint, but am merely reminding the Senate of what this Parliament has done. We are not concerned to-night with why or how it was done. The Parliament took upon itself the responsibility of saying that in future the sugar industry of Australia should be conducted with white labour. Personally, I agree with that decision; some honorable senators may disagree with it. The way in which that step was taken was considered by some persons to be of great benefit to the sugar industry; but those who were actually engaged in the industry at the time know that the net result was to impose on it a tax of £1 a ton. That was done by imposing an excise duty on all sugar grown in Australia and by granting a bounty of £1 a ton less than the amount of the excise on such sugar as was produced entirely with white labour. That was the position, with an added duty, up to 1913. From the outbreak of the war, and for some considerable time thereafter, this Parliament assumed control of the sugar industry, among others. The control exercised was to a very large extent similar to that proposed under this bill, but it was in the interest of the Australian consumer of sugar and not of the sugar industry. That really brings us to the point with which we now have to deal. First, this Parliament said to the sugar industry “ Henceforth you shall grow sugar with white labour under the protection of a tariff,” Then, from the latter end of 1914 until at all events 1922, control was exercised by this Parliament in the interest of the consumers of Australia. Those who remember the tremendous prices to which sugar rose in the markets of the world, and the way in which the sugar producers of Queensland and New South Wales were prevented from obtaining world prices, will realize that, at any rate during that period, the sugar industry had a considerable grievance against the rest of Australia.
I come now to the bill. It provides for the parliamentary approval of an agreement relating to sugar, which has been come to between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland. The conditions appertaining to the ratification of this agreement are identical with those that apply to the ratification of the Ottawa agreement under the bill that we have been discussing within the last several days; that is to say, the agreement has to be either ratified or rejected, because it is a completed agreement subject to the ratification of this Parliament.
In the second place, thebill provides for the prohibition of the importation of sugar into the Commonwealth, except with the consent in writing of the Minister for Trade and Customs in accordance with the terms of the new agreement. Honorable senators are well aware that this provision takes the place of the present prohibition, which was imposed by proclamation under the Customs Act. In so far as it does that, it meets the views of quite a number of honorable senators who believe that these prohibitions ought to be subject to review by the Parliament. It will be open to this Senate to say whether that prohibition shall be accepted or rejected. My duty to-night is to ‘invite the Senate to consent to it in the terms of the agreement.
The new agreement is the outcome of negotiations which took place between the Commonwealth Government, the Queensland Government, and representatives of the sugar industry in Queensland and New South Wales. I have heard it said, I have even read it in print, that this agreement represents a repudiation by the Commonwealth Government of the agreement entered into by the Scullin Government. It has even been said that this Government has intimidated and bludgeoned the sugar-growers of Queensland into accepting it. I repudiate utterly either or both of those accusations; they in no way represent the truth of the actual position. In the first place, this Government stated to the sugar industry of Queensland and New South Wales in clear and unequivocal terms, that if the sugar-grower3 of those States preferred to stand by the agreement entered into and signed by the Scullin Government, it would regard itself as bound by that agreement. That was said not once, but over and over again.
– Why, then, did the Government not stand by it?
– I shall endeavour to explain that a little later. I say here and now that the Government would have honoured that promise, and that, even ro-day, it is prepared to honour it if this Senate refuses to consent to the present agreement. If the agreement is rejected by the Senate, the Government will adhere to, and, so far as lies in its power, give effect to, the oM agreement. At the same time, however, the Government said to the sugar industry, “If, of your own volition, you will come into conference with us and negotiate a variation of your agreement, we will discuss a new agreement with you “. The point that I wish to make is that it was merely an invitation to a conference which the Government issued to the sugar interests of Queensland and New South Wales. Had those interests Said, “ We desire to stand by the old agreement,” that would have ended the matter so far as the Government was concerned ; it had to be a purely voluntary movement on the part of the sugar interests. Why did the Government adopt that course? Was it out of antagonism to the sugar industry? Let us look at the facts. It was well known to the Government and to the sugar industry that, outside Queens1 and and a small portion of New South Wales, there was a growing demand for the revision of the sugar agreement. That demand was voiced at the Premiers conference and the Loan Council which met in Melbourne in January, 1932. The press throughout Australia was filled with propaganda directed towards a variation of the. agreement. On all sides there was a clamant demand that the sugar industry should share with the rest of Australia the burdens that all were carrying. It is beside the point, for the moment, to argue that the fall in world prices outside Australia had hit the industry through its exports. That is true ; but it is also true that other industries were hit harder. Those controlling the sugar industry were aware of the danger with which the industry was confronted, and the proof that they realized their position lies in the fact that thousands of pounds have been spent in propaganda in trying to avert the danger. That danger was not that the Government would not honour its promise - those controlling the industry knew perfectly well that they could rely upon the promise of the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that if they did not desire a new agreement the old one would be adhered to - but was that there was no certainty as to the legal position ; no certainty that this Parliament might not at any time take the issue out of the hands of the Government.
– How could that be done ?
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) should realize that there is a ready means by which this issue could be taken entirely out of the hands of the Government.
– The Minister mentioned a legal means.
– I am not a lawyer but I am told by those who are that there is a certain decision of the High Court, to which I shall refer later, which was of such a character that there was very little doubt as to what would have happened to the agreement had it been reviewed by the High Court. I ask honorable senators if, in these circumstances, the Government was to stand idly by and wait until theaxefell.Was it to await until chaos, ruin, and disaster fell upon this great primary industry, before it raised a helping hand? Is that what honorable senators desired? Was the Government to stand idly by and wait for some catastrophic event? Those who suggest that it should have taken this attitude are not the friends of the Australian sugar industry. The Government, knowing that in certain circumstances that might arise, the sugar agreement would be in danger, would have been recreant to its trust had it allowed matters to drift. I venture to say that it was far wiser to try to negotiate a new agreement which was fair to all, and to endeavour to hold the scales evenly between all sections of the community. Having done so, it has now brought before Parliament a bill which, when passed, will give security to the sugar industry. To term such a course of action repudiation or intimidation is a misuse of language, and utterly untrue. The Government, therefore, asked the representatives of the sugar industry to meet its representatives in conference. Twoconferences were held, one in Brisbanein July last and another in Canberra in September. The delegates of the two organizations of sugar producers unanimously agreed to recommend to their respective bodies that the ordinary wholesale price of sugar be reduced by the equivalent of1/2d per lb. retail as from the 1st January, 1933, subject to certain minor conditions, and provided that the Commonwealth Parliament passed an act approving the new agreement. This agreement, with the exception of com paratively few minor alterations, is the same as the old agreement, although, of course, provision is made for a reduction of price. Following the subsequent decision of the sugar interests to accept a reduced price on terms approved by them, the Queensland Government took the usual course and informed the Commonwealth Government that it would sign a new agreement giving effect to that decision. This has now been done. In presenting the case to the sugar producers, the Government simply stated certain principles and facts bearing upon the matter, and appealed to the good sense and patriotism of the leaders of the industry. No attempt was made to force the delegates to accept a lower price or to review the old agreement. Certain dangers and difficulties were frankly explained, but the Prime Minister specifically declared at the Canberra conference that if the industry decided to adhere to the old agreement, despite the attendant risks, the Government would do all in its power to maintain the agreement.
– What were those risks ?
– I have already stated them, and I do not propose to repeat them. If the Leader of the Opposition will read my speech in Hansard, he will see what they are. If the new agreement is not ratified, the old agreement will operate until such time as action is taken to bring it to an end; but that action will not be taken by this Government. We did no more than place the facts before the delegates. It was pointed out by us that substantial decreases had occurred in house rents and in the price-levels of food and groceries, and that since the old agreement was made the sugar industry had benefited by a reduction of wages awards, and an increase of the weekly working hours from 44 to 48. The Commonwealth Government also brought to the notice of the delegates two matters affecting, not only the future welfare of the industry, but also the existence of the agreement itself. The first was the possibility of the High Court, in view of the decision in the “Wool Tops” case - that is in further reply to Senator Barnes - giving a judgment against the agreement, and the second was the probability of the Commonwealth Parliament amending the Customs Act in such a way that the sugar industry could no longer be protected by an agreement and an embargo against imports of all foreign sugar.
– That was the gun held at the growers’ heads.
– I have said that if the representatives of the sugar industry preferred to operate under the old agreement the Govenment would honour it.
– The risk incurred by those engaged in the industry was the Government’s power tq amend the tariff.
– If the honorable senator persists in displaying his ignorance, I cannot help it. I have said in the most emphatic way that the Government qua Government would not raise its little finger in the direction of breaking the old agreement, and by that decision it still stands. All these matters were put before the two sugar conferences distinctly and fully, and not in any sense as threats. The Government, with the consent of the Senate, now proposes to give the sugar industry the protection of the law, and if Parliament passes this bill, the sugar industry will be secure for the term of the agreement. The delegates were told that they could continue under the old agreement, but that if they did so they must be prepared to face the risk. In return for a reasonable concession in the Australian selling price of sugar, the sugar industry delegates were offered substantial advantages as a quid pro quo. First of all they were offered the exceptional security, which wa3 not given in respect of any- previous sugar agreement, of the new agreement being submitted with the support of the Government for the approval of the Commonwealth Parliament in the form of a bill. Obviously this was an enormous advantage from the point of view of. security for an industry in which £30,000,000 had been invested, as it would remove the exceedingly dangerous menaces to an agreement such as possible adverse decisions of the High Court, or action by this Parliament under the Customs Act. The Commonwealth Government also offered to waive .the unrestricted right given to it. under the current sugar agreement to review the domestic price of sugar in August, 1934, for the last twoyears of that agreement. The new agreement covers the whole term during which there will be no alteration of price, instead of the price being reviewed in 1934 as provided in the old agreement. The position then arrived at was that the old agreement had been voluntarily surrendered for a new agreement. The sugar industry obtains the advantages of certainty for uncertainty, and a four-year agreement against one that had to be overhauled in two years, while in return, the industry had agreed to a reduction of price equivalent to id. per lb. on refined sugar sold retail. In these circumstances it is not surprising that the responsible leaders of the sugar industry decided that it was in the interests of the whole of the producers, and of the enormous amount of capital invested, to choose security under reasonable conditions, rather than insecurity and, possibly, chaos under the old agreement.
I now propose to survey generally the terms of the new agreement, but more particularly those relating to the price of sugar. Under the new sugar agreement, all sugar prices will be reduced as from the 5th January next. The reductions on best refined sugar will be id. per lb. retail, and £4 ls. per ton to all manufacturers, except fruit processors. The new prices in capital cities will be 4d. per* lb. retail, and £32 10s. 9d. per ton to all manufacturers, except fruit processors. Fruit processors will receive a domestic rebate of £2 4s. per ton off the ordinary manufacturing price of £32 10s. 9d. per ton if they pay the growers for fresh fruit not less than such prices as the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee declares to be reasonable. In such case, the net cost of sugar to fruit processors for home consumption will be £30 6d. 9d. per ton, or virtually the same as at present. In addition, fruit processors will continue to receive the ordinary export sugar rebate, which reduces the cost of Australian sugar to the equivalent of the world’s parity price, plus £110,000 per annum for special assistance on manufactured fruit products exported from the Commonwealth. They get their sugar at the export parity price in Australia, and, in addition, £110,000 per annum from the sugar industry. The total assistance to the fruit industry is to be £200,000 per annum as from 5th January, 1933. This is worth £6 a ton on the basis of the present consumption of sugar by that industry. All prices and concessions will continue in operation until the 31st August, 1936, the date on which the old agreement would have expired. The price reductions will be worth approximately £1,000,000 per annum to domestic consumers, and about £300,000 per annum to manufacturers. A portion of the latter saving will doubtless be passed on to the domestic consumers in the form of cheaper commodities. In the aggregate, Australia’s sugar costs are, therefore, being reduced by £1,300,000 per annum, which may be regarded as tantamount to a similar reduction of taxation.
With regard to new-price sugar required by manufacturers and wholesale merchants, special arrangements will be made by the Queensland Sugar Board for adequate supplies to be invoiced at the new price, and made available at all necessary points on the 5th January next. Similar arrangements in 1923, when the last price reduction took place, proved quite successful, and I have no doubt that they will meet the requirements on this occasion.
The Queensland authorities recognize, however, that exceptional difficulties exist in Tasmania, where there are no refinery stocks, and only limited transport connexions with the bulk sources of supply at’ Melbourne and Sydney. The Queensland Sugar Board has already made special provision to ensure that adequate supplies of sugar shall be available in Hobart and Launceston on the 5th January next, without loss to those concerned in its distribution.
– The arrangements were not very satisfactory in the past.
– I believe that they will be found satisfactory on this occasion. I have already referred to theconcessions to the fruit industry. In view of its importance, I think the matter should be elaborated somewhat. The effect on the fruit industry of the new agreement and government policy may be seen from the following table : -
Under the proposals of the Government, the fruit industry will be much better off than it has been in the past. An examination of these figures reveals that the fruit industry -will be better off to the extent of at least £91,000 per annum than before the agreement, without taking into account the considerable savings from the recent abolition of sales tax and primage on agricultural implements, fertilizers, .lime and many other items used on orchards, together with the new measure of assistance granted for the purchase of fertilizers. The Government can fairly claim that the measures it has taken will assist the orchardists and fruit-growers of Australia to the full extent that the finances of the country will allow. Fruit processors will still have the sole advantage of the specially low net price of £30 6s. 9d. a ton for home consumption, which in future will be worth £60,000 per annum compared with what all other manufacturers will pay. They will also enjoy a continuance of the exceptional privilege of the £110,000 per annum for export assistance. These two valuable concessions are equivalent to the fruit processors receiving sugar at £6 a ton less than the price to be charged to all other manufacturers. The fruit processors should know that the £6 os. Id. domestic rebate was expressly introduced in 1925 by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), as a temporary provision to meet the prevailing depression in the fruit industry. They also are well aware that the 1930 Sugar Inquiry Committee specifically recommended that this rebate and the proposed total fund of £315,000 per annum should be temporary, and that each should be reduced by the equivalent of any reduction of the ordinary price made during the five years of the 1931 sugar agreement. That agreement provides accordingly, and its terms were widely circulated.
The new agreement provides for no real reduction of the exceptional privileges extended to the fruit processing industry.
The old agreement gave practically an unrestricted right to reduce both the domestic rebate and the total fund for the benefit of the fruit processing industry at August, 1934. The new agreement is more favorable to the fruit processing industry than was the old one, because of the fixation of the status quo for the next four years. The fruit concessions have been administered with much success since September, 1931, by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. All the available fruit was processed last season at prices to the growers at least equal to the minimum prices prescribed by the committee. The same system will be continued under the new agreement. So far, it has benefited the berry-growers in Tasmania, the pineapplegrowers in Queensland, and the stone fruit-growers in practically all the States. It is expected that fruit-growers, and the fruit industry generally, will derive further advantages from the sugar concessions under the new agreement. The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee has just voted £30,000 from its funds for the purpose of encouraging the production and disposal within Australia of jam and canned fruits made from the coming season’s fruit crops. This assistance will be additional to next year’s domestic sugar rebate of £2 4s. a ton, and should help to maintain reasonable prices for fresh fruit to the growers of stone and berry fruits, as well as assist processors.
Except in regard to certain clauses of the old agreement relating to adjustments of Australian prices through the trust account, and in accordance with the fluctuations in the retail price index figure for food and groceries, the new agreement is similar to the old one. The Government agreed to exclude those two clauses from the new agreement for several reasons. Conditions had arisen whereby they would most probably not have been effective in bringing about a reduction of the price of sugar. Moreover, the purpose for which they were inserted in the last agreement, namely, to bring about a reduction of price before the 31st August, 1934, has now been achieved by the assent of the sugar producers to reduce the price in January, 1933. The deletion of these clauses will enable the sugar industry to calculate with reasonable accuracy its Australian earnings for the next four years, and, because of the security and stability thereby created, to reorganize itself under the new level of prices. That will be a task of some magnitude.
The pending reduction of £d. per lb. in the present retail price of 4-^d. per lb. is equivalent to 11 per cent. The new retail price of 4d. per lb. in the capital cities will be 33 per cent, less than the peak price of sugar in Australia - 6d. per lb.
– Does the agreement provide that the retail price of sugar shall be 4d. per lb.?
– This Parliament cannot fix the price, but I have no doubt that that will be the rate charged.
– The retailers will probably make a profit equal to that of the growers.
– The retailers would probably deny the soft impeachment and say that -Jd. per lb. is as much as they can allow.
That percentage reduction is almost exactly the same as the percentage reduction of all foods and groceries below their peak level of the year 1920, and, therefore, the Government feels that the recent contribution from the sugar industry is fair and reasonable..
In commending the bill to the Senate, I point out that the rejection by Parliament of the new sugar agreement would result in one of two things. Either the old agreement would continue - in which case housewives would lose the saving of £1,000,000 per annum and ordinary manufacturers the £300,000 per annum provided under the new agreement - or it might he destroyed hy legal or parliamentary action.
In the event of the destruction of the old agreement, disaster would result to both the sugar and the fruit industries. The cessation of sugar concessions to the fruit industry would throw growers, with their over-production and lack of solid organization, on the mercy of manufacturers who could not purchase all their fruit as is now done under the sugar agreement, and they would thus be compelled by circumstances to accept much less for their fruit than at present. If this Parliament took action to destroy both the new agreement and the old one, no industry, apart from the sugar industry itself, would suffer more than the fruit industry. These two industries are so inter-related that each actually supports the other. While the destruction of the two agreements would cause chaos in the sugar industry, its effect on the fruit industry would be even worse. I do not suggest that the bill is perfect; but I submit that it is the best compromise possible in all the circumstances. The Government would like to do many things which are not provided for in the bill, but it must take things as they are. It realizes that the sugar industry is a great Australian industry which cannot be wrecked without serious consequences to the whole of Australia. If the sugar industry of Queensland were wrecked, the effect would be felt throughout the length and breadth of the land; there is no part of Australia that would not suffer.
– Could not the same argument be used in regard to the wheat and wool industries?
– It is the duty of this Parliament, within the limits of the financial resources of the Commonwealth, to help all industries to get on their feet. The Government is assisting both the wheat and the wool industries.
– What is it doing for wool?
– We have removed the sales tax from many articles, and, in cases in which, owing to the low prices obtained for primary products, losses have been sustained by producers, they are not required to pay any land tax; but, even if the Government were unable to do anything to help the wool and wheat industries, that would be no justification for wrecking the sugar industry. We should do all that lies in our power to protect and help the great primary industry of sugar production, and in that way we shall confer a great benefit, also, on the fruit industry, which, I suppose, in point of numbers, supports a great many more persons than even the wheat industry, When we consider the large number of persons employed in the sugar industry of Queensland, it must be realized that the clear duty of this Parliament is to see that, in these difficult times, it is not thrown to the wolves.
– I desire at the outset to thank my leader for having given one of his Queensland colleagues the opportunity to open the debate from this side of the chamber on this very important measure. Members of the Opposition intend to support the bill, and I am hopeful that many honorable senators opposite will vote with us. As a Queensland representative, and as one who has an intimate knowledge of the sugar industry, I am anxious to see this bill passed. I do not approve of the measure in its entirety, but I recognize that it offers the best arrangement that the industry can obtain at the moment. I submit that it is only doing bare justice to Queensland and this great industry that such information concerning it as Queenslanders on both sides of the chamber can give should be made available to the Senate. Thi3 industry is of such vast importance, not only to Queensland and the Northern Rivers District of New South Wales, but also to the Commonwealth as a whole that I regard this as a fitting opportunity to examine its position closely and critically. In spite of all that Senator Greene has said in his able speech, in moving the second reading of the bill, we do not admit that there was any justification for abrogating the agreement made with the industry by the Scullin Government. We realize that much anti-sugar propaganda has been indulged in for years in the southern States, and, in the course of my remarks, I hope to show the absolute injustice of that agitation. We are not at all surprised that the Government yielded to it, probably because it did not correctly estimate how little there was behind it. At the same time, we submit that, once an agreement has been made, its provisions should be rigidly adhered to.
Seeing that, as the result of two conferences, the industry has accepted the amended agreement which we are now asked to ratify, it is not correct to say that those who wished to vary the original agreement put up the stronger case.
It seems rather remarkable that I should have this opportunity to defend the industry against its traducers. Although I was a candidate at the last election, I was not then certain of being returned to this Senate; but I told the people concerned in the industry that they were facing a great danger, because the propaganda being directed against them was insidious and insistent. It had been claimed that a reduction of the retail price of sugar was overdue as an act of justice by the industry to the sugar consumers of Australia, but the truth of that statement I do not for a moment admit. There is no industry in Australia, not excepting the wool and wheat industries, that has done so much as has the sugar industry to make its commodity available to the people at a reasonable price. I pass over some remarks that I had intended to offer regarding the departure from the original agreement, because Senator Greene has, to a large extent, covered that aspect of the matter. During the last election campaign, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said -
A definite agreement was entered into by the previous Government with those associated with the sugar industry. The present Government recognizes the existence of that agreement, and it docs not propose that by any direct action that agreement should be broken. . . I may say definitely that only on a voluntary basis would an amendment of the agreement be suggested.
Senator Greene has stated that the amendment was accepted on a voluntary basis; but at the same time he showed that that was not quite the position, because the facts he mentioned indicated that there was little choice left to those engaged in the industry. The Prime Minister proceeded -
The United Australia Party will regard the sugar agreement as binding.
In August, 1929, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) said to a deputation at Rockhampton -
He wished to clear the air regarding the position of sugar and cotton in Australia from the point of view of government assistance. The position of the sugar industry was an entirely different one. The people in the south subscribed with great goodwill to the cost of the sugar industry in this country because they believed in the White Australia policy. They did it on particular national grounds, because on that coastal margin it was sugar or nothing, the sugar industry or no industry. When they came to cotton as connected with the Dawson and Callide areas, the position was different. There was no parallel between sugar and cotton required in the irrigated) areas of New South Wales and Victoria.
When the recent federal election was being fought, the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) said -
The position regarding sugar is that United Australia Party, in accordance with general principles on which it stands, regards the sugar agreement as binding on any Commonwealth Government.
Those positive declarations are just as important in the consideration of this matter as they were during the recent election campaign. In my opinion, this agreement should be ratified on broad national grounds; but I hope to show that there are many other reasons why it should be accepted.
What is the average price at which sugar is being retailed in other countries? We have been told in the specious and unfair propaganda from some of the southern States that the retailer is paying altogether too much for his sugar. The latest figures disclose the fact that the price of sugar in sugar producing countries of Europe ranges from 3d. to 6d. per lb., or an average of 3.8d. per lb. If we make a calculation,, having regard to the purchasing power of wages in Europe and Australia respectively, the corresponding price of sugar in Australia would be over 7d. per lb. It should not be forgotten that Queensland was responsible for the agitation that led to the passing of legislation for the abolition of black labour in Australia, on the distinct understanding that protection would be granted to the sugar-growers against the competition of black labour countries.
– Queensland entered the federation on that understanding.
– Quite so. Let us consider the birth and growth of the industry, the present value of its production, its efficiency, the number of its employees, the wages paid to them, and also the direct and indirect value of the industry to Australia. After that, I propose to deal with many of the gross misstatements of its numerous and unscrupulous critics. I hope to clear up the misconception on the part of many thousands of people throughout Australia who have no knowledge of the industry except that gained through the medium of press propaganda, which, in all States, except Queensland, is anti-sugar. The first ton of raw sugar grown in Queensland was produced by Captain Hope in 1866, and the first sugar mill - it was driven by horse-power - was established in 1868. In the same year the Colonial Sugar Refining Company erected its first mill in New South Wales. Ten years later there were in Queensland 68 mills, and on the Clarence river in New South Wales, 30 mills. All these have since been replaced by larger mills with more efficient equipment, until to-day there are 38 sugar mills in Queensland and New South Wales - eight owned by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, thirteen owned by other proprietary companies, and seventeen owned co-operatively by canegrowers or being purchased by them from the Queensland Government. It is interesting to note that the last mill was built in 1924 by the Queensland Government at a cost of £800,000, and that every piece of machinery with which it is equipped was made in Queensland.
Up to 1907 the industry was carried on by black labour. In that year the White Australia policy was enforced, and Australia set out to produce sugar cane under white-labour conditions. The history of the employment of kanakas from Pacific islands in the sugar-fields of Queensland is one of the black blots in the national record of Australia.
– One of the blackest blots was the method of deportation.
– That is another matter. Although usually it is difficult to secure Senator Payne’s support for any proposal affecting Queeusland, I am hoping that he will vote for this bill. The sugar industry of Queensland was guaranteed protection if it. would agree to the employment of white labour in the canefields. This protection was necessary, because the industry had to face competition from sugar producers in cheap-labour countries. The industry having agreed to the proposal, the Commonwealth Parliament in 1906 passed the Pacific Island Labourers Act, under which kanakas employed in the sugar industry were to be repatriated. By 1912 practically all native labourers had been sent back to their homes.
Let us now, for a moment, consider the value of this industry to Australia. Last year the total value of the raw product was, in round figures, £10,500,000. In the last ten years the total production, has amounted to 4,500,000 tons of raw sugar valued at approximately £100,000,000. The industry employs directly 23,000 persons, and directly and indirectly 100,000 persons are dependent upon it. In Queensland alone there are 8,000 growers, and if we include those in the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales, the number of cane-growers is approximately 10,000. The annual wages bill is £5,000,000, and the assets are valued at approximately £50,000,000. I am quoting these figures because I wish to convince honorable senators from the southern States that the sugar industry is worth all the protection which the Commonwealth Parliament guaranteed to it at the outset, and which is guaranteed to it under this agreement. It is estimated that the amount paid in shipping freights to coastal vessels for the transport of the product to the other States, is not less than £500,000 a year, and, as the majority of the vessels employ southern crews, the success of the industry means much to the southern States. It is estimated that the capital investment by cane-growers is £20,000,000, and by mill-owners £10,000,000. Prom’ time to time, we hear comments about the enormous profits which the growers are supposed to be making. That such statements are wide of the mark is disclosed by the latest figures which show that the capital in– vested by the growers gives a net return of less than 2-J per cent., while the capital invested in the mills returns only 2 per cent.
– The refineries are doing pretty well.
– The refineries are doing a wonderful work; but if their figures are analysed it will be seen that, in comparison with the services which they render to the industry and to Australia, their profits are by no means extravagant.
– And they have to finance the industry too.
– Exactly ; the refineries carry the whole of the burden of financing the business during the year. Those who have not an intimate knowledge of the industry are under the impression that the growers are all doing very well when, as a matter of fact, they are not. The latest available figures show that in the year 1928-29, only two canegrowers out of ten were assessed by the Income Tax Commissioner of Queensland for the payment of income tax, although I make bold to say that no income tax department in any other State is as active or thorough in its administration as is the Queensland department.
It may not be out of place if, now, I show to what extent the sugar industry of Queensland benefits the southern States. It is desirable that I should do this, because of the very insidious propaganda that has been directed against this great primary industry of the State which I assist to represent in this chamber. My purpose is to convince honorable senators from the other States - I know that all honorable senators from Queensland will support this measure - that they will be doing an act of base ingratitude to industries in their own States if they withhold their support from this bill. I also remind the representatives of Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania, that when appeals are made to this Parliament for assistance to be given to those States, because of disabilities which they suffer from federation, Queensland senators are always willing to support them, so on that ground, if on no other, we are, I think, entitled to their support for this bill.
The estimated value of farm implements and mill machinery required by the industry is over £20,000,000, and it is safe to assume that 80 per cent, of it is made in Australian factories, the remainder being obtained from Great Britain. The length of portable tram lines in the sugargrowing areas is over 1,000 miles, and as practically the whole of this material is now being manufactured in New South Wales, the value of the industry to that State must be apparent to its representatives in this Parliament. I may add that because of the climatic conditions, the life of rails is somewhat limited, so the Queensland industry is a very good customer of the New South Wales steel industry. In addition, thousands of tons of corrugated iron and hundreds of miles of fencing material, most of which is manufactured in New South Wales, are required by the industry.
I now invite my honorable friends from South Australia to consider the value of the sugar industry to important primary industries in their State. Every wine shop or hotel throughout Queensland - and hotels are numerous in the thirsty tropical sugar belt - is stocked with South Australian wines, and South Australian dried fruits are on sale in all grocery stores and similar establishments right along the 1,200 miles of coastline. Tasmania supplies the 8,000 people engaged in the industry, and its 23,000 employees and their families, with apples which, I may add, are the best we could hope to get after we have exhausted the product of the Stanthorpe fruit-growing area. The island State also sends us hundreds of tons of potatoes yearly. The southern States supply at least 20,000 workmen and 10,000 farmers and their families with manufactured goods, including clothing, boots and shoes, &c.
I think I have said enough to convince honorable senators from the southern States, from the sordid stand-point of commercial advantages, that their interests would be served by supporting this bill. But I would appeal to them on national grounds. The latest figures show that Queensland purchases from the southern States goods to the value of nearly £12,000,000, two-thirds of which is paid for with’ sugar, and the southern States purchase from Queensland slightly over £9,000,000 worth, of goods. What would happen to the southern States, as well as to Queensland, if the protection which this industry has enjoyed hitherto, were withdrawn from it?
– What is the nature of the goods that Queensland sends south ?
– Mostly sugar, but also some tropical fruits.
– And all the goods purchased from the southern States are produced under a protectionist policy.
– Does Queensland take from Western Australia anything except money?
– Whenever labour is being signed on at any hig mill in Northern Queensland, there ;ire men from Western Australia looking for work, which that State lias been unable to provide for them. But is it a question of one State getting money from another? Has not this Senate frequently voted grants for Western Australia? Honorable, senators will probably accept the statements of Professor Brigden where they might think i hat my perfervid utterances are the result of political enthusiasm. This gentleman says -
Queensland’s imports of commodities of Australian production from the other States during the year 1931 amounted to £11,332,617, whilst the value of good3 sent to them was £9,314,058, of which two-thirds of the total value was represented by raw sugar. The significance of these figures lies in the fact that whilst the balance in favour of other States of the Commonwealth was something over £2,000,000, two-thirds of what we did send them (£6,144,G10 in value) consisted of a commodity which did not in any Way compete with any of their productions, and which in the refining process in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Fremantle furnished direct employment for large numbers of their workers, to say nothing of interstate transport in and out.
Put in another form, Professor Brigden says that the imports of Queensland goods, including stock and wool overland, by the other States during 1931 amounted to 37s. lOd. per head of the population of those States, while the value of the imports of Australian origin into Queensland was £2 0s. lid. per head of the population of the other States; and sugar represented 22s. 2d. of the 37s. lOd. per head. What people are benefiting from the wages that are paid to the 23,000 workers who are engaged in the sugar industry in Queensland and New South Wales? Our railway services, our shipping companies, our shops and factories - all are benefiting from this great industry. Thousands of tons of steel and iron,, hundreds of miles of fencing wire and copper telephone wire, boots, clothing and hats, dried fruits, wines; hundreds of tons of potatoes, thousands of dozens of jams, and thousands of bushels of fruit, are purchased out of the proceeds of the industry. In addition, those who are engaged in it are placed in a position to pay their rates and taxes, and are not subjects for sustenance or the dole - and in these strenuous days that is worth considering.
I wish to say a few words concerning the efficiency pf the ‘labour engaged in the industry. In 1900, the tons of sugar produced per acre were 1^, and over 10 tons of cane went to the making of one ton of sugar. In 1930-31, the tons of sugar produced per acre -were 2.4, and only 7 tons of cane went to the making of one ton of sugar - the best extraction in the world. That is a tribute to the efficiency of the industry, which is now carried on entirely by white labour. Let us now look at the results produced by coloured labour. The average number of tons of cane cut per man per day in Queensland is 4^. In Java, according to Senator Colebatch, it is about half a ton. The cost of production in Java, where men receive lOd. for a day of twelve hours, and women and children from 3d. to 4d. for a day of the same number of hours, is £9 a ton. In Queensland the cost of production, 55 per cent, of which is labour, is £18 7s. a ton, apart from interest on capital. Seeing that the wages paid in Queensland are about 70 times as great as those paid in Cuba, this is a wonderful tribute to the Australian workman. Recently, the South African Sugar Journal proved that cane harvested with South African natives is about as expensive as harvesting in Queensland, taking into account all expenses incidental to native employment.
Another point that I wish to impress on the Senate is that the sugar industry has not reached the position that it occupies to-3ay without criticism and searching inquiry. It has stood up, unflinchingly, to a more searching inquiry into its methods, its capacity, and its profits, than has been made in connexion with any other Australian industry. Nor must it be forgotten that it is not the only Australian industry which has been granted bounties, prohibitions and high tariffs. It has proved its steadily progressive nature under the, at times, extremely irksome and costly regulation of prices, wages and hours, and has not, at any time, in any direction, presumed upon the sheltered position accorded to it by the Commonwealth. The latest of these investigations is that held last year.
I” said earlier in my remarks that the industry does not owe Australia anything, but that Australia owes it something. On this point, I shall refer briefly to what happened to it during the Great War. From 1915 onwards the Commonwealth Government, under an unfettered control, commandeered the entire Australian sugar output at a price fixed by itself, which was far below world parity. It placed an embargo on the exportation and private importation of foreign sugar, fixed prices for both the wholesale and the retail trade, and made arrangements to finance any authorized imports that might be required to make good any shortage in the Australian crop. The workers were guaranteed fair wages, and, by the fixation of retail prices, the consuming public was protected from any possible attempt to exploit the situation created by the war. From 1915 to 1919, the wholesale price of sugar in Australia did not exceed £29 5s. a ton, while the retail price to the consumer was 3-£d. per lb. In 1920, the price of sugar in England was ls. 2d. a lb., in Canada and the United States of America ls. 3d. per lb., and in Italy and France ls. 6d. per lb. On the basis of the English price, the Australian industry saved the people of this country many millions sterling, bv providing them with cheap sugar. That fact should not be forgotten.
– Why is the price of the £20 shares of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company now £55?
– I shall have something to say about that company at a later stage. I assure the honorable senator that every avenue, and particularly that which he has in mind, has been exploited by those who are directly interested in the business. We have nothing to do with the price of the shares and are not complaining at the moment of the services rendered. to the industry by the refiners.
It is pertinent to ask, who are the consumers of sugar on whose behalf we are supposed to bubble over with sympathy? The industry has agreed to make them a concession of id. per lb. in the retail price. That is a very serious matter to the industry as well as to the Queensland Government, because the reduction will affect the receipts from taxation. The workers of Australia - not simply the men who work on the roads, the railway permanent way, and in like occupations, but those who are employed in the necessary processes of wealth production and distribution - comprise at least 60 per cent, of the community. That is a most conservative estimate; I should put the figure at no less than SO per cent. If, al a referendum or a general election, any party enunciated a policy the object of which was the withdrawal of the protection given to the sugar industry, or the removal of the embargo on the importation of foreign-grown sugar, it would not have the remotest chance of succeeding. If there is one thing for which the nation stands solidly, it is the White Australia policy. I tell honorable’ senators to-night, that if the sugar industry in the tropical portions of northern Queens land is damaged to the extent of extinction, the White Australia policy must go overboard, because without the industry that part of the Commonwealth cannot be protected against the invasion that is so often spoken of. There is no doubt that the majority of the electors of Australia are consumers of sugar, and that they stand for a White Australia. Recently, the Launceston Trades Hall Council held a meeting at which it carried the following resolution, which was forwarded to the Government : -
That in view of the importance of the sugar industry (which employs some 30,000 persons) to the nation, considering the number of investigations into its advantages or otherwise, this council considers care should be exercised in any action taken that white labour is not displaced by black labour, or the door left open for sugar to be imported from black labour countries, with little or no corresponding advantage to the household consumer, and that this council further considers that efforts should be made in the direction of completing nationalization of the industry.
Other sections of the community are demanding the adoption of this agreement. The primary producers are supporting it ; the Australian Natives Association has by resolution from head-quarters definitely declared its allegiance to the industry and the continuance of the embargo. The All f®r Australia League, and Young Australia League, which do not represent the political party with which I am associated, have also carried resolutions asking that the protection provided under this agreement shall continue. The concession made to the consumers can be regarded as a satisfactory gesture, although I say quite frankly that, in view of all the circumstances, I do not think that the industry was under any obligation to them. Under this agreement the retail price of sugar will be reduced by id. per lb. as from the 5th January, 1933. The agreement provides for a reduction of the price of sugar to the manufacturer from £36 Ils. 9d. to £32 10s. 9d. a ton, a reduction of £4 ls. a ton on sugar used for all manufactures except fruit products. Fruit processors will still pay £30 6s. 9d. a ton as hitherto for their home consumption requirements, or £2 4s. a ton less than the other manufacturers. That will be £32 10s. 9d. a ton, less £2 4s., or £30 6s. 9d. a ton. In addition, £110,000 will be granted for special export assistance, plus the usual export sugar rebate to reduce the cost of sugar in exported goods to the Australian equivalent of world’s parity. This means a considerable concession to some of the big manufacturers of Australia, who, I may say, are not in any sense allied to the Labour party. As they, too, are to receive considerable benefits under this agreement, I feel confident that there will not be any opposition from them to the bill.
In all the propaganda against the sugar industry, and in all the academic debates in this and other Parliaments, as well as in the resolutions carried by the Housewives Associations in the south, and by the National Council of Women in Tasmania. care has been taken to avoid the great national issue of our White Australia policy. We have to determine whether it is worth while continuing this experiment which has been carried on by the sugar industry for the last 30 years. The sugar industry has proved conclusively that in the tropics white men can carry on arduous toil in the fields and in the mills better than the workers in any other country on God’s earth. This experiment has never been attempted in any other country in the way in which it has been attempted by those controlling the sugar industry. It has been demonstrated beyond doubt that white labour can be employed in tropical regions, and for that reason, if for no other, the Senate should pass this bill. The late Mr. Donald MacKinnon, formerly Commissioner for Australia in the United States of America, has given considerable attention to the coloured labour problem. At the time he made the statement I propose to quote, he was in that country which would give all the gold it possesses to solve its coloured labour problem. Mr. MacKinnon said -
Nowhere else in the world is the white man handling tropical production with success. There is a big Australian responsibility on those who are building up this part of our country. It is our vulnerable frontier, and we must be watchful lest through misconception we do them an injustice and discourage them in their important responsibilities.
Those words are as true to-day as they were on the day on which they were uttered. It is not only honorable senators on this side of the chamber who are demanding a continuance of the protection afforded under this agreement. Let me quote the opinions of others. Mrs. J. H. Goldsmith, President of the Queensland Women’s Electoral League with, a membership of 16,000 throughout Queensland, has stressed the inconsistency of opposition to adequate protection of the sugar industry while so many others continue to enjoy the benefit of high protection. In a memorandum to the Prime Minister, Mrs. Goldsmith said -
It was urged that the proposed interference with the sugar industry would react most adversely against (1) the employment of many workers; (2) the occupancy and opening up of the land; and (3) the continued flow of trade between the various Status.’ Recalling “the adoption of the White Australia policy at the time of federation, opponents of the embargo had a deal to say about a mythical £7,000,000 per annum which the embargo was costing Australia. America would be a proud nation if, in 50 years, she could be 100 per cent, white and would not cavil at £20,000,000 per year for the next 50 years if she could tiring about such a position.
Mr. F. Nicklin, who was recently elected for Murrumba electorate in the Queensland Parliament, and who supports the policy of honorable senators opposite, said -
The sugar industry must not be made a political issue. Both parties should combine towards seeing that the sugar industry is maintained for Queensland, and, speaking on behalf of the fruit-growers, a considerable number of “whom reside in my constituency, I can say that they are right behind the sugargrowers in their fight to maintain the stability of their industry. They realize how much the sugar industry has assisted them by a grant of £20,000 by the Sugar Industry Concession Committee to allow them to can the winter crop and export it overseas.
Recently a royal commission which inquired into the conditions of the sugar industry, in dealing with its national aspect, reported that -
While the social aspect of the sugar industry is more important than the industrial, the political aspect is perhaps more important than cither. Unsettled areas in the tropical parts of Australia are not only a a source of strategic weakness, “they constitute a positive temptation to Asiatic invasion and may give to the White Australia policy a complexion which must inevitably weaken the claims of Australia to external support. As we have already remarked the ultimate and, in our opinion, the effective justification of the protection of the sugar industry lies beyond questions of industry or wealth production. It must be sought in the very existence of Australia as a nation.
I submit that the extra price of sugar represents a contribution to our national policy of a White Australia. That policy is in the platform of every political party in Australia and stands unchallenged.
– Why not permit people to grow more sugar cane in Northern Queensland?
– Honorable senators are aware that we are ahead, producing more than Australia requires, and that every ton exported means a serious reduction of the return to all those engaged in the industry. Senator Guthrie referred by interjection to a way in which some assistance might be given. I have not time to deal with the financial operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but I feel sure that other honorable members on this side of the chamber will be able to answer the point raised by the honorable senator. We, on this side of the chamber, say that in the sugar industry, as in every other industry carried on to-day under competitive commercialism, or, in other words, under the capitalist system, remedies for existing difficulties must be sought in directions other than by reducing selling prices or by reducing wages. Costs of distribution under the present anarchical system would well repay investigation. In view of what we have heard with respect to the cost of producing sugar, I should like to submit a few facts concerning the cost of distribution. It costs nearly as much to handle sugar over the grocers’ counters in the metropolitan areas as it costs to haul sugar-cane 20 miles to the mill, manufacture it into sugar, bag it, send it to the coast, and place it in ships’ slings. In country districts it costs a great deal more. If more attention were paid to the cost of distribution of sugar and less to production costs, some service would be rendered to the community. The cost of manufacturing sugar in the principal sugar areas of Queensland is £5 16s. 6d. a ton. The cost of handling sugar over the grocer’s counter in the city areas is £4 13’si 4d. a ton, and in country districts £9 63. Sd. a ton, out of which freight and overhead expenses have to be paid. The distribution costs add 50 per cent, to the price of sugar in the metropolitan areas. A comparison of the distribution costs of sugar, bread, and meat is interesting. In the case of meat they are at least 250 per cent., and in- the case- of bread, taking the 2-lb. loaf at 6d. in the cities with wheat at 4s. a bushel, they are 150 per cent. The distribution costs of sugar are, therefore, not unduly high compared with these other commodities, I have mentioned. I desire to summarize the value of this agreement, because it is of such importance that honorable senators should understand it. The agreement will stabilize prices for manufacturers as well as housewives, so that they will always know what the price of sugar is; it will prevent the public from being exploited because of any rise or fall in world prices; there will be no necessity for manufacturers to overstock in anticipation of a rise or fall in prices; it will prevent the Australian market from being flooded with blackgrown sugar at the expense of the Australian industry. Other Australian industries, such as the wheat and wool industries, have nothing to fear from the competition in the Australian market of the products of low-wage countries, whereas the sugar industry has everything to fear from that source. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber appeal earnestly to other honorable senators, particularly those from Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia, to stand by Queensland in this important matter. As I indicated earlier, senators from Queensland have never been found wanting when support for the industries of other States was necessary. [Extension of time granted.”] We ask that the Senate will consider this matter without regard to party. Honorable senators from Queensland, who are most vitally interested in the bill, desire to see the agreement ratified and the bill passed. Whether or not we are entirely satisfied with the measure is beside the question. We are told that the agreement cannot be altered, and we are prepared to accept it, just as the sugar interests had to accept it because of the difficulties which a refusal would create. I particularly appeal to senators from Western Australia to give this measure their support, because of what it means to Queensland. I suggest that senators should vote on this important matter not as members of a party, but as big Australians.
– Why not always adopt that attitude?
– It is more difficult to do so on many questions that come before this chamber than it is in connexion with this question. I appeal to the Senate on behalfofa great national industry which I have known from its commencement in Australia until now. I know what this industry did in the direction of ridding Australia of black labour; I have seen hundreds of square miles of country converted from the wild, jungle into prosperous towns, a process which has not been equalled in similar circumstances by any other country in the world. I have seen little “ one-horse “ bush villages blossom into thriving and prosperous towns. At Tully, where there is a sugar mill which cost £800,000, every bit of which was built in Queensland, I have seen the wild bush and sordid conditions altered until now Tully is a prosperous and thriving town. At Innisfail and Mackay, and other places, I have seen similar things happen. As the result of the sugar industry Tully now has concrete streets, and plate glass windows in its emporiums. Its hotels are equal to anyand superior to most of the hotels of Canberra. They have hot and cold water in every room, and the menu offered is better than anything I have seen in this city. My language may sound extravagant; but those who know the facts know that I have not exaggerated them. A miracle has been performed in Queensland.
– And the rest of Australia pays for it.
– I appeal to honorable senators to vote on this question as big Australians. I appeal to them to support this bill as a means of maintaining Australia’s ideal of keeping this wonderful country for the white race.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [9.52]. - I have no quarrel with Senator Collings. His attitude towards this question will probably also be the attitude of his fellow representatives from Queensland, irrespective of party. That is only a natural and, from their point of view, a proper attitude to adopt. Iam however, rather amused at the splendid enthusiasm with which representatives from Queensland now support this agreement, which only a few weeks ago they condemned as amonstrous injustice which was being forced on them by the LyonsGovernment. Evidently they realize now that they have made a good bargain - a better one than they imagined.
– That is not so.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Because I have no quarrel with Senator Collings regarding his support of this bill, I shall not refer at length to his remarks. But I remind the Senate that, in speaking of the value of this industry, Senator Collings perpetuated an error that the Commonwealth Statistician indulged in for two or three years, until he saw the absurdity of it and corrected the statistics for some years back. The Statistician made the error of assessing at the Australian price the value of the sugar exported to other parts of the world. That was an absurdity which could not be maintained statistically; but it was no more wide of the truth than was the estimate of the value of the sugar production given to us by Senator Collings to-night. The value’ of the sugar is what we can buy it for; that price to-day is approximately one-third of the figure quoted by the honorable senator.
-Would the honorable senator apply that reasoning to everything ?
– Yes. The honorable senator made reference to a report by Professor Brigden since he received an important post in Queensland. Some four years ago, when Professor Brigden was attached to the University of Tasmania, he came before a commission of which I had the privilege of being a member, and pointed out the tremendous burden that the sugar industry imposed upon Tasmanian industries. Although I always listen with respect to professional utterances, I confess that I lose a little of my faith in people when I find them so easily influenced by their environment. In my opinion, economic fact is superior to geographical considerations. I cannot accept Professor Brigden’s utterances without recalling the entirely contrary statement that he made when he was associated with Tasmania in somewhat the same way that he is now associated with Queensland. Senator Collings proved too much. He told us of the extraordinary improvements which took place in the sugar industry between 1900 and 1931. The importance of any industry is generally assessed by its capacity to serve. I admit that there has been a great technical advance in this Queensland industry, and I have no doubt that the figures quoted by the honorable senator as to the increased production of sugar per acre and the increased sugar content in sugar-cane are absolutely accurate but it is none the less a fact that the
Australian consumer of sugar is paying practically double what he paid for that commodity in 1900, when the conditions in the industry were supposed tobe so much worse than they now are. I entirely agree with the honorable senator that coloured labour is not cheap labour ; but, in making that point, he gave away one of the strongest arguments against . the prohibition of sugar. The honorable senator told us, moreover, that Australian manufacturers are not allied with the Labour party, and that he and those associated with him did not complain about the attitude of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I know neither the nature nor the extent of the alliance between Australian manufacturers and the Labour party; but I know that there is such an alliance, and I regard it as an unholy one. When we find these monopolistic companies agreeing with advanced thinkers whose slogan is “ The socialization of industry in our time,” we are justified in wondering what will happen next. Senator Collings referred to the necessity for the nationalization of industry.
– I quoted a resolution from Tasmania.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.While the honorable senator spoke, I was reminded of the old limerick -
There was a young lady of Riga.
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger;
They returned from the ride with the lady inside,
And the smile on the face of the tiger.
Are the big monopolistic companies going to swallow the Labour party, or will the process be reversed? Whichever happens, the development will be most interesting. I assure honorable senators from Queensland that I ‘do not want to damage the Queensland sugar industry. I have visited the cane-fields on three occasions, and I have friends engaged in the production of sugar whose regard I value highly. Rather than seek to damage the industry, I would see it strengthened. But I do not think that any industry can be truly strong unless it is self-reliant to a much greater extent than is the sugar industry. So long as Australia continues her present protectionist policy, the people engaged in the sugar industry will have to pay exorbitant prices for some of their requirements, such as galvanized iron, which they use in large quantities; and so long as the burden imposed by the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act remains, those engaged in primary production will be entitled to that measure of protection which is afforded to other Australian industries; but not the measure of protection they are now receiving. I think that I shall be able to show that it is political interference with the industry which is reducing it to its present unhappy position, for an industry is in a deplorable position, when it is bound to restrict its output for fear of. bringing disaster to those engaged in it. When an industry gets into a position in which it is afraid to expand, it can be of no help to the White Australia policy or to any other useful feature of Australian politics. Whilst I have no quarrel whatever with Queensland senators in their attitude, I say without fear of successsful contradiction that nobody who opposed the old agreement can with any shadow of consistency support this one.
We have had certain historical references from Senators Greene and Collings. I shall take up the story just where they left off. I accept all that they have said about the advantages obtained during the war period through having the Australian sugar industry. When political influence crept in, what was done in pretending to help the industry really desperately injured it. In 1920-21, the production of sugar in Queensland was 182,000 tons, that being considerably less than the quantity required for Australian consumption. The price was then £21 a ton. The producers waited on the then Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Hughes, and asked that the price be increased to £23 10s. a ton. Mr. Hughes appointed a royal commission - the usual method of disposing of a difficult and unpleasant matter. The chairman was Mr. Piddington, and he reported that a fair price was £22 a ton, or 30s. a ton less than the industry asked for, but £1 a tonmorethan it was then receiving. Mr. Hughes, in a characteristic burst of generosity, fixed the price at £30 6s. 8d. a ton, nearly £7 a ton more than the industry had asked for, £8 6s. 8d. more than the royal commission had recommended and £9 6s. 8d. more than the then prevailing price.
– What was the world price at the same time ?
– About £100 a ton.
– I do not know that that has the slightest bearing on my argument. If the world price was higher than the Australian price, there was no need to fix the price, because the grower had no need to fear competition.
– Then the honorable senator does not know much about the conditions.
– I know as well as the honorable senator that the conditions following on the war were entirely abnormal, but I do not think that he will dispute the fact that there was an investigation by a royal commission, which recommended the price of £22 a ton, and that the price Mr. Hughes granted was £30 6s. 8d. a ton.
– But the conditions in the meantime had entirely changed.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.The first result of that action was to increase the yield by 50 per cent in a single year.
– In what year was that?
– In 1921. To-day the production is about 600,000tons, which is about double the local requirements. The price of raw sugar before this new agreement was made was £26 a ton. The 300,000 tons exported were sold at £9 7s. a ton, of which £4 5s. 7d. represents British preference. That preference alone is worth a great deal more than £1,000,000 per annum to the Queensland sugar industry. The result of the whole business is that one-half the raw sugar sold fetches £26 a ton, and the other half only £9 7s. a ton, which means an average of £18 a ton. To-day the producer is getting £3 a ton less than he received in 1919, although the consumer is paying something like £8 a ton more - far less for the producer and far more from the consumer. Surely this suggests that the industry has been placed in a strangly uneconomic position. It is one of the fruits of political interference. I am sure that Senator Elliott is greatly interested in this matter, because the other day, in supporting the Ottawa agreement, he told us that what the world wanted was more trade and less politics. He said that in support of an agreement which, if it contemplates anything, contemplates almost complete control of trade by means of tariffs, quotas, &c. I should say that what has happened to the sugar industry of Australia because of political interference should afford a useful lesson to those who think that good can be derived by tariffs and quotas. What are we doing to-day? Not only are we dumping our sugar, but we are given a preference on the thing that we are dumping. It is curious that those who support this policy are the loudest in their outcry against dumping by any other country, whether it be dumping in Australia, or the dumping ofRussian wheat in Britain. Yet we are actually dumping half our sugar at less than half what it costs us to produce it, and at one-third the price at which it is sold locally, and we look to be encouraged in that dumping by means of preference!
– Does not dumping mean selling at a price lower than that at which anybody else can sell it in the country inwhich it is sold?
– Nothing of the kind. It means selling in another country at a price lower than that at which a commodity can be produced, and making up the difference by overcharging our own people.
– How much above world price are we forced to pay in Australia to-day for sugar?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Considerably more than double. I shall give the figures later. It is impossible to increase the production of sugar in Australia. Senator Collings has admitted it. He said “ If we grow an extra ton of sugar, we have more to export. That increases our losses and injures everybody”.
The sugar industry is carried on in three districts. The southern district extends from the New South Wales border to Carmilla, which lies about 70 miles south of Mackay, and produces one-tenth of the total crop. The central district extends from Carmilla to Burdekin, 40 miles north of Bowen, and this produces 20 per cent. of the crop. The northern district, which is responsible for 70 per cent. of the output, and produces sugar much more cheaply than any other part of Queensland, extends from Burdekin to beyond Cairns.
– The northern land is much richer.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Yes. The strip of coastal country from Burdekin to beyond Cairns is, I think, the richest land in Australia. It has a rainfall ranging from 50 to 160 inches, and the soil is of unrivalled richness. There is no nation on the face of the earth that would not regard the possession of that strip of country as a priceless heritage. It would be regarded as land that must be developed to its highest capacity because of its ability to contribute to the wealth of the rest of the nation. Yet we treat it as a piece of country that it is necessary for the much poorer portions of Australia generously to subsidize.
– If the honorable senator had his way, we should not be able to cultivate it at all.
– I have already shown my friend that the cultivator is not getting a benefit under the agreement. Although the price has been increased to the man who cultivates the land, he is getting less. It must be admitted that the greater the quantity of sugar grown, the worse position the producers are in. They have now reached the position that nobody is allowed to grow sugar except on assigned land. There may be two adjoining blocks of land of equal potential value. One is worth up to over £100 an acre, because it is assigned for the growing of sugar, but the Other is worth practically nothing. How can it be said that by that method we are making use of our country - developing it? The price to the producers of raw sugar has recently come down from £26 to £18 a ton, without one penny of relief to the consumer. That is the muddle that the industry has got itself into, and the mere fact that we cannot further develop the industry leads one to question its value from the White Australia point of view.
Another instance of the utterly uneconomic foundation upon which the industry is resting is afforded by comparing it with the beet sugar industry which is conducted under government supervision at Maffra, Victoria. It is always admitted that it is more costly to produce beet sugar than cane sugar. I do not think that beet sugar is grown in any country that can successfully produce cane sugar, and it is generally grown under a government subsidy. The Maffra mill, however, returns a clear profit of £50,000 per annum, because it has not to bear any loss through unprofitable production for export. The manager of that mill, where I spent half a day on one occasion, assured me that, even if the price of sugar were reduced by Id. a lb., he could still show a profit. I say to my friends from Queensland that they are playing with fire. If it is suggested that the sugar embargo should remain, and that the price should be fixed against the Australian consumer, not at a level which would enable the Queensland grower to produce sugar for Australian consumption - that we might readily tolerate - but at a level which would enable him to sell half his product overseas at half the cost of production, I claim that that would be utterly uneconomic, for it would be destructive to the industry, and also to the economics of the country, if it were to be maintained as a permanent policy. Then I think the people of “Western Australia and Tasmania would be extremely foolish if they did not take the risk of growing - beet sugar, and establishing mills of their own.” They could do it at a comparatively small cost, because they would’ soon be recouped by the savings that they would make on their sugar. It would enable them to meet practically all their local requirements. From an Australian point of view, I admit that it would be a foolish thing to do; it would ultimately cause trouble to us; but if it would pay Western Australia and Tasmania to act in this way, as I am sure it would, what right have our Queensland friends to expect the other States to refrain from such a course when they insist on our paying more than double the world price for our sugar ?
– Because we are doing the same thing for the people in the south.
– I do not know that Queensland is doing anything for Western Australia. Reference has been made to the Sugar Investigation Committee, appointed a couple of years ago and presided over by Mr. Gunn. I would point out that when that committee was appointed shares in the Colonial Sugar Refining Company had dropped to about £28 because it was generally expected that, at the expiration of the old agreement, some alteration would be made with regard to the future price of sugar. That company, as we all know, had been making enormous profits, it had been distributing dividends ranging from 12£ to 15 per cent., and had also been paying large bonuses to its shareholders. It had returned the whole of the subscribed capital to its shareholders, and had a reserve of approximately £7,000,000. Shares that had been quoted at £40 in the market had, prior to the appointment of the committee to which I have alluded, dropped to £28, because it was generally expected that, following the result of the committee’s investigations, there would be a reduction of the price of sugar. Who would have supposed that, as the consequence of the appointment of that committee, shares in the Colonial Sugar Refining Company would double in value? Yet that is what happened. To-day those shares are worth twice what they were when the Gunn committee was appointed, and it should be noted that they made their last considerable rise since the Premier of Queensland announced the acceptance, by his Government, of this agreement.
I have said that I cannot understand how any one who opposed the old agreement can support this one. Let us consider the two agreements. The first suggestion was that there should be a reduction of approximately 22-J per cent., in keeping with the general reduction of prices and costs which had been forced upon bondholders and most of the other sections of the community. The reduction of price provided in this agreement represents not 22-J per cent, but 11 per cent. - a little less than half the reduction that has been forced upon other sections of the Australian community. If the agreement went no further; if it simply amended the old agreement and made the reduction 11 per cent, instead of 22^ per cent., I should not bother to oppose it. But instead of providing for a reduction of 22A per cent., which, the rest of the community was entitled to expect, instead even of cutting to 11 per cent., we find that enormous concessions have been made to this industry as a reward for doing what it ought to have done long ago without any reward whatever. And what are the rewards? The first is the statutory enactment of the prohibition against the importation of foreign sugar. The Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Greene) had something to say on this point. He told us that this Government was doing something which the previous Government had not dared to do, namely, submit its prohibition proposals to Parliament for approval. The honorable gentleman spoke us if the previous government had been the first to offend in that direction when, as a matter of fact, this prohibition was enforced by the Hughes, the Bruce-Page and the Scullin Governments, not one of which dared to submit it to Parliament for discussion. So the truth of the matter is that when the Assistant Minister reproached the previous government for not having brought this prohibition before Parliament for approval he must have forgotten the record of £he Government of which he was a member for many years because, as I have explained, although it had many opportunities to do so, it also refrained from submitting this prohibition to Parliament.
In this connexion I wish to read a short but’ very interesting article which appeared in the Australian Sugar Journal, in its issue of the 3rd November, 1932. I am sure that my honorable friends from Queensland will accept statements which appear in that journal just as readily as if I quoted a chapter of Holy Writ. This is what that journal has to say on the subject -
There was recently published in the Brisbane Daily Mail a Canberra telegram, in which attention was directed to a debate in the Senate in May last, which, it is stated, came near to depriving the sugar industry of the embargo, leaving the industry with only a duty of £9 6s. 8cl. per ton. This has reference to a proposed amendment of the Customs Act, moved by Senator Sir Hal Colebatch of Western Australia, to compel tariff prohibitions to be made only by proclamation instead of by regulation. As proclamations can be disallowed by either House of Parliament, it is pointed out the sugar embargo would have been at the morey of a hostile Senate. It was added in the telegram to which reference is made, that “so great was the risk of this amendment being carried, that the Government was compelled to ‘ report progress/ and it has not since ventured to reintroduce the bill.” This matter having come under the notice of Mr. Curlewis, Secretary of the Australian Sugar Producer.,’ Association, that gentleman sent the following memorandum to the press : - “ I have read the press telegram Ir011 Canberra dealing with the possibilities of our losing the sugar embargo through an amendment to the Customs Act. This will fully indicate the danger to which the sugar industry was subject in one direction alone prior to the negotiations for the amendment to the agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments. I might mention that we were first advised of this proposed amendment to the Customs Act by urgent telegram from Senator Crawford, and immediately took the matter up and sent telegrams of protest to all the Queensland members, both in the Senate and the House Of Representatives, asking that they suggest to the Commonwealth Government that the proposed amendment be dropped from the bill. As will be seen by the report now published, the Commonwealth Government, recognizing the danger to the sugar industry, dropped the bill for the time being. There is no doubt that had the, recent negotiations for a new agreement failed or been deferred indefinitely, the Government would have been forced on general principles, of discouraging administration by proclamation, to have allowed Senator Colehatch’s amendment to be brought before the Senate. In addition to this source of attack, it has also to be remembered that the validity of the sugar agreement would probably have been challenged before the High Court through the Attorney-Generals of some of the southern States.
The position now is, that once the agreement is approved by the Commonwealth Parliament, it cannot be challenged by outsiders, and will bc in the same constitutional position as an act of Parliament.
The reference in that article is to a bill introduced by Senator Greene, who to-day taunts the Scullin Government for not having dared to do something which the previous Government, of which he was a member, also refrained from doing. In it we see the first mention of the advantage which the sugar industry is to obtain from the making of a concession of only 11 per cent., as compared with a reduction of 22£ per cent, required of other industries. The Scullin Labour Government did not table the prohibition, because it knew very well that it would have been rejected by the Senate, and among those who would have voted for its rejection are honorable senators who are responsible for the introduction of this bill, which, as I have shown, contains this very element of prohibition. I venture to say that, if we search the history of federation, we shall discover that most of the socialistic experiments that have been fastened upon the, people have been introduced by anti-Labour governments, which have been able to do things which a Labour government could not do. I, therefore, suggest to my Queensland friends that, if they desire to ensure the future safety of the sugar industry, the best thing they can do is to vote for Nationalist candidates, because a Labour government would certainly never have dared to do what this Government is now doing.
The second concession made to the industry is this : Under the old agreement the price of sugar was to be reviewed in 1934. Can any one for a moment imagine that the reduction which would have been made in 1934 would not be more than id. per lb. ? Having accepted the agreement, the price of sugar is fixed at 4d. per lb. up to the end of the prohibition period of 1936. Another advantage gained by the industry is that, under the old agreement, it was required to provide £315,000 per annum for the assistance of the fruit industry. Under this agreement, the amount is reduced to £200,000. I trust that my Tasmanian friends have read the first annual report, dated the 4th November, 1932, of the Emit Industries Sugar Concession Committee, which was laid on the table of the Senate on Wednesday last. The function of that committee was to arrange for the distribution of the £315,000 contributed by the Australian cane sugar industry, by providing a rebate of £6 5s. Id. on refined sugar used in fruit products manufactured in Australia, subject to the manufacturers paying such price for fresh fruit as the committee declares to be reasonable. Thai provision was inserted in the Scullin agreement, but it did not appear in the agreement made by the Hughes Government. Actually it is merely another instance of political interference with industry, and another method of fixing prices and regulating all these things. Honorable senators in opposition will, no doubt, say that this is a proper thing for a government to do. But I would remind them that there appeared in the newspapers last week a report that the Colonial Sugar Henning Company is arranging for the construction of a ship of 3,000 tons at Dunedin, Scotland. Personally, I think the company is doing the right thing; but, regarded from the point of view of consistency, it would appear open to challenge that, under an agreement made between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government, the sugar industry is guaranteed a price which enables the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to observe Australian labour conditions in the industry; but, when it comes to building a ship for the transport of Australian sugar, it looks to the cheapest market to satisfy its demands.
– We do not approve of that.
– I have no doubt that the honorable senator and his friends would raise an objection. But I am merely directing attention to what is happening. I have no doubt, also, that if a Labour government had been in office, and if it had drafted this agreement, it would have included in it conditions relating to the construction of a ship by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company similar to those under which manufacturers of jam must pay a certain price to the men who grow the fruit, and the growers must observe certain conditions as to wages paid, in return for concessions given. But where should we be with regard to any of our industries, even the most highly protected among them, such as the galvanized iron and sheet glass industries, if, in addition to imposing prohibitions sufficient to give the manufacturers, control of the Australian market, we also required the Australian consumer to pay a price tha*, would enable those manufacturing concerns to sell their surplus products in the world’s markets at one-half the cost of production? Obviously, it would not be long before there would be a noticeable decline in the living standards of our people, and this country would be brought to ruin. The Fruit Industries Sugar Concession Committee points out that the method of distribution decided upon was as follows: - Domestic sugar rebate, £171,000; export sugar .rebate, £2.9,000.
It had also been the intention to give special assistance of £110,000 to different sections of the fruit industries, but Instead of having £315,000 to distribute, it now has only £200^000. This committee is careful to- tell us that no concern gets the rebate unless it has paid the fixed price for the. fruit or the pulp, and that a complete revision has been initiated for the purpose of removing the names of manufacturers who have ceased to qualify fully for the rebate. One of the most difficult tasks that the committee could be called upon to perform is to fix this price, but it does so by fixing a common price to operate all over Australia. The ordinary, the normal, the economic way of doing things, when there is a glut in fruit, is to cheapen the price, which in turn leads to the price of jam being reduced, thus avoiding a wastage of good fruit, a condition that must arise under the conditions now imposed. It is interesting to see who get this rebate for home consumption. New South -Wales receives £35,000, Victoria £27,000, Queensland £19,000, South Australia £17,000, and Tasmania £27,000. As showing that I am not speaking from the point of view of my own State, Western Australia receives £1,000. Of the export rebate, Victoria receives £14,000, Tasmania £7,000, New South Wales £5,000,. Queensland £2,000, South Australia £7,000 and Western Australia £1 8s. 6d. The average rebate given to the manufacturer for export is £17 16s. 8d. a ton; in some months it was as high as £20 a ton.
I come now to the question of production. That these conditions are hampering the development of other industries is disclosed by the fact that in 1926-27, Australia produced 85,000,000 lb. of jam, while last year the production had dropped to 66,000,000 lb. In 1926-27 the production of canned fruits amounted to 57,000,000 lb., whereas last year it was only 50,000,000 lb. Our exports of jams dropped from a value of £2,423,000 in 1926-27 to £1,445,000 last year. The percentage of canned fruits exported increased from 17.61 to 71 per cent., which indicates the enormous reduction that took place in local consumption.
– How is it that the jam manufacturers are making record profits this year?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.They probably are ; . but they are certainly not developing the industry. If the honorable senator suggests that they are satisfied with the new agreement, I counsel him to read some of the letters that I have received in connexion with it.
– I have read their balance-sheets.
– That may be. I do not know that a single instance can be quoted of political management of industries that has not meant the exploitation of the consumer. If it is a fact, as my honorable friend says, that the jam manufacturers are making huge profits, that is only part of the whole piece. I have no doubt that the fruit-grower is having a cold time of it.
– Better than he has had for years.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Because of the reduction from £350,000 to £200,000 under the new agreement, the manufacturer of jam for local consumption has actually to pay more in the future than he has paid in the past. True, the difference is only fractional; but there is the fact. The price under the old agreement was £30 6s. 8d., whereas under the new agreement it is £30 6s. 9d. The difference is entirely unimportant, the point being that this consumer had just as much right as any other to anticipate a reduction of £d. per lb. - which he might reasonably have been expected to pass on. The final paragraph of the report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concessions Committee makes of the report a priceless document. In the whole of my experience I have not come across such a piece of official impudence, such -
This is what the committee says to the people who are engaged in this industry, which is dependent on cheap sugar -
The committee considers that a note of warning should be ‘sounded against overoptimism arising out of the new British preferences and the revised sugar agreement. The preference may be nullified wholly or in part by the return of exchange on London to normal and/or the restoration of parity between sterling and the American, dollar.
I do not think that either of those things is at all likely to happen; consequently the advice is gratuitous, and certainly not valuable. But let us see what follows -
The export assistance from the sugar industry, substantial though it proved to be last year, might not go very far in the event of prolific seasons. Furthermore, the new sugar agreement will terminate in August, 193fi, and there is no guarantee that the special fruit concessions, which have always been officially announced as temporary will be continued on the same scale or continued at all.
Is not that a supremely insolent statement for the sugar industry to make to the fruit industry - that there is no guarantee that the concession will be continued? What has the sugar industry given to the fruit industry ? At the most, in the case of jam for export, it has merely supplied sugar at the price at which it could have been obtained elsewhere; and for local consumption, a great deal more than that has had to be paid. Yet these people have the impudence to talk about the concessions which the sugar industry is making to the fruit industry ! They, apparently, write on the assumption that this embargo - -under which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company can make profits amounting to £750,000 a year - and all the other conditions relating to the industry are to be maintained, but that the poor fruitgrower and manufacturer is not to depend on even getting a little of his own back; he must prepare for the time when he will have to pay the full price dictated by prohibition and price fixing, on a scale that is intended to enable the sugar producer to sell overseas one-half of his product at less than half what it costs to produce. The Minister referred ito -the matter in almost the same terms. It is strange how circumstances affect one’s outlook. ‘ The honorable gentleman spoke of the way in which the sugar industry is helping the fruit-grower - by supplying him -with sugar at about double the price at which he could obtain it elsewhere. The committee goes on to say -
It is to bo hoped therefore that in connexion with ‘future production programmes, the industry will give due heed to its ability to secure profitable and reasonably permanent markets. The committee further commends tothe earnest consideration of all sections of the fruit industry concerned, the great advisability of taking full advantage of the fortunate circumstances of the next few years by unremitting endeavours to achieve maximum possible reduction in overhead, production and selling costs, and in all outstanding liabilities, and where possible to build up capital reserves to meet future emergencies.
What are the future emergencies to which reference is made? One is suggested in the previous paragraph - the time when the sugar industry will no longer make any contribution out of all that is paid to it by the general community, and when the fruit industry will be expected to allow itself to be bled white. It is expected to pile up reserves, so that it will be able to pay twice or three times world value for sugar in order that jam may be made. I say again that this is the most insolent report that I have read in my life. Why should we not suggest to the sugar industry that it should secure profitable and reasonably permanent markets? Why not commend to its earnest consideration the advisability of making unremitting endeavours to achieve maximum possible reduction in overhead? Why not suggest that it is its business to produce sugar at something reasonably approximating the cost at which it can be produced under similar conditions elsewhere?
I do not know what procedure it is intended to follow with regard to this agreement. I maintain that it should be the right of this Senate to amend it in any way thought desirable. Failing an assurance in that direction, I shall certainly vote against the second reading of the bill; because the agreement a§ it stands is infinitely worse than the old agreement for the people of Australia. If we are permitted to amend it, - by striking out the portion which embodies the prohibition, and that which continues the present price beyond the year 1934 contemplated in the agreement that is being varied, and by calling upon the sugar industry to continue to contribute to the fruit industry the £350,000 fixed by the previous agreement - I shall be prepared to withdraw my active opposition to the bill.
– What about the arbitration clause?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.That clause is one of the most curious features of the bill. Honorable senators who at present occupy the Government benches, and who are responsible for this bill, strenuously opposed in the past the inclusion of a similar provision in other measures, and even went to the length of dividing the Senate on the matter; yet now they are prepared to accept it. Again I say that it is an extraordinary illustration of the fact that these -wretched socialistic nostrums, which no Labour party can enforce, are placed on the statute-book by our own people. It is one of the most melancholy consequences of our present system of government, that the very people who denounce these things when out of office, are the first to advocate and embody them in legislation when they get in office. I repeat, that I think it should be the privilege .of the Senate to amend the bill in the directions that I have suggested. I venture to think that a majority of the Senate is in favour of some of those amendments. If that permission is not given, I shall certainly oppose the bill.
– In what way is this agreement much worse than the old agreement for the people of Australia ?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Under the old agreement, the prohibition was not established by act of Parliament ; and in the second place, there had to be a revision of prices in 1934, whereas under this agreement there is to be no revision until 1936.
– Is not this a revision?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.There is to be a reduction in the retail price of ½d. a lb. If the honorable senator thinks that a reduction of 11 per cent, is more than the industry is called upon to make in compliance with the general 224 per cent, reduction imposed everywhere else, he is welcome to his opinion. I say that, quite apart from any other concession to the industry, it is only half the reduction that ought to be made.
– “With a reduction’ at the end of 1934, would it not average up?
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.I say that there should be a reduction by at least another penny in 1934. But that leaves the matter open. I do not wish to convince Senator Elliott against his will. I know the painful uncertainty under which he laboured in regard to theold agreement, and I am not surprised to find him in practically a similar position with respect to this. I. have tried to indicate to him the directions in which I consider that this agreement is worse than the old one. I have shown pretty clearly that it is worse from the point of view of the manufacturer, because . the contribution by the industry to the fruit processors and jam makers is to be £115,000 per annum less. I cannot imagine any one who opposed the old agreement supporting this.
– Having had considerable experience as a grower of sugar cane, I desire to make a few observations on this bill. It is 37 years since I, in company with my wife, settled in what is still the northern outpost of the sugar industry. I have had a great deal of experience in the industry both in pre-federation days and since, and it is ‘ most unfortunate that the Senate should be considering a subject of such grave importance to the whole of Australia concerning which so few honorable senators have a. personal knowledge. I venture to say that if the sugar-growing industry were carried on as are many industries in the six States of the Commonwealth, the tirade of abuse which has taken place during the past 32 years would not have been directed against it. “When the colonies, as they were then termed, were considering whether they would enter the federation, Queensland was definitely promised that although the coloured labour then employed in the industry would be repatriated, sufficient protection would be afforded to enable it to carry on under white labour conditions.
– No one is making any great complaint about the sugar industry.
– Many persons have complained about the price of sugar. Important interests are concerned in obtaining a reduction of price, more particularly the manufacturers who use sugar a9 an alleged raw material. In most manufactures, sugar is no more a raw materia] than is the cloth used in making a suit of clothes or the silk used in making a frock. As a matter of fact sugar is a more highly manufactured article than are many of the manufactured products in which it is used. What do these proposed reductions mean? To the brewers alone they represent a reduction of £50,000 per annum. We know that such interests have been spending a considerable sum of money with a view to stirring “up general antagonism throughout, Australia against the sugar-producers of “Queensland, and before I conclude, I shall give some examples of the abuse and misrepresentation which have been directed against an industry upon which scores of thousands of worthy citizens depend for a livelihood. We have just listened to a very critical speech by Senator Colebatch which was directed, not merely against the bill, but against the very existence of the sugar industry. I am sorry that Senator Colebatch is temporarily absent, because I should like him to hear what I have to say. I have never heard that honorable senator make a single proposal or suggestion which would provide Australian citizens with one hour’s profitable work. The whole of his criticisms of the measures which the Senatehas considered have been of a destructive character, and I have often wondered what would be the position of the country if Senator Colebatch directed its policy. I ask leave to continue my remarks when the debate is resumed.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till to-morrow at 10.30 a.m.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– This afternoon I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) whether there is anything in the Standing Orders to prevent a deserving Australian citizen who does not possess a coat from entering the King’s Hall or the galleries provided for the use of strangers. I was astounded to learn that a very decent chap who is interested in the debates inthisParliament,butwho through no fault of his own, does not possess a coat, was prevented from entering this building. I do not think that any honorable senator believes that any person so unfortunately placed should not be allowed to enter the building merely because he does not possess a coat. Will the Minister say if the position is as I have stated?
– Can the Minister say when the Senate is likely to discuss the bill in which provision is made for granting assistance to the wheat-growers?
.- With reference to the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes), I may say that, although I deplore what has happened, I am not at all astonished. It seems to me that we are wrapped up in conventionalism to an absurd degree. On a sultry day, why should not honorable senators be permitted to attend to their parliamentary duties without wearing coats. But I suppose that if one were to doso, it would be looked upon as more sacrilegious than if one were to spit on the King’s statue. It seems to me that we are too conventional altogether. Reasonable latitude should be afforded, particularly when the climate sometimes renders it necessary forone to be protected from the cold with an overcoatand an eiderdown, and, onother occasions, makes it necessary for one to remove one’s coat and vest to be cool and comfortable. If persons are decently clothed, why all this humbug?
[10.56]. - This afternoon, when the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) raised the subject to which he and Senator Rae have just referred, I said that the control of Parliament House, as he who was a member of a former Government shouldknow, was under the President and Mr. Speaker, and not the Government. I sympathize with a man who cannot afford a coat, but I think that there are very few in that position. I should be extremely surprised to learn that there are men in Canberra who do not possess coats, particularly as I was informed to-day that, within the last week or two, when prices were invited in the
Territory for carrying out certain work involving labour 110 offers were received, ifthatisso,Ishould imagine that if a man was without a coat and needed one, he would have submitted a price, which, if accepted,would have enabled him to purchase one.
SenatorBarnes. - But is it necessary for men in the strangers’ gallery to wear a coat on a warm night?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.There are some, of course, who think that there is no necessity to conduct our parliamentary work in a dignified manner, and who believe in makingour parliamentary institutions like a Dounybrook fair conducted underRaffertyrules, permitting every one to behave as he likes. J do not share that view. I think that, there is some value in having the proceedings of Parliament conducted in a dignified manner. Many years ago, an honorable senator adopted the habit of removing his boots, and ] know that those honorable senators seated near him had reason to protest, against what they regarded as an objectionable practice. Speaking seriously, I do not think that it would be wise torelax those rules which provide that those who occupy scats in this chamber or in the galleries should be properly garbed. However, that is a matter for the President and Mr. Speaker to decide.
In reply to the point raised by Senator Dunn, I understand that another place is now discussing the Financial Belief Bill in which provision is made for granting assistance to the wheatgrowers. I am hopeful that that measure willreach the Senate to-morrow, and when the Sugar Agreement Bill hasbeen disposed of, doubtless it will be proceeded with.
The PRESIDENT ( Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch).- The Louder of the Opposition and other honorable senators have referred to persons without coats seeking admission to the Senate. In every state of society there is sucha thing as convention, and even were the greatest innovatorto achieve his desires that wouldstillbethecase. In this place we must be guided by our ideas of what is decorous. Were we to depart from the established custom so far as to allow a man to enter this chamber not clothed in a coat, the time would not bo far distant when hewould want to leave off his waistcoat, and perhaps other parts of his attirealso, and the proceedings and dignity of the Senate would be held in contempt.. Those who would appear in this chamberwithout a coat would not, I suggest, attend a friend’s wedding similarlyattired. That there are men in Canberra who do not possess a coat is to . be deplored; but from the remarks of the Leader of the Government it would appear that they have not availed themselves of opportunities for work which would have provided them with the means of purchasing one. The Senate has more important matters to deal with, and at this stage I do not propose to make any departure from the long-established custom.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 November 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19321129_senate_13_137/>.