13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. F. J. Lynch) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
SenatorRAE. - Has the attention of the Leader of the Government been drawn to the following report of a debate in the Senate yesterday, which appears in thismorning’s Canberra Times: -
Accusing Sir George Pearce of having charged him with questioning the appointment of Mr. F. W. Eggleston as chairman of the Commonwealth Grunts Commission for the purpose of “ vote catching,” Senator Johnston labelled the Minister for Defence as the “ champion vote catcher of Australia.” “I predict that this champion vote catcher will succeed in catching the majority of the voles in Cabinet when the position of High Commissioner is being considered,” he added.
Has the right honorable gentleman also read the statement of the Labour movement that, in the event of the Labour party securing a majority in the Federal Parliament at the next elections, it reserves to itself the right to cancel any such appointment?
The PRESIDENTSenator the Hon.
This indefatigable search for spicy items in the newspapers is indicative of most praiseworthy energy. All thatI need say in reply to the honorable senator is, that the other day Senator Johnston “ tipped “ Sir James Mitchell as the nest Governor of Western Australia, but the Premier of that State has since denied that that is intended. I do not know whether Senator Johnston’s latest “ tip “ will prove more nearly correct.
The Public Service Board of Commissioners has now furnished the following replies : -
Is ita fact that unemployed soldiers, who are not members of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League, are being refused employment on GardenIsland, Sydney, by reason of their non-membership of such league?
Will the Minister make inquiries into the matter, and ask for a report from the captain in charge of Garden Island?
I am now in a position to advise the honorable senator that I have made inquiries, and am informed that there is no truth in the statement.
– Is the prediction of the political observers of the Labor Daily newspaper correct, that Great Britainwould default in her war debt payments to the United States of America? Has the Leader of the Senate any statement to make concerning the Common wealth Government’s policy in regard to defaulting on war debts to all countries outside of Australia?
– I have nothing to add to the statement made last night by the Assistant Treasurer (Senator Greene), in regard to Great Britain’s war debts. The second part of the honorable senator’s question appears on the notice paper for to-day.
– Yesterday Senator Dunn asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers are as follow: -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. I am unable to say what is the nature of the arrangements governing payments related to war debts owing to the United States by European countries and which have been arranged and which have been withheld. It is clear, of course, that Great Britain is not numbered amongst the latter, and in this I refer the honorable senator to the statement made by the Assistant Treasurer to the Senate yesterday.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the’ honorable senator’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. I am only aware of one definite instance of repudiation, namely, Russia, which repudiated debts of £783,000,000 due to the British Government. At the Lausanne Conference last year, it was tentatively arranged that all war debts owing by foreign countries to Great Britain should be cancelled, and all payments are suspended pending ratification, so no question of repudiation arises.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
In view of the repeated requests of honorable senators of the party on the Opposition side of the chamber in reference to the Government’s policy in relation to the instructions, if any, to be placed before the delegates to the World Economic Conference, will the Leader of the Government make any statement as to the policy of the Government in relation to Australia’s default on war debts?
– It is not customary to answer questions involving a disclosure of Government policy, hut there is no truth in the suggestion that Australia has defaulted in regard to her war debts. The honorable senator appears to be unaware that, owing to the generous action on the part of the British Government, Australia has not been called upon to make any payment during the last two years in respect of its war debt due to the British Government.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Have any shipments of military clothing, scrap iron, or other material suitable for use in war time been sent to -
– The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
245; 1932, 278; at 30th June in each year. At present, 255.
SenatorRAE asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Senator Sir WALTER GREENE.The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Senator Sir WALTER GREENE.The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
SenatorRAE asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Is it not a fact that honorable senators are being deluged with complaints from all over the Commonwealth, alleging that the picture show industry faces ruin as a result of the increased duty on films?
Has the Minister received any report from the Tariff Board on this item, and if so, what is the nature of its recommendation ?
Senator Sir WALTER GREENE.The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
There does appear to be a campaign organized for the purpose of protesting against the increase in duty on foreign feature film imported for copying purposes.
No. It is not usual to refer duties imposed for revenue purposes to the Tariff Board.
Mr. S. M. BRUCE, M.P.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he make available to the Senate the following information: -
The number of visits the member for Flinders has made to England either in an official or a private capacity?
The dates of departure from and return to Australia of those visits?
The cost to the Commonwealth of such journeys, in fares, travelling expenses, and allowances?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Information in regard to official visits to England of the right honorable member is being obtained and will be supplied as early as practicable. No information is in the possession of the Government in regard to any visits made by him to England in a private capacity, but in any case, such visits are not matters of public concern.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Will he lay the file of papers in reference to the case, Coglan v. The Licensing Officer of Port Adelaide, on the table of the Parliamentary Library?
– The papers are not at present in Canberra, but are being obtained. When they are received, consideration will be given to the honorable senator’s question.
Appointment of Mr. John Deans
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he ascertain from the Public Service Board whether there are any excess officers in the Commonwealth Public Service, who are returned soldiers, and who have the necessary qualifications to fill the permanent appointment recently given to Mr. Deans in the Bureau of Census and Statistics?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Board is not aware of any such officers.
The following paper was presented: -
Particulars with regard to examinations for and appointments to positions of Machinists (Female) in the Commonwealth Public Service.
In Committee: (Consideration resumed from the 15th June, vide page 2397).
Clause 9 (Application of British preferential tariff to the non-self-governing colonies) -
Upon which Senator Dunn had moved -
That the House of Representatives be requested to leave out the clause.
– I shall explain the position in relation to this clause as the Government sees it. When the delegates assembled at Ottawa, the Mother Country desired that, in some instances, preferences should be applied to the nonselfgoverning colonies, and submitted a memorandum of the commodities” in respect of which preferences were sought. The list as accepted is contained in schedule G of the Ottawa agreement, together with the degree of preference and the quantity limitations. There are three items which are not included in that schedule, namely, beeswax, butter, and carbonate of soda. Three other items have also been mentioned by honorable senators, cotton, sugar and tea, but no preference exists in respect of those three commodities, either under the Ottawa agreement or anywhere in the tariff schedule. There are about 55 nonselfgoverning colonies with which reciprocal trade arrangements may be made under the Ottawa agreement at the request of the Mother Country.
– Are our mandated territories included?
– No. Requests from those non-self-governing colonies will be received from time to time ; and if honorable senators will turn to item No. 44, which appears on page 11 of the schedule to this Customs Tariff. they will find a typical illustration of the way in which the Minister for Trade and Customs and his department desire to proceed in such cases. That item, which refers to “ confectionery, cocoa and chocolate “, embraces under sub-item a -
Cocoa beans, whole or broken, raw; cocoa shells raw. free British, free general.
And in respect to sub-item (a) - on and after a date to be fixed by proclamation -
Cocoa beans, whole or broken, raw; cocoa shells raw, per lb., free British,½d. general.
The reason for this provision was to give the Mother Country time to make the necessary application, and, in the meantime, not to impose the general tariff rate on the product of non-self-governing colonies. I could give other instances to honorable senators. I am confident chat they will admit that this is the easiest and simplest way to go about the matter. Some honorable senators may feel that it deprives Parliament of a certain amount of control, but under the Ottawa agreement these things have to be done, for they form part of the consideration given for the concessions that we have obtained. If the Senate were not to agree to this simple method of adjusting the matter, it would be necessary, whenever one of these tariff concessions was arranged, to introduce a bill for the purpose, which would have to be passed by both Houses of the Parliament. The department considered that as the matter was more or less a minor one, it was advisable to leave the implementing of the agreement to be done by proclamation. The point was raised by Senator O’Halloran and also by Senator Brennan that schedule G of the Ottawa agreement is not exhaustive, and on examining it narrowly I am inclined to agree with the honorable senators, and it would appear that Great Britain can make requests for concessions in respect of commodities which are outside the list given in schedule G. At the same time these can apply only to the three items that I have referred to as being outside the schedule, and the other three items in respect of which no preference is given. It is unnecessary for Parliament to deal with every minor arrangement that may be made under the provisions of clause 9, as they will not be important in principle, and will not affect the protective incidence of the tariff, or interfere materially with our industries. In addition there will always be the quid pro quo in the market which will be provided by the non-self-governing colonies for some of our products.
– Could it not be definitely stated in the clause that it does not go beyond the provisions of the Ottawa agreement.
– The provisions of the clause do not go beyond the Ottawa agreement. This is the means that the department has devised to implement the Ottawa agreement. The Government of the day will be answerable if it makes a bad bargain in regard to concessions given to non-self-governing colonies and the goods imported from them. In making any preferential trade arrangements with those parts of the British dominions we cannot go beyond the provisions of the Ottawa agreement. I admit that that agreement is general in its term, but we have to regard it from a practical point of view and, as I have already pointed out, these commodities are either included in the schedule or belong to the six items to which I have referred.
I ask the Senate to agree to the clause as it stands as embodying apractical, common-sense procedure. I fear that if it were limited in its application we should violate what we agreed to do at Ottawa. As I have already stated, if the Government of the day should do something extremely foolish in negotiating these reciprocal agreements, it would be open to parliamentary castigation. If any honorable senator still feels uncertain on the subject, I should be glad to hear his views, but having examined the requests that were made at Ottawa, and the. history of that conference, I am sure that this isthe only really practical way to implement the agreement.
SenatorMacDONALD (Queensland) [11.29]. - Senator McLachlan has made a plea for the rapid passage of this clause, but I am sure that he will pardon honorable senators, particularly those who represent Queensland, when they ask for something more definite in regard to the application of clause 9. I suggest that the clause be postponed until we have discussed a number of items covering tropical products with which Queensland particularly is concerned. I confess that I am somewhat in the dark as to the meaning of this clause. Looking at the list, I see that bananas are specially mentioned.
– If the honorable senator will look at schedule G to the Ottawa agreement, he will see that there is a limitation of importations in the case of bananas.
– We know where we are in relation to bananas, but not in the case of other items. For instance, what is the position in regard to rum made as a by-product of sugarcane? It may be that Austraiian rum, manufactured by white labour, will have to face the competition of rum produced by black labour in Eastern Africa. Already the rum distillers of Queensland have protested against the differing duties on rum and whisky. Queensland is concerned with the possibility of competition from the products of British protectorates in tropical regions. Commodities produced by white labour in Queensland are at a great disadvantage in competing with similar commodities produced by black labour in countries where the wages of adults are only a few shillings a week, and much less for children. Coco-nuts which are grown extensively in Queensland are also grown in a number of British protectorates, and there is danger of the Queensland industry being adversely affected. From time to time the menace to an unpopulated Northern Australia is pointed out, and if profitable production, under Australian conditions, cannot be engaged in there, the outlook for a larger population in that part of this Continent is not promising. We must also ensure that Australian industries will not be injured by the products of coloured labour in the Mandated Territories of Papua and New Guinea, and the growers of tropical fruits in Australia must be protected against unfair competition. Australians growing pineapples, mangoes, custard apples, sour sop and sweet sop, predict that their industry will be much greater in the future. Queensland is more concerned with this than are the southern States. I feel that I cannot give an intelligent vote on this clause until I have heard the discussion on the various items, particularly those connected with tropical industries. We, on this side, thank the Minister for the trouble he has taken to make the position clear, but we are not yet entirely satisfied, and therefore we think that he would do well to agree to the postponement of the item in order that the Senate may have further information presented to it.
Senator MCLACHLAN (South Australia - Vice President of the Executive
I have not made the position clear to all honorable senators. Senator MacDonald referred to the Queensland rum industry. The British preferential duty on rum is 36s. a gallon, and the foreign tariff 41s. a gallon.
– But the Ottawa agreement provides for a margin of 5s. a gallon.
– That margin of preference is set out at the top of the column, and is provided in the difference between the rates I have named. The only alteration would be to put the British colonies in the same position as the Mother Country.
The honorable senator also referred to the duties on tobacco. I do not mind how much this subject is debated on the schedule, but at this stage 1 ask only that honorable senators commit themselves to the method proposed in the bill. I understand that an exhaustive examination has been conducted by customs officers into the tobacco-growing industry, and that the “only way to give effect to article 15 of the Ottawa agreement is that which is set out in this measure. The British preferential duty on tobacco is the same as the foreign duty, so that no injury can be caused there.
A limitation on the importations of bananas is clearly expressed in schedule G to the Ottawa agreement. It would appear that some honorable senators fear that in passing this clause they would be committing themselves to something from which they could not withdraw later. I cannot make any further explanation than I have already made, but should any honorable senator feel, after the consideration of the whole schedule, that something dangerous has been done, I give an undertaking to have the bill recommitted for further consideration of this clause.
– Why not postpone it?
– If honorable senators prefer that course, I am. willing to meet them. Or should they prefer to debate the clause a little longer now, so that I may understand exactly what they desire, I am willing to comply with their wish. In order to allow for further consideration of this clause, I now move -
That the clause he postponed.
– We on this side are desirous of assisting the Minister to get the schedule through the Senate, but we are somewhat afraid of the competition of some of the British protectorates in tropical regions. The World Almanac and Book of Facts for 1933 contains some valuable information in relation to Tanganyika, the Cameroon s and other British protectorates in Africa. For instance, it shows that they produce each year sugar to the value of over £5,000,000.
– There is no preference in the case of sugar; there is an embargo upon its importation into Australia.
– A note in connexion with Sierra Leone reads “ All slaves - about 250,000 in number, held by natives - were declared free on 31st December, 1927 “. It is evident, therefore, that slave conditions have not long been removed from these protectorates, so that any competition from them would seriously affect Queensland industries. We on this side value the offer of the Minister to postpone the clause.
– Rather than postpone the consideration of this clause at this juncture, it would be well if honorable senators were to make their views known to the Minister, so that he could consider them. I am concerned chiefly with article 15 of the Ottawa agreement, particularly the words, “ and also any preferences for the time being accorded to the United Kingdom if His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom so request “. That provision refers to other matters than those set out in schedule G to the agreement. It is true that there is no preference in the case of sugar, because of the embargo, but I see great danger to the Australia banana industry. The duty on bananas is 2s. 6d. per cental British and 8s. 4d. foreign. Were Great Britain to ask Australia to accord a preferential rate of duty to bananas grown in any of the British protectorates we should have to grant it.
– Schedule G to the Ottawa agreement sets out a definite limitation of the quantity of bananas which may be imported.
– That does not override the words in article 15 which I have just quoted.
– The words referred to apply to other things than those contained in schedule G.
– Article 15 contains the words “ any preferences “ ; it does not refer specifically to the preferences set out in schedule G. I should like the Minister to take that point into consideration, because, in some instances, the preferences are considerable. It would be possible to bring in large quantities of goods, and under the Ottawa agreement to admit them at British preferential rates.
– The postponement of the clause will enable honorable senators on this side to confer and to see what this complex provision really means.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) 11.46]. - As political considerations are not allowed to influence the decisions of the Tariff Board, this clause should be referred to the body which is vested with the power to consider the advisability or otherwise of proposed tariff changes. If the Board has the power to deal with ordinary customs duties, why should it not be asked to report on the matters covered by this clause ?
.- I should like the Minister (Senator McLachlan) to make it quite clear to the committee whether the British preferential tariff applies to all British possessions?
– Not all of them.
– I thought that it did, and that the general tariff which, in this case, has been eliminated, applied to those countries with which we have trade treaties. So long as the present sugar agreement providing for an embargo on importations remains operative, that commodity is not involved.
– Would the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) favour the clause being postponed until after the other clauses of the bill have been disposed of or until the consideration of the schedule has been completed ?
– Until after the schedule has been disposed of.
– I am agreeable to that being done.
Motion agreed to ; clause postponed.
Clause 10 (Power to fix a date for proclaimed duty).
– I suggest that clause 10, which is complementary to clause 9, should also be postponed until the schedule has been disposed of.
New clause 10a -
– I move -
That the House of Representatives he requested to insert the following new clause: - “10a - (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, goods imported by the Government of any State, or a public authority constituted under the law of any State, for its own use, but not for sale, shall not be liable to any duty of customs. (2.) For the purposes of this section, public authority ‘ includes any municipal council, road board, shire council, harbour board or trust, tramway board, board of works, and any other public body constituted under the law of any State and approved by the Minister.”
Section 114 of the Constitution contains these words: “nor shall the Commonwealth impose any tax on property of any kind belonging to a State.” For many years the smaller States have strongly objected to the Commonwealth taxing their property contrary to that section of the Constitution.
– Has action ever been taken to restrain the Commonwealth?
– Yes, by the Attorney-General of New South Wales. In that ease the High Court decided against what, to a layman, is the clear meaning of the Constitution. State Governments are exempt from the sales tax on their purchases. If the Commonwealth makes an exemption with respect to one form of taxation which is not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, a similar exemption should be made in the matter of customs duties. This has always been a grievance with the smaller States, who have to purchase railway material, dredges for use in harbour work, graders for road-making, and machinery required for State electrical and other power plant, and other goods from abroad, all of which are subject to very heavy duties.
– Why mention only the smaller States?
– I am speaking more particularly of Western Australia, where development has been retarded. When the States accepted the Federal Constitution they never expected that material such as that to which I have referred would be subject to customs duties. These duties fall more heavily upon States in which development has been retarded than upon other States. The Royal Commission on the Constitution states, on page 129 of its report, that -
Customs duties imposed by the Commonwealth do not come within the prohibition of section 114 of the Constitution underwhich the Commonwealth is not to impose “ any tax on any property of any kind belonging to a State”. (Attorney -General ofNew South Wales v. Collector of Customs,5 C.L.R. 818.) Goods imported by a State for its own purposes are, therefore, subject to customs duties, and the proceeds of a State loan may go to increase the revenue of the Commonwealth. This liabilityhas considerably increased the cost of development of the States, particularly in view of the increased prices of material since the war, and it has been claimed that although duties may be remitted, remission has been refused where Australian factories were too busy to carry out urgent orders of a State.
When State Governments have been unable to get work done in Australia they have been compelled to import their requirements, and upon these heavy duties have been imposed. According to the report of the British Economic Mission known as “ The Big Four “, millions of pounds borrowed by the States for developmental purposes have gone into the coffers of the Federal. Government a? revenue. It was the disclosure of that pernicious system more than anything else that was responsible for closing the overseas money market to Australia. The report continues -
It has not been possible to obtain exact details of the amounts paid in customs duties by the States, but it is said that large amounts were paid in connexion with the hydro-electric scheme in Tasmania, and with railway development in Western Australia, and that during the four years of the railway rehabilitation scheme in South Australia, after allowing for rebates, £600,000 was paid in customs duties.
– A large quantity of that material should never have been imported.
– The amount involved has been a severe drain on the finances of South Australia.In that one instance alone £600,000 went into the coffers of the Federal Treasury as revenue and on it the people of South Australia have to pay interest. Sir Hal Colebatch, a member of the commission, stated in a minority report, on page 297, that -
The failure of auction 114 to protect State importations against customs taxation is mentioned in the report. There are certain features of this matter that I desire to emphasize : -
The imposition of high customs duties on materials required for developmental purposes has operated to the detriment of those Status which, at the time of federation, were relatively undeveloped. Other States had developed their territory to a greater extent under a system of duty free government imports.
Extensive railway development in New South Wales and Victoria was undertaken prior to federation when railway material was admitted free of duty. Since they had not to pay tariff tribute to another government prior to federation, they obtained the full value of the loan moneys expended upon their public works, but a large proportion of the money similarly expended by the smaller States since federation goes through the incidence of the tariff into the Commonwealth revenue. Sir Hal Colebatch continued -
A comparison of the borrowings per head of population before and after federation of, say Victoria and Western Australia, gives some indication of the extent to which the latter State has been penalized. The method of determining whether or not remission of taxation in such cases should be allowed (decision by the Minister for Trade and Customs) has not always given satisfaction.
We are placing a tremendous power in the hands of a Minister when we give him the right to decide that a large proportion of the material for, say, the Sydney Harbour bridge, or the electrical works at Yallourn, should be admitted under by-law free of duty. In both those instances, that concession was made, but some governments have found that, with other Ministers, they have been refused similar concessions. The State Governments should not be in the position of having to ask for tariff concessions. I contend that the provision of the Federal Constitution to the effect that the Commonwealth shall not impose taxation upon any property of the States, should be carried out so far as it is within the power of this Parliament to do so. Sir Hal Colebatch continued -
When extensive borrowings are associated with a high protective policy it is inevitable that a certain proportion of the money raised by loans abroad will find its way into revenue in the form of customs duty on goods imported by private persons and purchased with the proceeds of such loans; buta system under which, year by year, a considerable percentage of all State loans raised in London becomes ordinary Commonwealth revenue in Australia, demands grave consideration.
If my amendment is carried, that system will come to an end, and State loan finances will be placed on a more satisfactory footing.
– What bodies does the honorable senator propose to exempt under the amendment?
– I have included in the amendment municipalities and other governing bodies for theconsideration of the Senate, but if the Government objects to that part of it, I am prepared to confine the effect of the amendment to the importations of State Governments only. I have included local authorities in the amendment so as to bring about uniformity. It is true that, in some States, State functions are undertaken by the Government, but in other States they are placed in the hands of bodies such as Tramways Boards, Boards of Works, and local authorities. In some States the supply of electrical power is controlled by a board constituted by the State, but in Western Australia it is controlled by the Government. That Statehas now put in hand earth works for railways, but it is faced with the serious difficulty of finding the money with which to purchase rails. The earth works are being carried out so as to expend as much moneyas possible on labour. If this amendment is carried, the State Governments and local governing bodies will be able to expend on labour a large sum of money which is now being paid into the federal coffers.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– This amendment, if carried, would strike at the very root of our protective system. It would have to be general in its application, or subject to such exemptions as are provided in the schedule to the tariff itself. I suggest that this is not the appropriate place for the moving of such an amendment, but as it will have to he considered sooner or later, I shall give to honorable senators a few reasons why it should be rejected. The amendment, if carried, would have a devastating effect upon the secondary industries of this country, because the Governments of Australia are probably the largest customers of many local manufacturers. While it may be true that it is bad book-keeping to build up Commonwealth revenue at the expense of the States, I feel that, having regard to the administration of the Customs Act, no great injustice is being done. I have previously debated this question with an eminent engineer, who was also eminent in other directions, and who has, unfortunately, now passed away, in regard to a large governmental undertaking in Victoria. As has been shown by figures produced in the House of Representatives recently, generous exemptions have been made in instances in which the goods required were not made in Australia. That is and has been the policy of the Commonwealth Government for a number of years. Some of the States have undertaken trading operations in competition with private enterprise. Victoria, for instance, has an electricity commission, which, in addition to supplying electric light to the public, has a shop or warehouse at which electrical equipment can be purchased. South Australia has a large meat works, a cold storage works, and other similar establishments. Surely honorable senators will not argue that State Governments which are engaged in trading operations should have an advantage, in respect of the tariff, over private enterprise engaged in similar operations. Western Australia is operating a saw-mill, a meat works, and a shipping line, and at one time it engaged in the manufacture of agricultural machinery. Under the amendment, all those State enterprises would benefit, to the disadvantage of other States in which similar functions are carried out by private enterprise. The amendment would destroy the principle of equality of trading between States, and would be the thin end of the wedge bringing about the economic disruption of this country. I have had no time to ascertain the relative imports of the State Governments, or, what is more important, the relative use by the States of articles which are manufactured in this country, such as engines, machinery, and iron and steel goods, which are used in large quantities by State Governments or semi-governmental institutions like the railways.
– The Minister has not yet dealt with the letter of the Constitution.
– The honorable senator has made frequent reference to the report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, which, from his view-point, is undoubtedly a valuable report, but I would inform him that there are a number of errors in it.
– I am referring to section 114 of the Constitution.
– The letter of the Constitution has been interpreted already by the High Court, and I suggest that, to alter it in any way, would place this country in an impossible position. I have already stated that goods which are not manufactured in Australia may be admitted under by-law free of duty. That by-law is being used to assist various public bodies. It was used in the case of the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Yallourn works in Victoria.
– And also in the case of the Perth electric light works.
– It was used in respect of the construction of the power station in connexion with those works. I remind honorable senators that the Scullin Government admitted under by-law a number of goods that could not be manufactured in Australia. I ask the Senate to oppose the amendment of Senator Johnston, on the ground that it strikes at the very root of our protective system.
– Perhaps it is unavoidable that these things should be sprung on us at the last moment, but I have not had sufficient time to consider the proposal properly. So far as I can judge of its effect, however, I do not believe that we of the Labour party could stand for it at all.
There are those in this country who have the greatest objection to buying anything made in Australia, and if we throw the door open, as ls proposed, a great deal of trade that should go to Australian manufacturers will be lost to them, and a great many people will be thrown out of work. There are local-governing bodies in Australia which never seem to realize that it is their patriotic duty to support Australian industries. Some State governments, as well a3 municipal authorities, do not bank with the government bank, but allow their accounts to be handled by private corporations. Such authorities, we may be sure, would take full advantage of this proposal if it were agreed to.
– I have a good deal of sympathy with this proposal; but I have still greater sympathy with Australian industries. I recollect a case before the High Court touching on this very matter. When the late Sir Joseph Carruthers was Premier of New South Wales, his Government saw fit to import a large quantity of wire netting, to be sold to farmers and pastoralists for the purpose of checking the rabbit pest. On this netting the Commonwealth Government imposed a duty, which the Government of New South Wales refused to pay. Then, as one of those vote-catching excursions, with which Senator Johnston familiarized us yesterday, Sir Joseph Carruthers sent his officers to the wharfs where the wire netting was lying, and forcibly took away a roll of it in defiance of the Commonwealth customs officers. There was a State election looming at the time, and the average elector got the idea that Sir Joseph had himself gone down to the wharf and risked being shot in order to make this demonstration. On the strength of that, he won the election, having made it appear that he had wrested the goods from the grip of an arbitrary and despotic Commonwealth Government. At that time the Commonwealth was looked on as the natural enemy of the States. Eventually, the matter went to the High Court. Sir Joseph Carruthers lost the case, and the State had to foot the bill.
There are certain dangers inherent ‘ in this proposal. The only way in which we can safeguard the position is to lay it down that the concession is not to be granted if the goods can be obtained in Australia.
– That is provided for now.
– There is a danger, under present conditions, of unfair discrimination between one authority and another when it comes to obtaining a concession. Some- authorities have a way of stating their ease, and of either getting or manufacturing evidence, which would enable them to obtain this concession, where others more straightforward would fail. I should prefer that such matters should be regulated by statute rather than ministerial decree. Local-governing bodies should be encouraged to spend their revenue within Australia, and in this way develop the areas they control. I know from experience, however, that, many municipal authorities go out of their way to import goods, without ever taking the trouble to get quotations from Australian manufacturers. I am in favour of trading by State governments and local bodies; but I cannot agree to the encouragement of such trade if it will lead to the breaking down of our protectionist system, and the injury of Australian industry. Every effort should be made to supply our wants with Australianmade commodities before we seek to import goods from abroad. Unless this is done, I shall feel disposed to offer the most positive and strenuous opposition to the proposal.
– I support the remarks of Senator Rae. Senator Johnston’s request was placed before the Senate all nicely dressed up with apple sauce in order to make honorable senators think that it was quite harmless, and, indeed, something desirable. When honorable senators on this side were fighting in the interest of Australian industries, Senator Johnston was silent. State Governments and local governing bodies spend millions of pounds annually, and we should endeavour to see that as much as possible of it is spent, in Australia so as to provide employment for Australian workmen. Honorable senators should not consider this proposal for a moment. The real effect of it would be to admit under specially favorable conditions the products of cheaplabour countries. Perhaps Senator Johnston, with that fervid patriotic outlook of his, and supported by the Dominion League of Western Australia, may believe that the goods so admitted will come to us wrapped in the flags of the Empire, which he would regard as justification for his action. In my opinion, however, this request is the thin edge of the wedge. I protest against the lack of notice we have had in regard to it. It has been placed before me only within the last twenty minutes. I hope honorable senators will not allow themselves to be deceived in respect to a matter which involves the expenditure of millions of pounds. Senator Johnston told his story very courteously and convincingly, but the proposal, if agreed to, would adversely affect the classes I represent. We have to ask ourselves whether this request really emanated from the mind of Senator Johnston.
– It did.
– In that case I am satisfied, but I wondered for a moment whether Senator Johnston had not been prompted by those interests which are supporting him. In my opinion, the whole proposal reeks of cheap labour. The honorable senator has made an endeavour to persuade members of this chamber to attack the Government in an effort to secure the admission, free of duty, of the products of sweated labour. I object to that, no matter whether those products come from within the Empire or from without it. There are parts of the black country in England where the workers are neither more nor less than sweated chain gangs. Senator Bae and myself, in the name of our group, intend to vote against any request for the introduction of goods produced by sweated labour, whether they come from Britain, Japan, or anywhere else.
– Personally, I have a great deal of sympathy with Senator “ Secessionist “ Johnston in this matter, because his proposal represents another attempt to escape from the disabilities suffered by certain States under federation. I do no’t think that it has been made because Senator Johnston, and those who support him, desire to admit free of duty the products of sweated labour overseas. I know that some of our economic enemies would be prepared to do that if they thought they could gain anything from it, but, in this case, I believe the proposal to be prompted by a desire to lessen the disabilities suffered by those States -which are less highly developed in an industrial sense than are some others. They have to pay more for their requirements than has been paid in the past. Moreover, it is wrong in principle that the Federal Government should get an advantage through the customs when a State raises a loan overseas. Still, we on this side cannot support this amendment, because it would have a disastrous effect on many of our secondary industries. Municipal bodies and similar authorities have purchased goods overseas in order to save money; but the Labour party believes that it would be better in the long run to pay a little more for locally-produced goods in order to keep our own people in employment. If Senator Johnston provided a safeguard whereby the amount charged as customs taxation might be paid into the coffers of the States concerned, the amendment might have something to recommend it.
– But the Federal Government would not have received any payment of customs duty.
– The States are suffering deficits, and the Commonwealth has a big surplus, showing that the Commonwealth has improved its position at the expense of the States. If all governments in Australia were Labour governments, and favoured State enterprise, Senator Johnston’s proposal would be advantageous, because it would enable them to compete with private enterprise.
– It would be all right in Western Australia.
– Not under present circumstances, because those who are trying to build up Australian industries would suffer. Personally, I should like the people to own the industries of this country, and manage them, not for profit, but for the benefit of the community. We on this side cannot support the amendment, because, as the Minister has said, it strikes at the root of our protective policy.
– I do not intend to support the amendment, because it would prove injurious to the workers in secondary industries. The arguments that can be adduced in support of the amendment merely show the wisdom of the fiscal beliefs and general policy of the Labour party. We stand for the socialization of industry, production, distribution, and exchange, and under such a system an amendment of this kind would be unnecessary. We are also in favour of an absolutely prohibitive tariff. I have been misrepresented on that point. What I said was that I would make it a penaL offence to import any article that could be produced in Australia, equal in quality to that manufactured elsewhere, and at a reasonable price. If that principle were in operation, it would be foolish to require public bodies to pay duty on the goods that they require in providing services needed by the community. Senator Johnston has, apparently, overlooked what a powerful instrument his proposal, coupled with the safeguards suggested by Senator Brown and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes), would be in the hands of the Labour party. It would provide a splendid jumping-ot point for putting into operation part of Labour’s policy. Why should not governments be able to purchase, on the most advantageous terms possible, the things that they buy on behalf of the people?
– This is an interesting subject, and it opens up a whole series of considerations. I can imagine opposition to the proposal on account of the condition of the public finances, but I did not anticipate a wholesale attack upon it by labour senators. From one point of view, the principle embodied in the amendment might be regarded as of benefit to the whole community. In a sense, it might be claimed to provide for a form of State socialism. Our friends on the Opposition side refuse to accept a suggestion intended to benefit the community as a whole, and they oppose it for the benefit of private interests. I shall discuss this matter from several aspects. One good argument in favour of Senator Johnston’s proposal is the fact that, under the present system, the Federal Government is placed in a most advantageous position in comparison with the governments of the States, though each of them has a representative of the King at its head. Under the Constitution, any requisites purchased overseas for the purposes of the Federal Government are admitted duty free, because it is merely a matter of transferring the customs charge from one department to another; but a State Government has to pay the same duty as would be payable by an ordinary citizen. That, obviously and immediately, gives the Federal Government a tremendous advantage over the State Governments; in reality, it results in taxing the State Governments, and, through them, all the people who are resident in those States. That, in itself, at once raises the question whether there was an intention when federation was established that Commonwealth departments should be free from this particular form of taxation, which has become increasingly heavy from year to year, while the State Governments should be subject to it, particularly at a time when most of them are just able, if able at all, to pay their way.
– Do not the State Governments get a certain amount of benefit, from the existence of Australian secondary industries?
– I am not suggesting that they do not, but the Federal, and sometimes the State, Governments purchase certain goods overseas.
Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.15 p.m.
– Ordinarily the manufacturers of this country enjoy a treble protection. They have, first, the protection afforded by our very high tariff; secondly, that afforded by exchange; and, thirdly, that afforded by what might be called public sentiment. The effect of the last-mentioned class of protection is that frequently preference is given to articles produced in Australia, if they even approximately approach the quality and price of similar imported articles. 1 think that this form of sentimental protection has* been stretched to the point at which it is exaggerated and undesirable. When a high duty is imposed on an article by the body constituted to determine what duties should be imposed, I do not think that there is any justification for a municipality or a shire council to add. another 12 per cent, or 20 per cent, preference for local goods. If the amendment of Senator Johnston - and I am speaking now respecting articles imported “ for use by the government of a State “ - were carried, the first measure of protection, namely, the high tariff, would disappear; but exchange and public sentiment would still remain. We have been told frequently that there is a possibility that the exchange will disappear; but exchange has been pegged at its present point for about eighteen months, and prior to that, time it was higher than it is now. Personally, I cannot see any reason to assume that exchange will disappear in the immediate future - 1 wish I could. 1 believe that, if the amendment were agreed to, adequate protection would still be provided for the local manufacturers in the case of manufactured, goods for use by State governments, for primage and exchange as well as sentimental interest would romain important factors.
– Transportation costa would also remain.
– Tha t is so. I have been discussing only the major items, and have omitted quite a number of smaller ones. The proposal of Senator Johnston has, in a modified form, a good deal to commend it,’ especially in respect of those States which at present feel that they are being “ put upon “ by our protective policy, for they would he able, if they so desired, to import goods which are manufacturable and manufactured in Australia only at excessive figures. The manufacturing States, on their part, would not be hampered, though they might be hoist with their own petard. Victoria, for example, would he able to huy engines manufactured in that State. Incidentally, I may say that I bought a Victorian engine some years ago, and have found it to be an excellent article. The people of Queensland, to carry the argument a little further, would still he able to eat all their own bananas ! A provision of this kind would adjust things more equitably among the States. The States which believe in lower tariffs could buy British goods if they thought the duties were too high, while the States which believe in higher duties could buy local goods for the price at which they were available. The terms of Senator Johnston’s amendment are too wide, in my opinion. While I do not disregard the claims of the municipalities and shire councils, I think that a provision of this kind should be limited to the State governments. I also suggest that the amendment should be limited to British goods, and that, therefore, it should be altered to read -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, British goods imported by the government oi a State and so on. If that alteration were made, it could not be objected that the way was being opened for an influx of goods from foreign countries with a low standard of living. Such an amendment would also enable the State governments to place a check on the very high prices that they have to pay at present for certain goods. The debate on this issue may be crystallized into two conundrums. First - and this one may lie put to the Government - “ Does equity depend on the state of federal finances?” Secondly - and this may be put. to the Labour party - “ Is the manufacturer more important than the State?” The whole issue turns on those two questions, and I hope that I shall hear something from honorable senators in answer to them.
I should like now to say a word on a subject which the Minister mentioned in such a way as to suggest that he thought that he was disposing of it finally, but which I think he has not finally disposed of. This is whether the Government, does always exempt from duty all goods which cannot be manufactured in Australia. We all know, from our experience in our private, as well as our representative, capacity, that a good deal of dispute arises from time to time in respect of the importation of articles which, it is said, are manufactured in Australia. When a question of this nature arises, the Minister undertakes to find out whether the goods are manufactured here. We all know thai decisions in such matters are sometimes hung up for months, apparently for inquiries to be made from the people who purport to manufacture such articles, as to whether they really do manufacture them. Some years ago I took part iu a debate in another place respecting the duty payable on certain imported locomotives. I suppose locomotives would bc involved to a considerable extent if this amendment were agreed to; but I do not think that the financial position of the States is such that there is any likelihood that many locomotives will be imported in the near future. Ali the States, I think, will continue using their old rolling-stock for some time to come. Early in 1926, the Government of South Australia imported 30 locomotives from overseas and applied for a remission of duty on them on the ground that such locomotives were not commercially manufactured in Australia. I took the subject up in another place, and Sir Henry Barwell took it up in the Senate. Our efforts to obtain a remission of duty in this case were defeated in each chamber. I refer honorable senators to Parliamentary Debates, volume 113, at page 2031, on which I am reported to lui ve said -
If the Minister for Trade and Customs will not make any remission-
Mr. Pratten, who was then Minister for Trade and Customs, interjected - 1 shall certainly not remit any duties on railway material imported by South Australia.
The South Australian Government was called upon to pay, and actually did pay, the amount of duty in question, but subsequent to the debate in Parliament the Government changed its mind, and the duty paid on ten of the 30 locomotives was remitted. Tenders had not even been offered in Australia for those ten locomotives. As a matter of fact, they were the biggest locomotives that had been manufactured up to that time in Great Britain. They were made from American designs. The State Government obtained a remission of over £50,000 paid in duty on those ten engines ; but no remission was made of the duty paid on the other twenty engines. Of course, that amount of duty was added to the railway liabilities of the State, and is part of the railway burden which it has been carrying ever since. By interjection I made a reference the other night to the words “ commercially manufactured.” These words should mean that the goods have been actually produced in Australia at a merchantable price; but they were interpreted by the Government at that time to mean “manufactured at all.” I-hope that they will not be so interpreted by this Government.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Senator Sir WALTER KINGSMILL (Western Australia) [2.26]. - I agree entirely with the principle which Senator Johnston has enunciated in his amendment; but I can see that there may be some difficulty -in expressing it in such a way as to prevent it from being used for what I would consider a wrong purpose - that is, the purpose of protecting those State industries which are run at a profit by the State Governments to the detriment of other manufacturing enterprises within the State.
Senaor Sir GeorgePearce. - Did the honorable senator say “ run at a profit “ ?
– I should have said, “ ostensibly run at a profit.” I think it can be said that there is no State industry in Australia which i.i run at a profit; and in my opinion, there never will be one so run. I will go further, and say that it was never contemplated that some of the State enterprises established by Labour governments would be run at a profit. Perhaps a proviso could be added to the amendment to meet the point that I am making. But I have seen so many off-hand amendments work so much evil, that I confess that I can only suggest the lines upon which such an amendment could be drafted. I suggest the following words as a basis : -
Provided that for the purpose of this act the words “government of a State or public authority “ shall not be taken to include public bodies carrying on a trade or business and importing goods for the purpose of profit, and shall apply to duties of customs levied upon goods which cannot be commercially produced in the Commonwealth.
Something of that kind would meet the case, though I fear that it would not meet the views of honorable senators of the Labour party. Still, we cannot help that. I do not wish it to be inferred that we desire to insert in the bill a clause which will make the purchase of cheap material possible for those persons who are acting in direct detriment to the manufacturers operating in Australia; or that we wish to encourage State industries which cannot, in my opinion, taken in the bulk, do anything but embarrass the finances of the State in which they arc operating. After a very long knowledge of the business of this Parliament, and previously of a State parliament, I think that all those State industries which have been running to the detriment of private people have involved the States concerned in extremely heavy losses ever since they started. Many such ventures, including fish shops, butchers’ shops, and milk rounds have been abandoned, while those that have been retained do not benefit the finances or redound to the credit of tho State which employs them.
– Some are profitable.
– Those cases, in my opinion, are worse than those that do not pay, because they are the more easily replaceable by private enterprise.
– Like the post office, for instance?
– One should not generalize with regard to State socialistic schemes. What I have said has everything to do with the amend,ment, because, if it were adopted, it would confine the concessions in customs duties to those State Governments which carry on undertakings for State or public authority purposes only. From my experience, governments are very culpable in engaging in this business of industrial undertakings, and it has not been confined to governments of a particular political brand. Many administrations have willingly inherited State business ventures from governments of different political colour which initiated them. That is a grave error, and. one to be deprecated. In the circumstances, I venture to think that Senator Johnston will agree with the idea which I am endeavouring to convey, and I ask him and other honorable senators to rid themselves of any objections which they might have to my proposal on the ground of its faulty draftsmanship. In its present form, it merely gives an idea of what I have in mind, namely, that the pro posed concessions should not be made to apply to those Government ventures which are known as State industries. We must, of course, maintain such State socialistic enterprises as the postal department and railways, but further than that, I do not think we ought to go.
.- I find it a little difficult to determine what should be my attitude to the amendment submitted by Senator Johnston owing to the fact that, although I am in sympathy with the principle underlying it, I think that, in its general terms, it is much too wide. In Tasmania, we had an unfortunate experience in connexion with our hydro-electric department for which we imported heavily of essential machinery which could not be manufactured in Australia, and upon which we were obliged to pay heavy customs duties. After strong representations had been made to the Commonwealth Government, we did succeed in getting a refund of a small , portion of the duty ; but by that time the major portion, of the expenditure had been incurred, and as the refund was made retrospective to a certain date only, the customs duty paid On the bulk of the machinery was not repaid to the State. We considered this treatment by the Commonwealth Government distinctly unfair, especially as practically the whole of the machinery for the Yallourn scheme, for which the Victorian Government was responsible, was admitted free of duty. This was a sore grievance with the Tasmanian Government for a long time, but it has since been, rectified to a certain extent. In more recent years, the Commonwealth Government has been inclined to treat more sympathetically applications for the admission, under departmental by-law, of machinery which cannot be commercially manufactured in Australia. Although there was no possibility of manufacturing in this country the machinery required for the hydro-electric scheme in Tasmania, that State was compelled to pay customs duty upon the greater part of it. Public bodies throughout Australia now prefer to purchase all their requirements in Australia. This is particularly the ea.se in Tasmania, where preference ranging from, I think, 10 per cent, to 15 per cent., is given in favour of Australian manufacturers, for all requirements of State and local-governing bodies, apart altogether from the advantage given by way of exchange and other charges. Some of the money borrowed for the hydroelectric scheme was obtained from the Commonwealth, and as the State Government had to pay a considerable sum in the form of customs duties on imported machinery, portion of the amount covering that payment was withheld. I have a good deal of sympathy with the proposed further amendment outlined by Senator Kingsmill, and would give it support if it could be shown that the goods,’ in respect of which exemption from customs duties was claimed, were imported by a State Government, not for the purpose of sale oi’ for competitive business, but solely for State needs. If that provision could be made, the proposal would receive favorable consideration. But I do not agree with the idea of exempting the requirements of all public bodies.
– Why not? Public bodies are engaged in carrying out public works.
– If the proposal were to extend the concession to various municipal councils, roads boards, shire councils, harbour trusts, tramway boards, and the many other public bodies that could be mentioned, it would be going too far.
– Why distinguish between governments and public bodies?
– There is a big distinction. The honorable senator might as well ask why there should bc a distinction between the two in the matter of raising money, because of the limited power of taxation conferred on public bodies. If the proposed amendment, were submitted in wider terms than outlined by Senator Kingsmill, I should have to vote against it. I also agree with the suggestion made by Senator Duncan-Hughes to limit the concession to goods produced in Great Brimin. If an amendment were drafted on those lines, 1 should support it.
Clauses 11 to 15 agreed to.
Clause 16 (Validation of collection of certain higher duties).
Senator MCLACHLAN (South Australia - Vice-President of the Executive tain machinery provisions, rendered necessary by the introduction, of this legislation. It is essential, in the interests of the revenue, that action to collect duties levied under the earlier schedules should be validated. Clause 14 does that. Under earlier tariff proposals, higher duties have been collected in respect of some items than are chargeable in this schedule, so, unless the action of the Customs Department were validated, serious complications would arise due to the necessity to make refunds. These are the provisions which are made when passing a new tariff schedule. Clause 15 provides for the cessation of the operation of certain tariff proposals. The schedules which have been operative up to the present time, now give place to the one contained in this bill. Clause 16 validates the collection of any higher rates of duty in this schedule as originally introduced, compared with variations made by Parliament.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 17 agreed to.
– Honorable senators will recollect, that I had circulated, for their information, a customs tariff memorandum showing rates of duty under items in this schedule, as compared with (a) the rates of duty operating immediately prior to the introduction of the customs tariff proposals of October, 1932; (1>) the rate3 of duty under the Scullin Government’s validated tariff; and (c) the rates of duty under the 1930-31 tariff. Those were circulated nol. only for the convenience and information of honorable senators, but also in order that, if the committee is agreeable, we may proceed to discuss the items under certain groups and headings, each item in a group having a principle common to all others in that group. Upon my motion, the Senate agreed to that memorandum being referred to the committee.
I think it only proper at this stage to re-state the method that has been employed in the arrangement, of these groups. But, first let me say that each of the items in the schedule to the bill itself is to be found in the group to which it properly belongs. That will enable the committee to discuss all the items that are governed by one principle. This procedure was adopted in another place, and met with the approval of all parties, because it facilitated discussion and saved a considerable amount of time. I wish honorable senators to understand, however, that I have no desire to limit discussion, and that they are at liberty to debate any item.
Group 1 contains 532 items, the rates upon which are the same as those that operated under the 1921-30 tariff. They were included in the tariff of the BrucePage Government or its predecessors, and, so far, have not been touched by any subsequent government.
Group 2 consists of 241 items that have been amended in accordance with the Ottawa agreement, but not otherwise. They are in exactly the same category as the items in group 1, with the exception that increases in the general tariff have been made.
In group 3 there are 97 purely revenue items, which are not included under any other heading; but, in some cases, an item falls under another classification, because it has been dealt with in some form or other.
Group 4 contains 193 items amended by the Scullin Government with the support of Tariff Board reports.
Group 5 comprises 185 items to which amendments have been made by the present Government with the support of Tariff Board reports.
In Group 6 there are 85 items that were amended by the Scullin Government without the support of Tariff Board reports. These are at present being examined by the Tariff Board, and amendments may have to be requested with respect to them, in accordance with reports received since the measure left another place. I believe that about a dozen such reports have already been dealt with by Cabinet, and, where revenue considerations permit, honorable senators will have an opportunity to discuss them.
Group 7 gathers up all the other miscellaneous items, numbering 442, of which I believe that 19 are in the same category as the items in group 6; that, is to say, they are Scullin duties which are not supported by Tariff Board reports. I am not sure whether any of them has as yet been covered by a report of the board.
On the basis of the calculation that I have made, there is a total of 1,775 items. I move -
That the committee proceed to the consideration of the items in the schedule under the groups as set out iu the customs tariff groups memorandum referred to the committee.
In the past, I have experienced considerable difficulty in working from two documents. By means of the memorandum, the rates imposed at different times will be constantly under the eyes of honorable senators. 1 ask them to pass the motion that I have moved, in order that the committee may properly deal with the matter in the manner proposed. A number of items that are in the tariff schedule as attached to the bill, will appear before some of those with which Ave are dealing under the group heading; and when such instances are encountered, I shall ask the Senate to postpone the consideration of items other than those in the group being dealt with.
Motion agreed to.
Prefatory notes agreed to.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to -
That the consideration of all items other than those included in Group 1 of the Customs Tariff Groups Memorandum, he postponed until after the consideration of the items specified in Croup 1.
– Before Ave proceed Avith the consideration of the schedule I should like to explain, for the information of honorable senators, that the following procedure will be followed in connexion with the submission of requests: The amount of duty that is set out in the schedule will be taken as the starting point, and, if requests are moved for higher duties, that for the highest rate will be dealt with first. Similarly, if requests are made for lower rates, that, for the lowest rate Will receive first consideration.
Group 1. - Hems under which the rates are the same as those operating under the 1921-30 tariff.
Division I. - Ales, Spirits and Beverages
Items 2, 3 (f1, 2), 4 and 5 agreed to.
Item 6, sub-items (a, b) (Wood naptha and methyl alcohol, acetone).
– I should like an explanation regarding sub-item b. Acetone was admitted free under the Scullin tariff and it is still to be admitted free under this tariff. At the same time a deferred duty of 30 per cent. British, and 40 per cent. foreign, is to operate as from the 1st July, 1933. What is the reason for such a tremendous increase of the duty?
.- This deferred duty existed under the Bruce-Page andScullin tariffs, and it is still retained in the present schedule. There is practically no alteration of the rate of duty. I remind honorable senators that clause 12 of the bill indicates how it is proposed to deal with these deferred duties in future.
Sub-items agreed to.
Remainder of division, viz., items 7, 10 (a.) (c) (d), 13 (b) (c), 14, 15 (a) (b) (c), 16 (a) (b), and 17 agreed to.
Division 2. - Tobacco and Manufactures Thereof.
Items 25 and 26 agreed to.
Division 3. -Sugar.
Items 28 to 32 agreed to.
– I wish to make an attempt to follow the proceedings intelligently, and should like to be enlightened with regard to the item, sugar, which appears in Division 3.
– I have already declared Division 3 agreed to.
– That was done before I had an opportunity to address myself to it. Does this finally dispose of the question of’ the free importation of molasses into Australia?
– Division 3 has already been agreed to.
– Then I protest against the undue hastewith which we are proceeding. I emphatically protest against molasses being admitted free into this country.
– Molasses is not being imported; there are tons of molasses going to waste in Queensland.
– I disagree with the honorable senator, for I know that molasses, both in solid and in liquid form, is being imported into Australia.
– I have no desire to rush through the business of the committee with undue haste. I suggest that, when a division is called, honorable senators who may wish to speak to any of the items it contains should then indicate their desire.
– Should I be in order in moving for the recommittal of Division 3?
– Not at this stage ; but the honorable senator may do so when the motion for the adoption of the report is moved.
– I appreciate the action of honorable senators in consenting to the schedule being dealt with in divisions, and I do not desire that any of them shall have just cause for complaint that they are deprived of an opportunity to discuss the items in which they are interested. Under the regime of either the Bruce-Page Government or the Scullin Government, an application to deal with molasses was made to the Tariff Board; but, since the whole of the sugar industry was not behind the application, it was decided that nothing should be done. I shall endeavour to give the honorable senator the information at my disposal relating to the importation of molasses.
.- Mr. Chairman——
– Division 3 has already been agreed to, and, other than by way of an explanation, the honorable senator may not now refer to it. He will have an opportunity later to move for the reconsideration of the items contained in that division.
Division 4. - Agricultural Products and Groceries.
Items 33, 34 (a) to (d), and 35 agreed to.
Item 36, sub-items (a) (b) (Arrowroot).
– I should like the Minister to give the committee some information regard- ing the imports of arrowroot. There is no need to import any of this commodity, because Australia can produce all the arrowroot it requires. The duty should be made practically prohibitive.
– The rates of duty on this item are the same as under the 1921-30 tariff. During 1931-32, only 378 lb. of arrowroot, valued at £21, were imported, most of it, I think, from Papua.
Sub-item agreed to.
Items 37, 39, 40, 41 (a) (b), 42 (a) (b), 44, (b1, 2), (c3) (d) (f) agreed to.
Item 45 (Copra).
– I wish to refer to item 45, relating to copra. Will the Minister explain the word “ free “ ? As the position is at present, ship loads of copra may be sent to Australia from the Cameroons, Togoland, and Tanganyika, notwithstanding the fact that copra is grown in the Mandated Territory, Papua, Fi ji, and the whole of the islands of the Melanesian group, which are within three days’ steam of the Australian coast.
– As far as I know, Australia produces no copra at all. The importations in 1931-32 were - From the Pacific Islands and Papua, 20.020 cwt.: from the Solomon Islands, 175,636 cwt.; from the Territory of New Guinea, 45,300 cwt.; the total value of those imports being £136,657.
– What docs the word “ free “ mean ?
– It means free of duty. We do not produce copra here, and, as our manufacturers require it, we are admitting it free of duty.
Item agreed to.
Items 46 and 47 agreed to.
Item 48 (Egg in liquid form).
– Since Australia is in the happy position of being an exporter of eggs, I should like some explanation of item 48, relating to egg in liquid form.
Senator MCLACHLAN (South Australia - Vice-President of the Executive
Australia has reached the stage that there are now no importations of eggs.
Item agreed to.
Items 49 and 50 agreed to.
Item 51, sub-items (a) (b) (c) (e) (») (Fish).
– Sub-item 51 a covers fish of all kinds caught from or cured, dried, or preserved by any process on board any Australian registered ship fitted out in and sailing from any port in the Commonwealth and imported in such ship or imported in any Australian registered tender working in conjunction with such ship. Does the sub-item refer to ships’ stores ?
– No. It refers to fish brought into Australian ports in Australian vessels. There is no duty on such fish.
– These vessels go outside the three-mile limit in order to catch the fish.
– It should be possible for Australia to catch and process all the fish required in this country.
– That is the object of the item.
– I accept the Minister’s explanation in regard to subitem a, but what is the position in relation to sub-items b and c, which deal with smoked, dried, and preserved fish? The duties on these sub-items should be considerably increased in order to develop in Australia a fish-processing industry. In Queensland, the firm of Foggitt, Jones and Company is making a determined effort to put fish products on the market, and I suggest that that firm, and others engaged in the processing of fish, should be encouraged by the imposition of higher duties on imported fish products.
– The development of the fishing industry in Australia has been under my personal supervision for some months, and I assure the honorable senator that there is no necessity whatever for any increase of the duties. It is only a matter of equipping the industry properly.
– The menu at the Hotel Canberra nearly every day includes New Zealand cod, Yarmouth bloaters, haddock, and other imported fish, notwithstanding that we have as good fish in our own waters.
– It is merely a matter of the industry getting properly established.
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 52, sub-items (b) (g) (Fruits, fresh).
– The duty on citrus .fruits is id. British preferential, and Id. general. That duty seems to be light, in view of the fact that v/e can grow all our requirements of citrus fruits. I know that Australia is endeavouring to come to some arrangement with New Zealand regarding the export of citrus fruits, and perhaps Senator Greene will be able to give us some information on that subject. Unless the duty is sufficiently protective, we may find ourselves swamped with citrus fruits from, say, one of the mandated territories.
.- The importation of oranges and lemons was prohibited by the Scullin Government on and from the 4th April, 1930, as part of its scheme for rectifying the then adverse trade balance. When the present Government removed the embargo in September last, protests were made by the citrus-growers against that action. Let me point out that these embargoes were not associated with the tariff policy of the previous Government, and that fact was admitted by the Minister of the day when introducing the measure. Therefore, no one could object to tho present Government’s action on the ground that the grower’s protection was being removed. It has already been pointed out, and I wish to reassure honorable senators, that in this Government’s opinion the tariff is the proper medium for tho protection of industry. In view of the protest, made by the growers, the question has been referred to the Tariff Board as to whether any alteration of the duties on citrus fruits is necessary. With regard to the embargo placed by New Zealand on the importation into that country of Australian-grown citrus fruits, f wish to say that a statement will be made at the appropriate time on that matter. In 1931 we exported to Canada 265 centals of lemons, valued at £184, and to Great Britain 6,674 centals, valued at £6,409. There were exports to other countries worth a few hundred pounds. The value of our exports of oranges was, to the United Kingdom, £261, to Canada £20,775, to New Zealand £73,000, and to the Netherlands, British Malaya, Hongkong, and Ceylon, amounts varying from £S00 to £2,250. That is the position in regard to the citrus fruit industry, and the Tariff Board is now considering to what extent it needs protection.
– Will the item como up again for discussion?
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 55 (Infants’ and invalids’ foods).
– Item 55 covers infants’ and invalids’ foods, and I should like to know from the Minister why these articles are to be admitted free. At Bacchus Marsh, in Victoria, a very fine establishment has been set up by Nestles for the manufacture of lactogen. Tens of thousands of pounds have been spent in collecting suitable dairy herds, and in improving the property. Much the same has been done in the Kempsey district, in NewSouth Wales.
.- The infants’ and invalids’ foods covered by this item are as prescribed by departmental by-law, and none of the foods so prescribed are made in Australia. The list includes foods necessary for children which are, unfortunately, diabetic in their earlier years. The total value imported annually is only £19,000, though the foods are fairly expensive to buy.
Item agreed to.
Item 56, sub-items (a) to (i>) (Ginger).
– Item 56 covers ginger in various forms. I cannot understand why a prohibitive duty should not be imposed on the importation of this commodity in order to develop its production in Australia. It is easy to say that the successful development depends upon those engaged in the industry; but no person is likely to make a consistent attempt to produce such commodities unless he receives sufficient encouragement by the way of high protective duties. Ginger as grown and processed in Australia is equal to that produced in any other part of the world. Perhaps the Minister (Senator McLachlan) cangive the committee some information on the subject.
– The importations of ginger are inconsiderable. For the year 1931-32. the value of the importations of ginger was as follows: - Green, £418; ground, £52; preserved, but not in liquid, £631; in brine and syrup in vessels exceeding 10 gallons, £18,000.
The Tariff Board inquired into this industry in 1930. and recommended against any increase in duty on imported ginger for the following reasons: -
Sydney. On the basis of 6d. per lb. for Australian green ginger the cost in factory of ginger in syrup would he1s. per lb.
A departmental inquiry was conducted recently with a view to ascertaining whether the industry had shown sufficient developmentto warrant a further in- quiryby the Tariff Board. The Chief Instructorof the Queensland Department of Agriculture advised that the area under cultivation was twelve acres at the. maximum, consisting of holdings ranging froma few perchesto one acre. The present production based on the average yield of 4 tons to the acre, would not be more than 48 tons Potential employment is not great. One acre would keep one attendant half-occupied during its cultivation, as the crop is grown under mulch. Ginger is planted in November and harvested about April or May. Therefore, at the present rate of production, half-time employment would be given to twelve men for about six months each year.
Australian requirements of ginger in all forms are about 1,000 tons- per annum. The local industry is in a position to supply only a fraction of the demand, and then only in a. form not acceptable to manufacturers. The growing of ginger in Queensland is not undertaken as a main crop,but only as a side line. There is, therefore, little likelihood of Australian requirements being met for many years to come.
– I am indebted to the Minister for the information he has supplied. I shall not attempt to move a request for an increase in the duty at this stage, but I remind honorable senators that this and other industries are never likely to develop unless they are fully protected.
Sub-items agreed to.
Items 57 (a) to (d), 58 (a) (b) (d), 59 and 60 agreed to.
Item 61, sub-items (a) (b) (c) (Honey, jams, jellies,&c.).
– The Minister’s remark that the production of ginger is only a sideline will, probably, also apply to honey: but if our rural industries are to develop, the production of these sidelines should he encouraged. Surely it is not suggested that farmers or settlersshould go on the land merely for the purpose of increasing land values, and that, after obtaining the benefit of unearned increment created by community action, they should leave their holdings? We need a yeoman population capable of producing anything that can be grown in this country. Honey may he a sideline, but it is now produced in Australia in considerable quantities, andI cannot understand why heavy duties are not imposed to assist the local producers of this commodity. The production of honey shouldbe regarded as a good sideline for those engaged in rural pursuits.
Senator McLACHLAN (South Australia - Vice-President of the Executive
Council) [3.35].- In 1930-31 the production was - New South Wales, 2,600,000 lb.; Victoria, 2,800,000 lb.; Queensland, 555,000 lb. ; South Australia, 1,700,000 lb. ; Western Australia, 641,000 lb.; Tasmania, 102,000 lb.; and the Federal Capital Territory, 10,600 lb. This production was valued at £144,000. During that year, only 5,264 lb., valued at £120 were imported, and this was used for experimental purposes in the manufacture of confectionery. Australia is at present exporting honey.
– I presume that it is not suggested that we cannot produce all the jams and jellies covered by item 61 b that are consumed in Australia. In conformity with my fiscal faith, I should like to take whatever action is necessary to render impossible the importation of jams ofany kind.
.- The total quantity of jams and jellies exported from this country for the year 1930-31 was 1,445,520 lb., valued at £40,916. In 1931-32 we imported, probably for experimental purposes on the part of some manufacturers, only £143 worth of jams and jellies. The value of the imports of jelly crystals was exactly £1.
– It would be impudence on my part to suggest that the information furnished by the Minister is inaccurate; but let me inform him that, at one hotel in Queensland at which I frequently stay, Keiler’s Scotch marmalade is always on the table. I object to the importation of any commodity that can be satisfactorily made in Australia. Our marmalade is as good as that of any other country.
– I assure the honorable senator that we imported in 1931-32 only 2,099 lb. of jams and jellies, valued at £143.
[3.39].- I suggest to honorable senators that they obtain Overseas Trade Bulletin No. 29, in which they will find classified, in detail, as the tariff is classified, countries of origin of imports and countries to which our goods are exported, in respect of all the items with which we are dealing. Copies are available, and honorable senators need only ask for them.
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 62 (Hops).
– I should like to know from the Minister what quantity of hops is imported annually into Australia. I have made a few visits to breweries during my career, and I have learned that a considerable quantity of hops is regularly imported from Europe. This should particularly interest Tasmanian representatives. Would it not be possible for us to satisfy our requirements entirely with Australiangrown hops ?
– The importation of hops for 1931-32 was 19,178 lb., valued at £882. The importations were, I believe, purely for experimental purposes.
Item agreed to.
Items 63 (a) (b), 64 (part), 64 (b) to 68, 69 (a) (b) (cl, 2), 70, 71, 72, 73 (e), 74 (a) (d) (e), 75 (a1, 2) (b) (c), 76 and 77 agreed to.
Item 78, sum-items (a) (c) to (f) (Nuts, edible).
– I can understand why coco-nuts should be admitted free from Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, but under clause 9 of the bill it may be possible to admit those products duty free from Tanganyika, the Cameroons, Togoland, and other British possessions and protectorates ?
Senator McLACHLAN (South Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council [3.42]. - These commodities are admitted only under departmental bylaw. Honorable senators will understand that we have to guard the interests of our territories of New Guinea and Papua, and this is done through the Trade and Customs Department.
– Modern trade is a battle of the survival of the fittest, and what is to prevent British ships from loading copra at African ports as ballast, and landing it in Australia under the provisions of clause 9 of this bill?
– The copra would not be admitted to Australia, except under departmental by-law. That would safeguard the position.
– This item also includes peanuts, unshelled, and the peanut-growing industry is one of great importance, to Queensland. Thousands of pounds have been spent in the establishment of the industry in the north. I have seen the factory which has been built at Kinguroy. I know the work that is being done there, and I know the men and women who are growing the peanuts. The Queensland Government is, at the present time, prosecuting an extensive programme for opening up the fertile lands in the northern parts of the State. On the Cook River, and on the Dain tree, peanuts can be grown better than anywhere else in the world. I stand for an . absolutely prohibitive tariff on peanuts. We should return to the position which obtained before the present Government, interfered with these duties.
.- No alteration of the duties on peanuts has been made. I almost blush because of (he fact that the same prohibition that, has always been imposed on this commodity operates to-day. The only peanuts allowed in from abroad are those required over and above the quantity produced in Queensland.
– Of course, I must, accept the Minister’s statement; but. at one stage of my election tour in . 1931, I came direct from the district in which peanuts arc grown, and - it was stated publicly that the industry had received a set-back because the embargo had been removed. Not one item of this tariff will be agreed to without my protest, unless I thoroughly understand the matter on whichI am asked to vote. I know that the growers have been penalized, because some, of their produce could not be sold.
– The pool muddled things up.
– The honorable senator may make that assertion, but we should have a complete embargo on the importation of peanuts. There is a good demand for peanut oil, and the inquiry for peanuts by Australian confectionery manufacturers has never been satisfied.
– During 1931-32 peanuts to the value of £2,728 were allowed in, because Queensland was unable to meet the Australian demand.
Sub-items agreed to.
Items 81,82 (g) (h), 83, 84 (a) (b) agreed to.
Item 86 (Rice root).
– Rice root is admitted free from both British and foreign countries; hut Australia produces, on the Leeton and Griffith irrigation areas of New South Wales, more rice than is required to meet local needs. We have a large surplus of rice which we could send overseas.
Senate adjourned at 3.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 June 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1933/19330616_senate_13_140/>.