13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask you, Mr. President, whether the report of the Public Service Board, which was formulated by Mr. Pinner, contains recommendations for effecting economies other than those which relate to Hansard and the Parliamentary . RefreshmentRooms, and, if so, will you, sir, enlighten the Senate as to their nature ?
– I shall make a statement on the subject not later than Friday of this week. Mr.. Speaker and I have considered the report, which is rather lengthy, and have already given effect to some of its recommendations ; but have not come to a final decision regarding other recommendations.
– “Will you, Mr. President, cause the report to be laid on the table of the Library for the information of honorable senators?
– A reply to that question will be embodied in my statement to the Senate on Friday.
SenatorFOLL. - Before any action is taken by the Presiding Officers, will the members of the Senate, who, after all, are the masters of their own affairs, have an opportunity to discuss the report?
– Whatever action may be taken in regard to other portions of the report, in which we are all greatly interested, will you, sir, see that something better than the present unsatisfactory and unhygienic arrangement in regard to cabinet towels is provided?
– The Public Service Act expressly provides that Mr. Speaker and myself are, in regard to the parliamentary departments, in the same position as a Minister in charge of an administrative department. A Minister is free to adopt, in whole or in part, any recommendation submitted to him, and in relation to the parliamentary departments, the Presiding Officers of the Parliament may do the same.
– Is it not usual for a report of this nature to come before the House Committee? I am a member of that committee; but I do not know anything about the report other than what has appeared in the press.
– It is not . the practice to make public the contents of a departmental report unless the Minister for whose information it has been prepared considers it proper to do so.
– Should the Presiding Officers give effect to the recommendations contained in the report, I take it that Parliament will be able to state its approval or disapproval of the action
– Necessarily, Parliament has the final say in all such matters. But I repeat that in regard to the staff of Parliament, the Presiding Officers arc in the same position as that occupied by a Minister of the Grown in relation to the department under his control.
– But not in relation to the rights and privileges of the members of the Parliament.
– Having made my home in Canberra, I would be affected by any transport changes made in accordance with Mr. Pinner’s report differently from other members of this Parliament. I live at about twenty minutes’ walk from the Senate-
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable senator entitled when asking a question of you, sir, to argue the matter? I suggest that as you have said that you will make a statement to the -Senate on this subject on Friday next, honorable senators should wait until then for the information they desire. Should they desire then to say anything further, there will be an opportunity to do so.
– I am concerned with any recommendations which the report may contain regarding transport facilities, as I am also with the curtailment of the dining-room facilities.
– The honorable senator is not entitled to argue now the question of transport facilities.
– I am merely asking you to say that in considering the report’, the presiding officers shall view matters from all aspects more thoroughly than Mr. Pinner appears to have done. Honorable senators who now obtain their meals away from Parliament House may be adversely affected and a new arrangement in regard to their transport will need to be considered.
– Can the Minister indicate when the graduated federal land tax will be abolished? In the event of the Government deciding that it cannot abolish that tax entirely, will it consider the abolition of the tax in respect of pastoral lands which are put to the best possible national use by being utilized for the production of stud merino sheep ?
– It is not customary to make a statement of government policy in answer to a question. The Government’s intentions in relation to the federal land tax and other matters will be revealed when the budget is tabled.
-1. Was the recent visit of Senator Greene to New Zealand mainly for the purpose of promoting reciprocal trade relations between that dominion and Australia? 2. If so, what measure of success has been achieved as a result of those negotiations? 3. Was the ban on Australian citrus fruits by the New Zealand Government one of the subjects discussed between that Government and Senator Greene, or has the ban been imposed since his visit as a reprisal for the Commonwealth embargo on New Zealand potatoes? 4. Can the Minister say when a final decision on this subject is likely to be reached?
– As a result of discussions between the Governments of Australia and New Zealand an agreement has been reached ; but since the Parliament of New Zealand will not meet until later in the year, it has been decided not to make public the contents of the agreement. I can say, however, that the agreement does not cover either fresh fruits or potatoes. Negotiations are still proceeding in regard to the importation of fresh fruits into New Zealand. I am unable to say what the final arrangement is likely to be, or when it will be possible to make an announcement on the subject.
– Will the Leader of the Senate agree to submit the following motion to the Senate: -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is “ No.”
– Is it true that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan) moved that progress be reported, when the subject of barbed wire was before the committee last night, in order to give members of the party to which I belong time to arrive, in order to save the Government from further defeat? Further, does not the Minister think that it is the duty of the Government to keep within the precincts of the Senate, if not in the chamber itself, a majority of its own supporters?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE The allegation contained in the honorable senator’s question is not correct. For the information of the honorable senator, and possibly other honorable senators, I now state what is already known to some of us - that for several days the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan) has been unwell. The early adjournment of the Senate last night was due to the state of the Minister’s health, resulting from the strain to which he has recently been subjected.
The following paper was presented: -
– Willthe Government take action to request the Australian Loan Council to instruct the Commonwealth Minister in London (Mr. Bruce) to announce publicly through the press that on all foreign and British loans obtained by Australian governments on which the current rate of interest is more than 3 per cent., the Australian Loan Council will provide for the payment only of a 10 per cent, token of good faith on all future instalments of interest until such time as agreement is reached with such bondholders for the conversion of the said loans to an effective rate of interest of not more than 3 per cent, and for a period of maturity of not less than that provided for in the terms agreed upon by the Northern Rhodesian Government in Africa?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The answer is “ No “.
– Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to the following article which appeared in the Sun on Saturday last: -
Our Butter in England.
Although he made numerous inquiries in England, Mr. C. H. Orford, a Melbourne merchant, was unable to find Australian butter sold as such. On his return by the Niagara to-day, Mr. Orford said that the only brands seemed to be Danish, New . Zealand, and “ Empire “. He made his inquiries in Liverpool, Birmingham, and in London, where he visited twenty different shops.
He feared that Australian butter was being mixed with Russian, and our prices were being hammered down because of it. Consumers told him that they had had Australian butter on odd occasions, but could not obtain it regularly.
Will the Minister have inquiries made to ascertain whether that statement is true, and, if it is, will he take the necessary steps to rectify the position?
– Before the Minister replies, I wish to refer to the growing practice, when questions are being asked, of reading newspaper extracts, in which are expressed either the opinion of the proprietors of the newspaper concerned, or of a contributor to its columns. The Standing Orders strictly provide that newspapers must not be so quoted, and although that rule has been departed from to the extent that honorable senators have been allowed to refer briefly to newspaper extracts for the purpose of making their questions more explicit, they may not give to the Senate the opinion of a third party upon the matter on which they seek information. “When the opinion of a third party is so quoted, more power and privilege is given to a stranger than is permitted to honorable senators. I ask honorable senators to observe this rule strictly. Senator Dooley has quoted a newspaper extract in which is given the opinion of Mr. Orford about the Australian butter industry. A further objection to this practice is that if it were permitted to continue, the time occupied in the asking of questions would be increased to an inordinate length. As I have stated before, the asking of questions is permitted solely to enable honorable senators to obtain information on subjects of public concern; they cannot when asking questions express any opinion of their own, and certainly should not quote that of a third party. I, therefore, ask honorable senators, when asking questions on statements which have appeared in the press, to confine their quotations strictly to the alleged facts.
– The matter referred to by Senator Dooley has been brought under the notice of the Minister for Commerce, and inquiry is being made into the statement which appeared in the press.
– I wish to ask you, Mr. President, whether, in ruling that honorable senators, in quoting newspaper extracts, may not repeat the opinions expressed therein, you have acted on the same principle as that on which Hitler of Germany has acted?
– I was not guided by Mr. Hitler, nor by any one else.
– In view of the urgent and repeated requests, by letters and telegrams, of picture show proprietors throughout New South Wales in reference to the motion picture industry, has the Government any statement to make to honorable senators respecting the proposed film duties?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That question affects government policy, and will come up for discussion on the tariff. The time for honorable senators to ask for information will be when the duties on films are being discussed.
– When a question has been ruled by you, Mr. President, to be frivolous, is it allowed to appear in Hansard, or must it be omitted from the records of Parliament altogether ?
– When a question has been declared frivolous, and is therefore one not entitled to be asked, no notice whatever should be taken of it.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is the Minister in a position to state what assistance is to be given to the wheat-growers for their next harvest?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : -
The position of the wheat industry, in regard to both internal and international aspects, is at present receiving the consideration of the Government. At the present time the Government is not in a position to make a statement on the matter.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What action has been taken by the Government in regard to the recommendations of the royal ‘ commission which inquired into the activities of the Australasian Performing Right Association?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer: -
The recommendations made by the royal commission are now receiving the consideration of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Senator Sir WALTER GREENE.The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
With reference to the articles stated by the Leader of the Senate on the 15th instant to have been written and published by Mr. F. W. Eggleston regarding finances of (a) the Commonwealth, (b) Tasmania, (c) Queensland, (d) South Australia, will the Minister state the names of the newspapers in which such articles were published and the date of their publication ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The information is being obtained, and will be made available to-morrow.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following replies : - 1 and 2. The Tariff Board report has not yet been received.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
Appointment of University Graduates
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Representations have been made from time to time to the Government by university associations and others that, in recruitment to the Service, provision be made for the admission of university graduates. The matter is under consideration, but a decision has not yet been reached.
Senator Sir WALTER GREENE.On the 9th June, Senator Dunn asked the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral the following questions, upon notice : -
In reply thereto, the honorable senator was informed that if he supplied particulars of the statements referred to, consideration would be given to the matter. In response to this invitation the honorable senator has supplied an article from the newspaper in question. The article has now been considered by the AttorneyGeneral, who is of opinion that it consists of political argument and a common form of political propaganda, and that no offence against the law is disclosed.
In committee (Consideration resumed from the 20th June, vide, page 2457) :
Group 1. - Items under which the rates are the same as those operating under the 1921-30 tariff.
Division 6. - Metals and Machinery
Barbed wire, per ton, British, 68s. ; general, 180s.,
Upon which Senator Guthrie had moved -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, per ton, British, 40s.
– I gave my reasons for moving this request in the speech which I delivered before the Senate rose last night, and I shall not repeat them, but will content myself with appealing to honorable senators for their favorable consideration of my proposal.
– I can understand the attitude of a revenue tariffist, such as Senator Johnston, who desires that iron and steel products shall be admitted free from Great Britain, but I cannot understand the attitude of a . protectionist tariffist, such as Senator Guthrie, who desires that barbed wire shall be admitted at a rate of duty which, from the point of view of effectiveness, is decidedly low. If honorable senators intend to reduce the duties on iron and steel products they will need to go back to pig iron, which is the raw material from which manufactured iron and . steel products emerge. We have already protected blooms and billets, but these are simply partly manufactured products from which other products are prepared for market. What does . Senator Guthrie desire to effect by the making of this request? A duty of 40s. per ton is the ad valorem equivalent of a duty of 9.5 per cent. This industry cannot possibly carry on with such a small measure of protection. The duty of 68s. per ton, which the Government is proposing, is equivalent to an ad valorem duty of only 16 per cent. Barbed wire is therefore an article which is protected by a low duty. I shall be interested to hear what rates of duty Senator Guthrie will regard as necessary when we reach the division of the schedule which relates to textiles. I do not think that he will be satisfied with a duty as low as he is now suggesting for barbed wire.
– The honorable senator is merely obeying the instructions he has received from the Graziers Association.
– I do not think that Senator Guthrie would obey instructions from any organized body unless he were satisfied that the instructions were sound. The honorable gentleman is avowedly a protectionist, as I am sure he will show us when we are discussing the textile industries.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the Minister entitled to forecast what will happen when other items of the schedule are under consideration?
– He is not in order.
– I have not made a forecast ; I have spoken from my experience of the honorable senator. I distinctly remember that in one tariff debate in this chamber the honorable “gentleman advocated a high duty when I desired a low one. I ask honorable senators to consider whether this proposed reduction of duty can be justified under the terms of the Ottawa agreement. We cannot properly take into consideration in this connexion the incidence of exchange and primage. We have, therefore, to bear in mind that the duty which the honorable gentleman is now proposing is the ad valorem equivalent of a duty of only 9.5 per cent. Article 9 of the Ottawa agreement reads -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that protection by tariffs shall be afforded only to those industries which are reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success.
Is not the iron and steel industry essential to the welfare of the Commonwealth ? We know very well that other nations are doing their utmost, at present, to establish this industry within their territories. The sister dominion of South Africa regards the iron and steel industry as so essential to the welfare of the nation, that it is seeking to establish it as a government enterprise, though on a smaller scale than that adopted by the
Broken Hill Proprietary Company. I remind honorable senators that our iron and steel industry has not been without its successes hitherto. When the population of this country increases, I have no doubt that it will become fully successful. Article 10 of the Ottawa agreement reads as follows: -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that during the currency of this agreement the tariff shall be based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of the relative cost of economical and efficient production, provided that in the application of such principle special consideration may be given to the case of industries not fully established.
We have it on the best of authority that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s steel works at Newcastle is the most efficient of its kind in the world. The members of the Tariff Board, overseas visitors to this country, and other persons well qualified to express an opinion, have left us in no doubt about the efficiency of the industry. Taking into consideration the Australian standard of living and wage rates, the Government is of the opinion that an ad valorem duty, of 16 per cent, is not too high for barbed wire. If honorable senators request a lower duty than that, I do not know what will happen to this industry. I frankly confess that during last session I was driven to the conclusion that either the steel industry of Australia must be protected or we must allow it to be destroyed. On that occasion I looked at the subject from a different point of view from that from which I now consider it. Perhaps the duties on certain specific iron and steel products are out of proportion, but surely that cannot be said of an article which is protected to the extent of only 16 per cent. I put it to honorable senators that this is not the time to attack an industry of such magnitude as our iron, and steel industry. I can quite understand an honorable senator asking for the abolition of a duty and the substitution of a bounty, but I cannot see the point of Senator Guthrie’s request for what is equivalent to a reduction of an ad valorem duty from 16 per cent, to 9.5 per cent.
Senator DUNN (New South Wales) it were to reject the request that has been made by Senator Guthrie. A recent issue of the Melbourne Sun Pictorial contained an article explaining why Senator Guthrie had voted against the Government on the first reading of the Tariff Bill. The honorable senator is a representative of a political machine known as the United Australia party. He is entitled to his opinion with regard to this great key industry just as I am to mine, but the general public should know that he is desirous of importing barbed wire from countries in which cheap labour is employed, to the detriment of an Australian key industry; that, in order to assist wealthy pastoral companies, he would patronize German and even Japanese manufactures to the exclusion of our own. The remarkable thing is that Mr. Hoskins, jun., who is part proprietor of one of Australia’s pioneer iron and steel industries, is one of the bitterest critics of the Australian Labour party, which has always fought so strenuously for the protection of that and other local industries. I often wonder what Mr. Hoskins and Mr. Gordon Bennett must think when they read the arguments that are advanced by Senator Guthrie and those who think with him in favour of importing cheap barbed wire, irrespective of its country of origin and the standard of living which obtains there.
– Mr. Gordon Bennett ought to know something about barbed wire.
– When he was on the Western Front he certainly had ample opportunity of testing the relative merits of the German and British product, but in his present position as president of the -Sydney Chamber of Manufactures, he should support a protection of even 100 per cent, being given to Australian, and particularly New South Wales, manufactures.
– The Minister stated that, in proposing to reduce the duty on barbed wire, we contemplate striking at the very roots of the iron and steel and associated industries. Actually, the duty on pig iron is not the cause of the present high price of barbed wire. I contend that the industry really does not need any protective duty, for, without that artificial aid, our manufacturers are able to produce barbed wire more cheaply than it can be imported from Great Britain. The following table will explain my reasoning:
When cartage is added to cover transport from the ship to the warehouse, the total becomes £24 10s., and when a duty of £3 Ss. is superimposed, it becomes £27 18s. lOd. As our own barbed wire is sold to warehouses in Australia for £21 10s., it can be seen that there is no need for the duty. The Minister gave the figures as £26 for the British and £23 for the Australian product.
Anybody who has had anything to do with land pursuits knows that barbed wire is necessary to protect both ordinary stock and vermin-proof fences. If barbed wire is not used, stock will rub against the fence, and it will soon be at an angle of 45 degrees, or on the ground. Honorable senators opposite are always talking about protection, yet they are not prepared to grant it to the users 10 barbed wire. They have a mania for prohibitions, and in this instance they are prohibiting overseas manufacturers from competing with the local product. This fixed rate of 68s. per ton originated in- 1920, when it replaced a duty of 10 per cent. I do not go so far as Senator Guthrie, and urge that the duty should 1)0 eliminated, for I recognize the value of the great iron and steel subsidiary industries to Australia, which use a tremendous quantity of our raw material, and provide a great deal of employment. T regard the iron and steel industry as one of the key industries of Australia. 1 have gone over the Newcastle iron and steel works, and know the excellent work that is being done there. But this duty is not necessary when products which are manufactured from these raw materials are already enjoying protection.
In 1927 -we purchased very little barbed wire from England, most of our require ments coming from Canada and the United States of America. The price was then £12 a ton in New York, and the duty £9 a ton, to which a freight of £3 a ton had to be added, making the landed cost in Australia £24, which was 10s. higher than the price of the imported article. In each case I am referring to the price at which wholesalers can land the product in Australia.
– What is the price of barbed wire in the United States of America to-day?
– About £13. My figures prove conclusively that exchange and other charges alford an adequate protection to our manufacturers, and that a high duty is unnecessary. The industry has had thirteen years in which to establish itself in Australia, and should bc able to meet overseas competition. High duties simply encourage monopolies, which find no favour with the Minister or the Government. When dealing with these matters it is necessary to compare the cost of barbed wire in terms of wheat and wool. In 1920, wheat cost 7s. 6d. a bushel, while wool brought 22d. per lb., so that the proposal to reduce the duty by 38s. per ton means a reduction of from 6 per cent, or 7 per cent. The position of the man who is called upon to pay for these commodities must be considered. Compared with 1920, we have to find an additional 13& bushels of wheat and 51 lb. of wool to pay for the duty alone. These burdens are too heavy for the key wheat and wool industries to bear. It is pleasing to note that the right, article can be manufactured in Australia; but. if possible, it must be produced more cheaply.
– By how much has the price been reduced since the prices of primary products were at their peak?
– The Australian landed cost of galvanized barbed wire from Great Britain was £13 .10s. in 1900. £15 17s. 6d. in 1913, £24 10s. in 192S, and £22 73. 6d. in 1931. To-day it is £23 15s. In 1927 the price of the Australian article was £23 10s. at warehouse, compared with the British price of £24 10s.
– Of similar quality?
– There is not much difference between the quality of the Australian and the British wire; if anything, the Australian’ is superior. I give Australian industries credit where it is due. I know that occasionally ari inferior article is produced; but those industries which exercise care, and install the ‘best machinery, produce goods of the highest quality. I heartily support Senator Guthrie’s request, and hope that it will be agreed to by the committee.
.- This duty has remained unchanged since 1920, and it may, therefore, be suggested that it should continue to remain unchanged. I do not hold that view. I approach the matter upon the assumption that this commodity is essential to certain classes of primary producers, and that primary producers generally have had such an exceptionally bad time during the last couple of years that, in my opinion, at all events, it would be ridiculous to consider the retention of a tariff, that is possibly not needed, at the figure at which it has stood since 1920. Every one knows the uses to which barbed wire is put, and that, without it, a good deal of fencing work will shortly have to be undertaken which, at the present time, primary producers cannot justify on the ground of the expense involved. The Minister has said that the present duty of 68s. represents 16 per cent, of the cost of this commodity, whereas in another place it was stated that, on an ad valorem basis, the percentage ranged from 17 to 39. Let us assume that it is, roughly, 18 per cent., and that the reduction would represent a drop to about 12 per cent. In a time like the present, such a reduction might very well be made. I am glad that Senator Guthrie has moved this request. Last night, I voted for Senator Johnston’s request that the item he made free, and I should like to place on record my reason for having done so, and to explain why I shall probably act in a similar manner in the future. My attitude throughout has been to favour gradual reductions, rather than drastic cuts; but, important though the big secondary industries are, it is our duty to protect the primary producer in the circumstances that exist to-day, and if the Government will not suggest reasonable reductions, I am prepared to go so far as to vote for reduc tions that I consider, excessive rather than have none made at all.
– The honorable senator will be “ stoushed.”
– That may be. Had the honorable senator been here yesterday, he might have saved his side from defeat. I do not object very much to being defeated in these matters. My argument is, that the present position constitutes a danger to the whole of Australia, and that, if the honorable senator and his friends continue to be successful in this chamber, the whole country will be defeated. Whether I vote with the majority or the minority, I am here to express on the tariff and other subjects my view of what I consider to be of benefit to the country. In saying that, I refer, not only to the man who lives in the country, but also to what I regard as good government. The proposal that we are now debating is more in accord with my personal views than that which was defeated last night. But had that been carried, what would have been the position? This industry, which has had this protection for the last thirteen years, would still have been left with all the protection afforded by exchange and primage, and the other charges that have been mentioned, representing 35 per cent, or probably more. My friend, Senator Badman, says that the figure is 37 per cent. On that basis, the industry would be given a fair run. It may be objected that the advantage of the exchange may be withdrawn at any time. It has already lasted quite a long while, however, and I have -not the slightest doubt that if it were withdrawn to-morrow the Government would come down with a proposal to prevent an industry like this from being wiped out. I wish to make it clear, too, that I am not hostile to the iron and steel industry.
– Of course the honorable senator is.
– I am not. I have visted Newcastle, and have seen what is done there; and ‘a number of the gentlemen who control the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited are personal friends of mine. I feel, however, that in considering these matters we must keep a sense of proportion; as has been said frequently of late, we must take first things first. To me, the possibility of the person who produces our overseas wealth being enabled to carry on must take precedence of everything else.
– Even if the duty were reduced, the wire would not be any cheaper to the farmer.
– I do not know whether it would or not, but as a general statement, I say that some reduction should be made in this item, which is one of a particular branch in respect of which no reduction whatever is provided for. I am prepared to vote for the reduction of any or all of those items. We have constantly put up to us the final bogy of the possible destruction of something which is essential to the defence of this country. To a certain extent, that is true; and it would be truer if the remainder of the arms of defence of this country were properly organized. But what is the use of having furnaces in full blast, and of having thousands of men working in these large industries, when we have practically no ships, and. the majority of our aeroplanes are antiquated ?
– The honorable senator must discuss the item.
– I am reminded by Senator Sampson that barbed wire was used with considerable effect in the Great War. I can hardly imagine, however, that it would be sunk in the ocean adjacent to our capital cities, to prevent vessels of war from bombarding our shores. What would be the use of our furnaces roaring if we had only 30,000 men - the number now in training - to defend this country? The organization of our man power surely must take precedence of, as well as work alongside, the development of our secondary industries. For the reasons stated, it gives me greater pleasure to support this request than that which Senator Johnston made last night.
– I find myself again, at variance with my colleagues from South Australia who have indicated their intention to support Senator Guthrie’s request. I should like honorable senators to consider every aspect of the matter before they finally determine to agree to that request. Senator Guthrie, and those who support him, claim to be actuated by the desire to remove some of the burdens of the primary producer. That aim has my fullest sympathy, and I believe it is also concurred in by every other honorable senator; but this question has to be considered from two aspects: First, what’ is the weight of the burden that would be removed from the primary industries by the carrying of this request? Secondly, what are likely to be the consequences of a reduction of duty upon an established Australian industry which every honorable senator who supports Senator Guthrie has admitted is rendering an efficient’ service at a reasonable charge to the Australian people? The Minister (Senator McLachlan) has shown that the Australian manufacturers of barbed wire are not taking advantage of the full protective incidence of the tariff. A glance at the Oversea Trade Bulletin confirms that view, because we find that fairly substantial quantities of Australian-made barbed wire are exported to New Zealand, a freetrade dominion, and sold there in competition with barbed wire manufactured in other countries.
– Why is it necessary to impose a duty on importations if Australian manufacturers can compete in the New Zealand market?
– I shall explain that in a moment.
– Owing to present exchange conditions, we export a number of commodities to New Zealand.
– Yes. We export wheat, butter, and many other primary products to various parts of the world where they are sold under freetrade conditions; but Senator J. B. Hayes, Senator Duncan-Hughes, Senator Badman, and Senator Johnston would not be willing to permit those products to come into Australia under freetrade conditions, and I submit that our secondary industries should be similarly regarded. They have as much right to be protected from the dumping of overseas manufactured goods as have our primary industries, which at present are protected from the dumping of primary products from overseas. If we reduce the duty on barbed wire as proposed by Senator Guthrie, within a few years we may find that the Australian barbed wire industry has been destroyed, leaving this country in the grip of an overseas monopoly, as has been- the case in connexion with other industries. Although my memory is somewhat hazy on the point, I believe that there was a time before this industry was established in Australia when barbed wire was admitted into Australia under freetrade conditions, and when users were compelled to pay considerably more for it than they are at present paying for the Australian manufactured article. The Minister has already stressed the effect: of. this duty upon the great iron and steel, industry of Australia. Its particular importance to the State which I represent, I dealt with in extenso last night. It is practically the only industry which creates a demand for South Australian iron ore. All the arguments in favour of the Australian iron and steel industry have been effectively dealt with. But even if it were possible to give any substantial relief to our primary producers by reducing the duty, what would it amount to? Honorable senators might be justified in disregarding the claims of a key industry, and they might even go so far as to say that, irrespective of its value to Australia, the burden of maintaining it is so great upon primary producers that they cannot afford to carry it any longer. But what is the actual position? Barbed wire of No. 12 gauge is used more extensively than wire of any other gauge, and, speaking from memory, only 3 cwt. of wire of this gauge is required for 1 mile of fencing. Assuming that the full benefit of the proposed reduction of duty were passed on to the purchaser - Senator Badman said that it is not so; that the Australian manufacturers are not taking full advantage of the full protective incidence of the duties - it would amount to less than 4s. a mile of fencing. Barbed wire is the most durable type of wire used in fencing. I do not say that it is everlasting, but it has a very long life. There is barbed wire on fences on my property in South Australia which were erected 60 years ago, and, apparently, it is as good to-day as when it was placed in position.
– That barbed wire could not have been made in Australia.
– No ; it must have been imported. Senator Badman has testified that Australian barbed wire is superior to the imported, and I know of imported barbed wire which looks as good as new after it has been in use for 60 years. If the average farmer erects 10 miles of fencing, the total saving would, therefore, be 40s. over 60 years. Are we justified in making that small saving if by so doing we jeopardize the continuance of an industry so vital to Australia? I submit that we are not, and, consequently, I intend to oppose Senator Guthrie’s request.
– I wish to contradict the statement made by Senator O’Halloran that, in recent years, at any rate, we have paid more for barbed wire imported from Great Britain than we are now paying for the Australian product. I have some comparative prices of galvanized barbed wire of No. 12 gauge which I have obtained from a reliable source. In 1900, the price of the British product in Sydney was £13 a ton. In 1913, Australian and American wire were both sold in Sydney for £15 7s. 6d. a ton.
– I paid £28 a ton for British wire in 1912.
– In 1913, the honorable senator could have obtained barbed wire at £15 7s. 6d. a ton.
– What was the gauge and what was the spacing of the barbs?
– It was No. 12 gauge wire, but the spacing is not given.
– The barbs may have been 12 inches apart.
– It was ordinary good barbed wire, and, no doubt, the barbs were 3 inches apart. In 1928. the price of Australian barbed wire had increased to £24 10s. a ton, compared with £15 7s. 6d. a ton in 1913. On the 14th August, 1931, the price of Australian barbed wire had been reduced to £22 7s. 6d. a ton, but by the 13th June of this year the price in Sydney was £23 15s. a ton, compared with £13 10s. a ton in 1900 for English wire and £15 7s. 6d. a ton in Sydney in. 1913 for Australian and American, wire. Despite the tremendous drop in the price of wheat and wool, the cost of barbed wire is very high compared with what it was some time ago, and any relief that we can give to those using it should be given.
– “What relief can we give to them when the Australian product is selling at a lower price than the imported article?
– Whether we are, or are not, asked to consider this matter regardless of exchange, a reduction . of duty as proposed would afford considerable relief. I am in favour of barbed wire being admitted free of duty; but in any case, the request provides for a reduction, and I trust that the committee will support it.
– The Minister in charge of the bill (Senator McLachlan) not only put forward the views of the Government on this item, but also supported them by quotations from a report of the Tariff Board on this industry in 1926. I believe that the board in its report was conscientious ; but I direct the Minister’s attention to the fact that there has been a considerable change in the world’s economic condition since then; and in spite of the statement of the Minister that we must consider these duties apart altogether from exchange, I direct his attention to the Tariff Board’s annual report of 1932, a more recent report than that from which he quoted. On page 14 of this report, the board said - “ The cost of landing imported goods is at present excessive.” It then gave three examples: Window glass imported from Belgium, a band-sawing machine from the United Kingdom, and an engine lathe from the United States of America. The board mentioned the f.o.b. price of the article, freight, insurance, exchange, primage, duty on outside packages, and also the customs duty on the article. In the case of Belgian window glass it showed that the duty and charges on the f.o.b. price amounted to 235 per cent. With respect to the band-sawing machine from the United Kingdom - I stress the point that we are seeking a reduction under this item only in the British, and not on the foreign duty - they amounted to 122 per cent. On the engine lathe they amounted to 134 per cent. The Tariff Board added -
The foregoing illustrations are only typical of very many lines in some of which the percentage on f.o.b. costs are even greater than those quoted.
The board then dealt in a more or less transitory nature with both primage duty and exchange, and after allowing for all these considerations stated -
The board is faced with the position that the high customs duties, plus primage duty, exchange, duty on packages, in addition to freight and landing charges, frequently represent a protection of over 100 per cent, on the f.o.b. price. In the opinion of the board this position is dangerous-
I direct the Minister’s attention to that fact - and, as already indicated, is liable to result ip the expenditure of capital on the installation of plant to manufacture in Australia commodities for which the demand is too limited or which for other reasons cannot be economically manufactured in Australia. Moreover, it may lead to the pegging of high prices for essential plant and material when the prosperity of the Commonwealth and the employment of the people are closely wrapped up with the reduction of prices of secondary products in keeping with the reduced spending power of the community.
That, in my opinion, is the crux of the whole position. We all understand that, if it were possible to maintain high prices for all commodities, it might be a good thing, but it is necessary for us to face economic facts. We must produce commodities at such a price that they can be bought by the public with their decreased spending power ; and, as was pointed out by Senator Guthrie and Senator Badman, no other section of the community has had its spending power so reduced as that section which depends for its income on the production of wool, wheat, and “other great primary products.
– The remedy, apparently, would be to buy cheap Japanese goods.
– It is proposed to reduce the duty not on foreign goods, but only on goods coming from Britain. Therefore, the duty on Japanese or other foreign goods does not enter into the matter at all, and has been introduced by some honorable senators, either with the intention of clouding the issue, or because they do not realize the exact meaning of the proposal before the Senate.
– Are the present duties the same as those proposed by the Tariff Board?
– They are the duties which were introduced in 19-26, but there is a- whole world of difference between, the economic position as it existed in 1926, and as it exists in 1933.
– If we admitted British imports free, the farmers could not get their wire any cheaper.
– Perhaps not. The report points out that primage duties and exchange are more or less transitory matters, while the tariff duty is, to all intents and purposes, permanent. I have not the slightest doubt that, if the board were to report on this industry now, and took into consideration the enormous shrinkage in the purchasing power of the buyers of barbed wire, it would bring in a different recommendation. The board would realize that it is impossible, at present prices, for primary producers to buy all the wire they want. The income of wheat and wool growers is now practically only one-third of what it used to be. Wheat was selling at 7s. 6d. a bushel in 1921, whereas now it is down to 2s. a bushel at the sidings. I do not wish to injure any Australian industry, but I believe that, when one important section of the community has had its income so much reduced, other sections should be called upon to make a corresponding sacrifice so that all might be placed on an equal footing. If two men engaged in a race over 100 yards, and one were given a start of 50 yards, the other would have no chance at all. Similarly, the primary producers are so handicapped under present conditions that they have no chance of winning out. Although we are dealing specifically with item 157, what I have said in regard to it applies equally to many others.
– It is not often that I take part in the interminable wrangle of the tariff debate, but I think that, in this instance, honorable senators opposite have not succeeded in making out a case for the reduction of these duties.
– They never can make out a case sufficiently good to convince the honorable senator.
– I believe that all essential industries should be undertaken by the State without profit to any one but to the community. I do not expect honorable senators to rise to such heights of enlightenment as to realize the need for the introduction of such a system, nor do I ‘believe that there is much likelihood of its introduction under existing conditions. That being so, it behoves us to do all in our power to protect those essential Australian industries now operating. We are continually hearing about the need for granting relief to the farming community; but Senator O’Halloran made it clear, from the figures he quoted, that a reduction of the duty on this item, even if it gave the relief claimed, which is by no means certain, would bc of so little value to the average farmer in an average year as to hardly be worth while. I know something about wire and its uses, and I know that it is not a commodity which is in continuous demand in large quantities. However useful it may be, it is only a minor matter in the equipment of most farms. While grave concern for the interests of the primary producers is expressed by honorable senators who advocate lower duties, I have heard no word spoken for the rural workers, who assist the primary producers to create wealth.
– The primary producers cannot pay the rural workers if all their income is expended in the purchase of barbed wire.
– That is an absurd remark, because, as I have said, the amount spent in an average year for the purchase of barbed wire for any farm is riot large. Perhaps, on the big holdings, considerable quantities may be ‘bought in one particular year, but even then it is not bought every year.
– The more fencing a farmer does, the more labour he employs.
– It is absurd to say that land-holders cannot pay the rural workers a decent wage because of the high prices they have to pay for barbed wire.
– And for everything else, also.
– The honorable senator specified barbed wire. Generally speaking, there would be no primary production except for the rural workers. While it is true that the small farmer may do practically all his own work, on the large farms labour is employed, and it is this labour which actually produces the commodities that are sold.
– We all appreciate that fact.
– But all do not admit it. The rural workers are the worst paid of any in Australia. I have not heard any honorable senator say that the rural workers, who are” an indispensable factor in the production of wealth from the land, should receive any consideration.
– I pointed that out the other day. I stated that the rural workers were the worst paid in the community.
– Yes, I now remember the honorable senator saying that.
– The rural workers are the most contented section of Australian workers.
– The Minister in charge of the tariff has shown that the duty represents a very small ad valorem charge on the imported wire, yet the overseas manufacturers cannot compete successfully with the Australian manufacturers. The local industry has not availed itself fully of the protection afforded. The case made out for the reduction of this duty is less convincing than that for the reduction of any other duty in the schedule.
– No one uses barbed wire except those engaged in the pastoral industry.
– The honorable senator might as well say that no one uses ploughs except farmers. Those engaged in mixed farming sell a large proportion of their produce for consumption within Australia. Honorable senators should realize that, if we throw the workers in the secondary industries out of employment, the primary producers cannot hope to retain their local market.
– Does the honorable senator think that the retention of the present duties is necessary in the interests of the wire manufacturing industry?
– The abolition of the duties is not necessary.
– We are discussing a reduction, not total abolition.
– The proposed reduction is not necessary to the welfare of the primary industries. Barbed wire represents only a small part of the expenditure of the farmer, and the fact that the industry has been established on such a sound footing goes to show that it has deserved well of the people of Australia. It has furnished employment for a considerable number of Australian workmen, and it has retailed its products at a price which compares favorably with the price of wire produced overseas.
– Senator Duncan-Hughes said that he had many good friends in the iron and steel industry. I assume that his friends are either directors or shareholders of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, or hold executive positions in that concern. That being so, it is evident that Senator Duncan-Hughes is using his prerogative as a member of this Senate to attack his friends on the floor of the chamber. Senator Carroll stated that all sections of the community should, in view of the economic depression, start off at the scratch mark. Does he suggest that there should be another world flood with a Noah’s Ark, and that the survivors, if any, should all start off again at the same mark? Senator Payne, who supports the proposed reduction of duties, no doubt, has the interests of the farmers of Tasmania at heart, but I respectfully ask of him whether there are any farms in Tasmania big enough to need barbed wire fencing. I feel sure that the Senate will not agree to the proposed request.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– While I appreciate Senator Guthrie’s motive for submitting this request, and realize that he is speaking on behalf of our primary producers, I should like to make one final appeal to the committee not to agree to his request for amendment. The fundamental principle upon which the Government and its supporters appealed to the electors was that, before any reduction was made in any tariff item, there should be a detailed examination by the Tariff Board. The honorable senator’s proposal is equivalent to the reduction of an ad valorem rate from 16 per cent, to 9 per cent. Honorable senators should bear in mind that, under the provisions of the Ottawa agreement, the whole of the tariff must he considered by the board, so I suggest that it is not competent for the Government to accept proposals to reduce the duty in respect of any item, unless and until it has been considered by the Tariff Board. That body reported fully on this duty in 1926. A calculation which I have had made of the effect of the proposed reduction of the British duty shows that one mile of 12 gauge barbed wire with 5-^-in. spacing of the barbs weighs 438 lb., and that a ton is equal to a length of 5 miles. One mile of 12 guage, with 3-J-in. spacing, weighs 352 lb., and a ton is equal to a length of 6.36 miles. Since an area of 6,400 acres is equal to 10 square miles, it would take 14 miles of barbed wire to totally enclose the area. If the whole of the 68s. per ton duty were added to the local price, the added cost, in- the case of barbed wire with 5$-in. spacing, would be ?7 10s. and in the case of wire with 3^-in. spacing, ?9 10s. Spread over a period of twenty years, the average lifetime of such material, the annual extra cost would be, in respect of an area of 6,400 acres, 7s. 6d. for wire with o-J-in. spacing, and 9s. 6d. for wire with 3^-iu. spacing.
– One wire would be no good except to keep out ostriches.
– I believe that the practice is to put plain wire below the barbed wire in country where the barbed wire is used to enclose stock.
– Three rows of barbed wire are required as protection against dingoes.
– In dingo infested country the additional wires art; used on boundary fences only. It is urged against the present duty that it represents a burden on our primary producers. All essential factors were taken into consideration by the Tariff Board in 1926. Evidence against the duty was then given by Mr. J. W. Allen, the secretary of the Producers Association’s Central Council, which consisted of the Graziers Association of New South Wales, the New South Wales Sheep Breeders Association, the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, the Stockmen’s Association of New South Wales, and the Primary Producers Union of New South
Wales. The board, in its references to this evidence, stated -
Mr. Allen asked on 27th February, 1925, that the duty on barbed wire be reduced to free, 5 per cent., and 10 per cent., British preferential, intermediate and general tariff respectively.
He said that barbed wire is an essential requirement in the erection of rabbit-proof and dog-proof netting fences, and such fences are imperatively necessary if the pastoral industry is to maintain its position, and make progress.
He drew attention to the fact that the sheep numbers of the Commonwealth have decreased from 106,421,008 in 1891 to 78,803,171 in 1923, which decrease is to a very great extent due to rabbit and dingo pests,
Experience in South Australia has shown that the only reliable method of eradicating the dingo in the outback areas is by forming vermin districts completely enclosed by vermin fencing and the systematic destruction of the dingo within those districts.
Instances could be cited where holdings in South Australia, which have carried large numbers of sheep, had been abandoned owing to the ravages of this pest; but have been successfully restocked after vermin-proof fences had been erected.
If the dingo and rabbit oan be eradicated, it is, in the opinion of Mr. Allen, certain that a great expansion in the pastoral industry will take place, and areas which are at present unstocked would be brought into occupation, to the great benefit of the Commonwealth.
Although he had heard the evidence given by the applicants, that British wire netting is sold at the Australian parity, irrespective of the price it is landed, he stated that his view of the matter was that a bounty would reduce prices to the consumers, and therefore would be a means of forcing down the price of the imported article.
On being questioned by the Chairman as to whether he would admit that the Australian manufacturer gives the local consumer protection against exploitation by outside manufacturers, he answered that he did. He did not suggest that the local manufacturer was obtaining an unfair return for his money.
After carefully examining the evidence given, the board came to the conclusion that it was absolutely essential that the duties now submitted should be imposed. I say with all respect that it is not the province of, nor is it competent for, this deliberative assembly to deal with all the details and complexities of an industry such as this. I do not see how we could expect to do justice between the conflicting interests of the primary producers, on the one side, and this secondary industry, on the other. I put it to honorable senators that, to adopt this request for an amendment, would mean, in the event of the present exchange ‘benefits being lessened, the destruction of one arm, at least, of a very important industry which every nation regards as necessary for its own protection.
– Is the Minister aware that the manufacturers will not sell direct to country distributors, but only to a close ring in metropolitan areas, so as to control local prices?
– I do not know what is the practice of the trade; but I imagine that, whatever discipline the manufacturers consider necessary, can be secured. I am aware that a certain amount of policing has been done with regard to price control during the last few months, and possibly a further examination of the position may be necessary. I hold no brief for exploiters; but, according to documentary evidence available to us, the manufacturers of barbed wire are selling their product at less than the price at which it can be imported from Great Britain.
– Then the duty ia unnecessary.
– My honorable friend will confuse two things. We have to debate the tariff as a protective and revenue-producing instrument, independent of all other considerations. I appeal to honorable senators that, having given protection to pig iron, blooms, and billets, which represent the base of this subsidiary industry, not to agree to the requested amendment, because to do so would mean that the manufacturers would ba unable to use a very large proportion of the base materials referred to.
– It shows how far we have gone in the policy of .protection when wc have reached a stage at which what is admitted to be n duty equivalent to an ad valorem rate of nearly 10 per cent, is regarded as almost negligible, or merely a revenue tariff. While this may bo the present frame of mind of the public generally, it was not the frame of mind of those who established the protective policy of this country. Then, a 10 per cent, duty was regarded as protective, and not merely a duty for the raising of revenue. Are we to accept the implication that never will the manufacturers of barbed wire be able to carry on without a protective duty?
The men who started this industry, men who had more knowledge of it than anybody else in Australia, declared that they could and would be able to continue without tariff aid. We are assured that their employees are equal to the best in the world, their machinery is up to date, their raw material is available on the spot, and their enterprise is conducted at a seaport which offers adequate facilities for shipping. The purpose of a protective duty was merely to enable an industry to become established. The subsidizing of an enterprise in perpetuity must, in the long run, prove uneconomic. If it is right to subsidize one established industry in order to enable it to carry on, it must be equally right to subsidize other established industries, thus carrying the policy to the reducio ad absurdum, for all industries would eventually be operating, not because of their ability to compete commercially with the rest of the world, but because each was leaning on the other for support. The basic primary industries upon which the Commonwealth relies for the payment of the interest on the public debt cannot be subsidized; they have to face the competition of the world. The Minister has stated that this is an extremely complicated subject, that Parliament cannot, of its own knowledge, estimate the various reactions that would follow a lowering of duties, and must, therefore, depend on reports by the Tariff Board. The allies of the Government, now sitting in opposition, hold, on the contrary, that they are quite competent to decide this matter. In excuse or palliation of this duty we are told that the amount involved is negligible. The same argument is advanced when we are dealing with sugar, matches and other items. But “ molly a pickle makes a mickle “. If a little is added to this item and a little to that item the community must eventually pay, in the aggregate, considerably more for its requirements. What would be the reception of Senator Collings if, in a country district, he said to the farmers, who are not living under those “ Australian conditions “ which are supposed to apply to the secondary industries, “ We want a penny or twopence a week from you in order that the workers in the steel industry may be maintained under Australian conditions?”
He would argue that the sum to be contributed by each farmer was only small; but on what principle would he be entitled to ask those who are receiving nothing from the State to put their hands into their pockets in order to give to people who are better off than themselves ? The Minister stated that the Government went to the country on a policy which included tariff revision only after report by the Tariff Board. That contention tells against him in this instance, because the Tariff Board has not reported on barbed wire since 1926, and Senators Badman and Guthrie have pointed out that since that year the conditions of the primary producers, whom these proposed duties particularly affect, have considerably deteriorated. The men on the land are worse off than they were, and every effort should be made to lift burdens from them. The pastoral and agricultural communities do not a3k to be relieved of natural burdens, hut they rightly claim that they should not he loaded with artificial burdens. I must support the request for an amendment of the duty, and I accept responsibility for having consulted with Senator Guthrie before ha made his proposal. After all, the Senate is urged only to make a request, and I do not suppose that a political crisis will arise if the request is made. Although the Senate has no constitutional right to amend the tariff, it is entitled to refer any item back to the House of Representatives with a request that it be amended in a particular way. This is a non-party question; the Government desires merely to ascertain the views of the legislature in regard to it, and perhaps the views expressed in this chamber may cause the House of Representatives to consent to amend the duties.
– Senator Brennan has said that this request is not likely to produce a political crisis. If the honorable gentleman is correct, I misunderstand the Constitution. On this measure the Senate can merely make requests, but constitutionally, requests have all the effect of amendments, because if the House of Representatives does not accede to a request, and the Senate persists with it, the tariff cannot become law. One effect of a deadlock might be a double dissolu tion, and that is a contingency which members of the Opposition would not hesitate to face. Senator Brennan asked what would happen if I went to the farmers and asked them, regardless of their unsatisfactory economic position, to contribute Id. or 2d. a week for the benefit of workers in the steel and iron industry. I am continually traversing my State from one end to the other, and asking the farmers whether they desire Australian secondary industries to be destroyed for the sake of some problematical benefit to themselves.
– Did the honorable senator ever ask for the 2d, to which I have referred?
– For twenty years I have asked the farmers whether they approve of the platform and policy of the Australian Labour Party, and for seventeen of those years they have replied at the ballot-box in the affirmative. The honorable senator stated that we were discussing a non-party question. I was not aware of that; but, of course, I now realize that there is no semblance of unity among the supporters of the Government. Labour senators, however, will assist the Government to maintain this tariff from beginning to end, because v?e stand for increased duties. Honorable senators have said that the Government acknowledges that the impost on barbed wire is not a very heavy one; yet, if we reduced one after another, the duties on the products of the iron and steel industry, we should eventually destroy it. It has not been shown in this debate that if the requested amendment were acceded to, the primary producers would benefit.
– The cost of barbed wire is only one or the many high charges that have to he met by the primary producers.
– Of course, and barbed wire is but one of the many articles produced in the great steel industry. No other country would strike a blow at a key industry, which, I take it, is the most important in the group of industries with which it is related. Thu great majority of the nations regard their steel industry as of fundamental importance, and when backward countries seek opportunities to develop their resources, one of their main considerations is the establishment of a steel industry. No matter what the result of the debate on this item may be, it will produce an undesirable effect, because it will make nervous investors hesitant regarding the establishment of any new secondary industry. The latest available statistics show that we should give every possible encouragement to the establishment of secondary industries.
– Has the honorable senator ever tried to buy barbed wire?
– I am not ignorant of life on the land ; I have had a long and bitter experience of it. My difficulties were not brought about through protective tariffs, but through evils never talked about by honorable senators who oppose the Labour party. I refer to the incubus of organizations, such as wool-broking firms, which are bleeding our export industries white.
– I can assure Senator Brennan, who spoke of this requested amendment being a mere gesture, that I shall not play at gestures on so solemn a matter as the tariff. If this committee deliberately votes for this reduction of duties, I take it that it will be committing itself to a definite line of policy. I do not wish the position to be misunderstood, because honorable senators ought not to be induced to make up their minds on this matter by saying “After all, this is only a gesture “. I point out that this requested amendment applies to a subsidiary branch of the steel industry only, and that the committee has already passed the duties on wire rods without interfering with them in any way. Having regard to the report of the Tariff Board, we should consider whether we are prepared to trust the board, whose principles I have often heard lauded by some of my friends who support the requested amendment, or whether we think that we can preserve Australia’s economic equilibrium by doing something which may have a most serious effect on our great steel industry.
. -The Minister admits that a recent report from the Tariff Board has not been received on this item, and he contends that, therefore, we should not lower the duties. To that argument I say that on hundreds of items on which reports have not been received, this Government has increased the duties. These increases have been made in foreign duties, in order to implement the Ottawa agreement. The report on barbed wire that has been referred to in this debate is seven years old, and, as Senator Badman and others have clearly pointed out, the conditions to-day are entirely different from those obtaining when that report was presented. To pay the duty on a ton of barbed wire - an impost which the Minister has succeeded in demonstrating to be unnecessary - the farmer must hand over 13 bushels of wheat or 51 lb. of wool. The statement that one strand of barbed wire could be placed round a farmer’s paddock of 6,400 acres is utterly ridiculous, because no farmer has such a paddock, and he would certainly not use only one strand of barbed wire.
What is most amusing in this debate - and, perhaps, after all, one must have a sense of humour, if one is to enjoy coming here at all - is the unholy marriage between Ministers in this chamber and the “ Lang gangers “ on the Opposition side. I am wondering when the inevitable divorce proceedings will be instituted.
– I ask that the words “ Lang gangers “ be withdrawn, as they are offensive to me.
– I withdraw the expression; I should have said “Lang planners “. I am wondering which party to this unholy alliance will sue for the divorce, and when it will take place.
Reference has been made to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s works. Personally, I am interested in that company, and I regard it as a valuable concern; but I have more regard for the welfare of the people of Australia generally than for private dividends. In my opinion, the interests of this country are largely dependent upon the success of the primary producers, who have to compete in the world’s markets. Owing to the lowness of the prices received by the man on the land, everybody, I think, realizes the necessity for reducing the costs of production. Some real assistance would be given to our primary producers if the tariff, as well as sea and rail freights, were lowered. When primage and exchange are taken into account, the protection is nearly 37 per cent.
– Primage and exchange may not remain where they are to-day.
– They will continue as they are for some time. One honorable senator asked whether I wanted barbed wire to come here from Germany. I do not. I support the present duty of 180s. a ton on foreign barbed wire, and a reduced duty on barbed wire from the Mother Country. During this debate it has been said that the landed cost of barbed wire made in Britain is about £27 17s. 6d. a ton. The warehouse price of similar (natonal made in Australia is £23 15s. a ton. Unfortunately, there is a combine in Australia, and I am opposed to all combines.
– It is the greatest combine in Australia.
– Barbed wire can be obtained in other countries for about £13 a ton.
– Did the honorable senator say that he was interested in the Broken Hill Proprietary Company as a shareholder?
– I am interested in that company, but I shall not vote for high duties on that account. I hope that I shall never support a high duty merely for personal gain. In 1913, when wool and wheat sold at higher prices than they bring to-day, barbed wire cost about £15 17s. 6d. a ton. Although the report of the Tariff Board does not deal with this item, it emphasizes the excessive cost of landing goods in Australia. My desire is to reduce the cost of production in thi3 country, and I prefer to do that by reducing the duties on the requirements of the map on the land, rather than by lowering wages.
Senator Sir WALTER KINGSMILL (Western Australia) [3.4]. - I realize that the duty on barbed wire is a matter of considerable importance to this country, and, like Senator Guthrie, I am of the opinion that one way to lower the cost of production is to reduce the duty on this item. It may be said that this is a matter of comparatively little impor tance, but the position of the farming and pastoral community is such that little things mean much to them. When the Minister said that some honorable senators might vote for the requested amendment as a gesture, he apparently failed to realize that this debate will probably be repeated when the Tariff Board’s report on this item is available. That hard-working body has not yet had time to deal with all the subjects which have been referred to it. I have confidence in the Tariff Board, because I believe that it is more inclined to move with the times than are some other highly-placed bodies in this country. I am afraid that, unless some stimulus of this kind is given, we shall continue to go along in the knowledge that, whenever things look bad in any secondary industry, it will be only necessary to approach Parliament, and a higher duty will be imposed, in the hope that, by that means, all the ills affecting the industry will be cured. I believe that that time has gone for ever. One effect of the Ottawa Conference will probably be that Australia will have to act in concert with the rest of the British Empire, and, perhaps, with the rest of the world.
– And then only through tariff tribunals.
– For the reasons that I have given, I shall support Senator Guthrie’s proposal for a decreased duty on barbed wire.
.- I am loath at any time to vote on an important subject without giving my reasons. It is unfortunate that there is no recent report from the Tariff Board on barbed wire; we should have had such a report before this item came before us for consideration. The Tariff Board has submitted a number of reports on various items, at the request of the Government, many of them on subjects of far less importance to Australia than the duty on barbed wire, which is a commodity much used by primary producers.
I hope to break some fresh ground in giving my reasons why the requested amendment should be agreed to. A previous speaker gave the f.o.b. cost of British barbed wire as £15 10s. a ton, and the cost landed in Australia as £27 17s. lOd. a ton. In order to make a fair comparison, we must deduct from that latter figure the cost of carting and stacking the material; and so we arrive at a cost of £27 6s. lOd. a ton. The price of Australian barbed wire to wholesale distributing merchants is £21 5s. a ton. We are asked to support a British preferential tariff of 68s. a ton on barbed wire, which is being produced here for £21 5s. a ton. If we agree to the reduction proposed by Senator Guthrie, the landed cost of British barbed wire, including exchange, will be £25 18s. lOd. a ton compared with £21 5s. for the Australian product. That would give the local industry ample protection. Even if wo leave out of our consideration the effect of exchange, the cost of landing Britishmade barbed wire in Australia would be slightly in excess of the price of the locally-made product. The time has come when our so-called preference to Britain should be a preference in reality, and not a prohibition as is the case in connexion with this item. I agree with other honorable senators who have stated that we should expect that an industry, established and developed under a policy of protection, should in time be able to produce goods at a lower price than was possible when it commenced, and that in consequence the consumers of its products should expect to get them at lower prices. For these reasons, I shall support the requested amendment moved by Senator Guthrie.
– The Minister quoted from a report of the Tariff Board published seven years ago, when conditions were totally different from what they are to-day. In considering the duty which should be imposed on barbed wire, existing conditions should be taken into account. We cannot go back seven years, and say that the price of any commodity at that time should be its price to-day. Australia has not the purchasing power which it possessed seven years ago.
– South Australia will have less purchasing power if the Iron Knob mines are closed down.
– The Australian industry is already amply protected. The Minister also said that in considering the tariff we should not take into accountprimage, and exchange, but I maintain that we must take those factors into con sideration, because they are part of the cost borne by the people of this country. It cannot be denied that local manufacturers take advantage of primage and exchange.
– Those factors increase their costs.
– Senator O’Halloran has said that some barbed wire used to fence his property 60 years ago was still in good condition.
– Barbed wire had not been invented 60 years ago.
– According to the encyclopaedia which I hold in my hand, barbed wire was invented in 1874. It probably did not make its appearance in Australia until ten or fifteen years later. I have some knowledge of the relative qualities of various makes of barbed wire, and I know that the Australian article is infinitely superior to the American. Some American barbed wire used to fence my property has rusted, while Australian barbed wire in the same locality is still sound.
– Australian barbed wire is superior to the American product.
– Yes, and to the German product also. The Minister set out to show the difference in the cost of fencing a property of 6,400 acres if one kind of barbed wire were used in preference to another. There are few farmers with properties of that area. In the more closely-settled districts, farmers generally divide their holdings into comparatively small blocks, and use more than one barbed wire in the fences, so that, even on a comparatively small holding, many miles .of barbed wire are used. I am not so greatly concerned for the established farmer or pastoralist ais for the men who have taken up new holdings, and want to subdivide their properties. These men are entitled to obtain the materials they require at reasonable prices; they should not be forced, by high tariffs, to pay excessive costs. We ‘may not be obtaining any advantage because of this article being on the free list, but surely our Australian manufacturers should be able to produce it at a price lower than £21 a ton, particularly in view of the fact that the price in Great Britain is £13 or £14.
Motion (by Senator Hoare) agreed to-
That the question be now put.
Question - That the request (Senator Guthrie’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Request agreed to.
Item agreed to subject to a request.
Item 158 (Wire netting).
– Although the duty is shown in the schedule as free, under the anti-dumping provisions of the Industries Preservation Act, it is not free at all. The Government, in accordance with representations made to it by people who wish to import wire netting from Great Britain, referred to the Tariff Board for report the effect of the incidence of the anti-dumping duty on this item. Only yesterday, I asked the Minister whether the Tariff Board had furnished its report, and he informed me that it had not yet come to hand. I now ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council to agree to the postponement of this item until that report, has been presented to the Government.
– The duty could not be any freer than “ free “.
– I shall show presently that the anti-dumping duty of £6 5s. a ton can be removed. The Government of Western Australia supplies a quantity of wire netting to settlers on the land. It pays cash for the wire netting, and charges the cost to the settlers over a period of 30 years, and it holds quotations from London which are as follows: -
Babbit netting 42 in x 1-1 in. x 17 gauge. English quotation £24 13s. per ton,c.i.f., but the English domestic value must be declared, and this value is laid down through Australia House, London, and is at present £31 6s. and cannot be sold in Australia at less otherwise a dumping duty will be levied, and that will be on £31 6s., and not on £24 13s.
– Who fixes the price ?
– It is fixed by the Customs Department after reference to Australia House, in London. Continuing -
Boiled down, it means that, on paper, there being no duty on netting, it can be landed in Australia for £24 13s.
No merchants will quote c.i.f. & e. price, lest in the event of getting “ dumped “ they will be called upon to pay dumping duty - £316s. - plus exchange.
In actual fact, however, an indentor must charge a minimum of £316s., plus exchange. Note that the “ domestic “ value of £31 6s. as laid down by Australia House has no real relationship to the actual English domestic “value.”
Of course, in England wire netting is not purchased in the large quantities purchased by the dominions, and consequently I am assured that the domestic price used for the purpose of justifying the anti-dumping duty is not a correct one. There are five large-scale manufacturers of rabbit netting in England. They are Barnards Limited, Whitecross Company Limited, Boulton and Paull, Lysaght’s, and Bylands. I am indebted to Sir Hal Colebatch for information on this subject. He still retains his interest in Australia, and, since arriving in England, he has had the opportunity to consult with the representatives of Barnards Limited and Whitecross Company Limited as to the price of wire netting in relation to the anti-dumping duty. He says -
They are both very definite in declaring that nothing in the nature of dumping has ever taken place in their trade with Australia. They point out that there can be no reasonable comparison between the English domestic price and the price for other countries, excepting on the basis of equal quantities. Wire netting is not used here to anything like the extent that it is in Australia and South Africa. Dumping would be impossible to them because they could not (as we in Australia do in the case of sugar and butter) charge a high price to the local consumer in order to make up the loss on the stuff exported. Their manufacturing is chiefly for export, and consequently their price for export must show a profit. English manufacturers export this rabbit netting in large quantities to South Africa. No question of dumping is ever raised there. The South African user is allowed to purchase it at the lowest price that the English maker is prepared to sell it, and is, in fact, at the present time using rabbit-proof netting that costs him far less than the amount the importer is now compelled to charge to the user in Australia.
This itself is sufficient to illustrate the nature of the competition to which our producers are subjected as compared with their South African competitors.
The British manufacturer has to quote £31 6s. a ton in the case of Australia, although his price to any other dominion is £24 13s.
– For local requiremeuts the British manufacturer charges £31 6s. a ton.
– The domestic price is obtained from the retail shops, and not from the factory itself, and it is inaccurate.
– Has the honorable senator included sales tax in the Australian price?
– No. Sir HalColebatch continues -
Another strong point made by the representatives of these firms is that it is entirely unlikely that there would ever be a more favorable time for the buying of this netting, It is very cheap now because of the extraordinarily low price of the raw materials required in its manufacture.
These low prices are not likely to continue, and if through our present policy we restrict the importation of this wire, wo shall certainly be doing a very grave injustice to those industries which now need it so badly.
There never was a time in the history of Australia when cheap fencing wire was required more urgently than it is to-day.
– “Will the honorable senator quote the price of the real wire-proof netting - the 1¼ mesh?
– I have quoted 1½-mesh, the price of which, landed at Australian ports, is £24 13s. plus exchange. Sir Hal Colebatch’s letter continues -
The point is that our consumers are being charged £6 13s. per ton, plus exchange, more than they should be called upon to pay, and that the charge is levied by virtue of a pretence that the English suppliers are dumping their goods, whereas they are doing nothing of the kind.
– What is the Australian price?
– I quote the following prices at Sydney of 41 by 1½ by 17A netting, on the dates mentioned : -
– Why does not the honorable senator quote the price per ton as he did with the English netting?
– I did not intend to introduce that aspect of the subject, but Senator Payne asked me for the information, and as I had it available, I gave it to him. I move -
That the item be postponed.
– No good purpose will be served by postponing this item, first, because British netting is admitted free, and foreign netting is practically prohibited; and secondly, because although the item is subject to a gross bounty of 68s. per ton, owing to primage and the financial emergency reductions, the actual bounty is only 9s. 7d. per ton. With the exception of a brief period from March, 1920, to September, 1922, no duty has been charged on wire-netting from the United Kingdom since the inception of federation. The bounty of 68s. per ton came into effect in September, 1922, but was subject to reduction in the event of duty being subsequently imposed on imported wire-netting. Following the imposition of primage duty, the bounty was reduced to 12s. per ton, and as no primage or import duty is payable on English wire netting, the local manufacturer is protected to the extent of only 9s. 7d. per ton, which, on the present f.o.b. price of English netting, represents less than 2 per cent.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays) . - Although Senator Johnston has moved that the item be postponed, he did not intimate until the conclusion of his speech that he intended to do so. I suggest, therefore, that the debate, on the merits of the duty, be deferred until the motion for postponement has been voted upon.
– Senator Johnston, before moving his amendment, related some of the history of the duties on wire-netting, and I suggest that I should be permitted, at this stage, to reply to his speech; otherwise, I may not have an opportunity to do so. I appeal to the honorable senator not to press his amendment, for the postponement of the item can do no good. Under the Industries Preservation Act, a dumping duty may be imposed On wire-netting if it is sold to the Australian purchaser by the British exporter at a price which is lower than the domestic price in Great Britain, and provided that the landed cost in Australia is lower than the manufactured selling price of Australian wire netting. This subject is now under the consideration of the Tariff Board; but, even if we defer consideration of the. item until the report of the board is received, nothing effective can be done. If it appears from the board’s report that the dumping duty should be applied, we shall apply it, and take the consequences, whatever they may be. In view of the apparent discrepancies in prices mentioned by Senator Johnston, I give the following comparison between the present landed cost of English netting and the c.i.f. price of Australian netting of comparable qualities and mesh at many Australian ports: -
– Is the honorable* senator quoting the English domestic price ?
– I have quoted the landed cost of the British article in Australia. Honorable senators will see that, in respect of 42 x 1^ x 17n netting, the price is £10 2s. 6d. below the English price, and then there is, of course, the bounty of 9s. 7d. a ton. No action can be taken with regard to the application of the anti-dumping duties until the report of the Tariff Board has been received. I, therefore, ask Senator Johnston to withdraw his amendment.
[3.40]. - The position in respect to wire netting has been brought under my notice as one of the Senate representatives of Western Australia, and I have taken it up with the! Customs Department. Prices which have been furnished to me are similar to those quoted by the Minister, so I will not repeat them. I know- that the argument has been used that those figures are not a real guide to the true export value of English netting, because of the provisions of the Australian Industries Preservation Act; but I invite honorable senators to inquire the price of British netting landed in New Zealand, where the Australian Industries Preservation Act does not apply. If they do so, they will find that the difference is only 3 per cent. Mr. A. H. Malloch, a gentleman who labours under what some people regard as the disability of being a manufacturer of wire netting, wrote a letter to the West Australian on the 31st May, 1933, in reply to allegations by Mr. Gregory, M.P., and as his statements have never been challenged, I direct the attention of honorable senators to them. They are as follow: -
Mr. Gregory states that British manufacturers quote c.i.f. and e. New Zealand at approximately the same price as to Australia, f.o.b. London; but this is not the case. We have before us recent quotations, dated London, 1st May, from a well-known English buying house, which quotes considerable difference in discounts on the basis stated. The figures are 44J per cent, c.i.f. and e. New Zealand as against 50i per cent, discount f.o.b. London for Australia. We have worked out the cost c.i.f. and e. New Zealand and Australia, and find that there is a difference of less than 3 per cent, in favour of the former.
– Can the right honorable senator verify those figures apart from Mr. Malloch’s statement ?
– I accept Mr. Malloch’s statement, because I know him to be an upright, honorable man. I am quite sure that if his figures could have been challenged, they would have been challenged long ago, for, as Senator J Johnston knows, wire netting has been the subject of a fierce controversy in Western Australia for some time. The bare allegation has been made, and frequently repeated, that the English price quoted in Australia is not the honest price, but a kind of compulsory price in consequence of the operation of the Australian Industries Preservation Act. What I have read shows that this is not borne out by experience in New Zealand, where our legislation does not operate.
– I again direct the attention of honorable senators to the paragraph in the letter from Sir Hal Colebatch, which reads -
The point at issue is that our consumers ure being charged £6 13s. per ton , plus exchange, more than than they should be called upon to pay, and that the charge is levied by virtue of a pretence that the English suppliers are dumping their goods, whereas they are doing nothing of the kind.
Sir Hal Colebatch investigated this subject immediately after he reached England, and ascertained that the English manufacturers were prepared to quote Australia the same price as they quote South Africa, which for this class of netting is £24 13s. a mile. He has pointed out that information has come through Australia House, London, to the Customs Department here, to the effect that the domestic price is £31 6s. a ton, which is the price quoted to Australia, for if any lower price were named, the dumping duties would be brought into operation. The figure quoted as the domestic price is wrong as it would be £24 13s. for similar quantities. I accept without reservation the statement that has been made by Sir Hal Colebatch in that communication.
.- I should like a little more information on the subject-
– The debate must be confined to the motion for the postponement of the item. Any remarks as to the merits or demerits of a. duty must be reserved until the motion has been disposed of.
– I shall give reasons why, in my opinion, the debate should be postponed. Senator Johnston has quoted the difference between the domestic price in Great Britain and the c.i.f.e. price in Australia, and the Minister has not given a satisfactory explanation in reply. The price that is charged to British users of wire netting is relatively higher than that charged to Australian importers who purchase larger quantities of the commodity.
– That is a matter into which the Tariff Board is going to inquire.
– I realize also that we shall not have an opportunity to consider the recommendations of the board. That is why I desire to have the item postponed until we receive more information on the subject.
– Wire netting now comes in duty free. Does the honorable senator desire to have a duty imposed on it?
– Not at all, but I wish to ascertain whether wire netting can be imported at a cheaper rate than that which now rules, which would result in an advantage being conferred on primary producers.
– Some of the information which Senator Grant desires is contained in the following extract from the letter which I have received from Sir Hal Colebatch :- >-
I have obtained definite quotations from the Whitecross Company for galvanized hexagonal mesh wire netting 42 in, x 11 in. x 17 gauge. £22 9s. 8d. per ton Home value or f.o.b., £25 13s. Gd. per ton, c.i.f. It is more customary to sell this netting by the mile than by the ton; the weight per mile is .1 ton 5 cwt. 17 lb. The price per mile is £28 5s. (id. Home value or f.o.b., and £32 5s. 9d. per mile c.i.f. They declare emphatically that ‘their f.o.b. price is the same as their Home value price for similar quantities. Naturally, for small quantities a higher -price is charged.
– I support the motion to postpone the item, because I consider that we should have more information on the subject. Also, this affords an excellent opportunity to me to protest against the fiscal policy of the Government. I base my protest principally against the method of distribution that is adopted by the manufacturers of wire netting in Australia.
– I rise to a point of order. I suggest that the motion for the postponement of the item should first be dealt with, and then honorable senators will have an opportunity to address themselves to the item. You, sir, have curtailed my remarks because of the existence of the motion for the postponement of the item.
– I have already indicated that honorable senators must confine themselves to the motion for the postponement of the item.
– With all due respect, I submit that that is what I am endeavouring to do, by pointing out that there is a lack of information on this subject, particularly regarding the distributing methods which are adopted by the manufacturers of wire netting in Australia, whose policy has an adverse effect upon our primary . producers, by increasing the price of the commodity. I have documents which prove conclusively that the wire netting companies have formed a ring in co-operation with certain distributors who fix the price to consumers. Even if I wanted to buy £1,000 worth of wire netting I could not obtain it direct from the manufacturers, who also refuse to distribute direct to general storekeepers.
– Why cannot that matter be considered at once.
– Because I did not anticipate this debate, and, therefore, have not the necessary documents with me. That is why I should like to have the item postponed.
– How can that evil he cured through the tariff?
– I assume that it is the desire of the Tariff Board to investigate the profits made by companies, and, as profits affect prices, it is necessary to have the operations of this exclusive ring investigated.
– Does the honorable senator seek to cure the evil by imposing a duty on the item?
– I could make several suggestions which, if adopted, would effect a cure, but, in the meantime, I desire to have the item postponed until I am able to produce documents to show that there is restriction of trade because of the ring formed by the manufacturers and their distributing agents.
– The item indicates that the British preferential rate is free. Are we to discuss under this schedule the matter of dumping duties or the operation of the Industries Preservation Act? If it could be proved that a postponement of the item would improve the existing situation, I should support the motion, but I cannot now see that that would be its effect.
Item agreed to.
Item 159, sub-items (a) (b) -
– As the Senate has reduced the duty on barbed wire to 40s. a ton, it will be necessary to reduce this duty in order to give Australian manufacturers of the commodity a proper opportunity to compete. Therefore, I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make sub-item (b), British, free.
The Australian manufacturer will then be able to obtain these commodities free, and so be able to supply his product cheaply to those who are engaged in agricultural and pastoral pursuits.
– I shall not repeat what I have already said, apparently ineffectually, concerning items which we have already passed relating to the basic material from which this wire is drawn. The rates prescribed under this item are the same as those which were in operation under the 1921-30 tariff. As manufacturers do not enjoy the bounty unless they use Australian wire, the amount of our importations under this heading have been negligible. I refer honorable senators to the report of the Tariff Board on the subject which was issued in 1926
It gives the following figures in regard to imports : -
The board reviews the industry generally in the following terms : -
During the year 1924-25 bounty at the rate of 52s. per ton was paid on 27,672^ tons of fencing wire and bare wire manufactured in Australia, while for the period 1st July, 1925, to 27th April. 192G (nearly ten months), bounty was paid on 2G,354J tons of such wire.
In the case of wire netting, during the year 1924-25 bounty at the rate of 6Ss. per ton was paid on 20,5704 tons, and for the period 1st July, 1925, to 27th April, 192G, on 22,002 i tons.
The figures given indicate that ‘ the local industry has held practically the whole of the Australian market in wire netting and the wires concerned.
In the case of Hylands (Aust.) Limited, sales of that company’s products increased from £357,295 for the veur ended 31st January, 1922, to £718,045 for the year ended 31st January, 192G.
The sales of Lysaght Brothers and Company Limited increased from £018.276 for the year 1921 to £1,022,548 for the year 1925.
For the purposes of this investigation the Tariff Board had an exhaustive examination made of the financial position of the applicant companies, together with their manufacturing costs. The result of this examination has disclosed that, after taking into consideration the bounty received, each of the applicant companies has been able to show a profit on its turnover while one of the companies has during each of the three years, 1923, 1924 and 1925, declared what is, in the opinion of the Tariff Board, a reasonably high rate of dividend for an industry receiving assistance in the form oE bounty. The Tariff Board is aware that the profits made by the local manufacturers included considerable amounts resulting from the sale of ashes, dross and zinc white, but as these are by-products resulting from the manufacture of tho goods covered by the request for increased protection, the board considers that the recovery of such by-products can justifiably be regarded as part and parcel of the industry so long as a profitable market for them can be found in Australia, as at present. It is not a separate industry its is the production of benzol, sulphate of ammonia and other products from the manufacture of coke in connexion with the iron and steel industry.
Tlie Tariff Board recognizes that, so far as the United Kingdom is concerned, there is considerable disparity between the standards of wages in that country and those of Australia, but, in the opinion of the board, the circumstances indicate that, with tho assistance it has received in the form of bounty on fencing wire and wire netting and duty on other wires, together with the natural freight protection enjoyed in respect oE a considerable proportion of its output, the local industry has been able in the past to carry on with a reasonable measure of success against importations from that country. The board sees no reason why the Australian manufacturers should not maintain or even improve their position in this respect.
While the Tariff Board, having in mind the importance oE the industry, would not have hesitated to recommend any further assistance that might have been found to be necessary, the board does not consider that any alteration in the duties is warranted so far as tho British preferential tariff is concerned, nor does it feel justified in recommending any increase in the bounty with the object of augmenting the profits of the manufacturers.
Should anything happen in future to remove the present profitable market for ashes, dross and zinc white, then the position of tho industry as .affected by such occurrence could be reconsidered.
The board then proceeds to deal with the use of continental rods for the manufacture of wire and wire netting - a fact that I referred to yesterday, when dealing with another aspect of the matter. Having made that exhaustive examination along those lines, it recommended the duties that now appear in the schedule. Nothing has occurred that would warrant their being reduced. If anything, the industry has rather suffered disadvantage by reason ‘of the fact that some of its by-products are not so profitable to-day as they were in 1926.
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 160 (a) agreed to.
Item 161, sub-item (a) -
– I draw attention to the discrimination shown by successive governments towards different kinds of agricultural, horticultural, and viticultural machinery and implements. Under item IGO, sub-item a. cotton gins, handworked rakes and ploughs combined, bay tedders, lucerne bunchers, maize harvesters, maize binders, threshing machines, winnower forks, hand-worked cultivators, hand-worked seed drills, and chaffcutter knives are admitted free from Great Britain ; whereas, under item 161, sub-item a, the machinery specified is liable to duties of 20 per cent. British and 30 per cent general. There may be an explanation of this; but, so far, I have not heard it. The last report by the Tariff Board on agricultural machinery was made in August, 1925, and is certainly out of date, because conditions have changed materially since that date. Although the Minister has requested us to do so, I cannot forget that the incidence of exchange vitally affects the entire position. At the present prices of primary products, new agricultural machinery cannot be purchased. Throughout the wheat belts, in particular, the machinery of the farmers is worn out, and they cannot afford to replace it. These men have to sell their wheat in the open markets of the world. Cash registers, monoline type-composing machines, and typewriters are admitted free.
– Typewriters and cash registers are not made in Australia.
– They are used by city people. In Western Australia. we have to pay not only the duty, but also, on an average, 12 per cent more for our general agricultural machinery than is charged in Melbourne, on account of the operation of the Navigation Act. Evidence to that effect was given to the Royal Commission on the Navigation Act by Mr. McKay, of the McKay Harvester Company. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties, sub-item (a), ad valorem, British, free; general, 15 per cent.
– I shall give two reasons for the rejection of this request. The first is supplied by an epitome of the 1925 report of the Tariff Board, which, I consider, expresses in a pithy form the reasons for its recommendation; and the second is, that the subject of agricultural and horticultural implements is at present under consideration by the board. When the honorable senator has heard the reasons given by the board for having dealt with the items in the manner set out in the schedule, I believe that he will be satisfied. The epitome of the board’s report reads as follows: -
The existence in Australia of the agricultural implement industry is in the best interests of the primary producer. Implements suitable for Australian conditions have been invented and developed by Australian manufacturers. The Australian-invented implements have made it possible to produce wheat in the Commonwealth at a lower cost than in any other country in the world, and 30 per cent, cheaper than in the United States of America. The primary producer has the advantage of efficient service from factories “ on the spot “. Imported implements are sold cheaper iri Australia than in Argentine.
Australian-made implements are sold cheaper than imported implements . . . The extent to which Australian implement makers may be said to be taking advantage of the tariff is 6* per cent. . . . Protection is necessary in order to secure the market for the local manufacturers and permit quantity production. Quantity production and efficiency are the only means by which Australian manufacturers can hope to compete with the products of other countries. Protection is necessary to this end. Australian makers of “ dutiable “ agricultural implements can meet all reasonable demands. There is no need to import dutiable agricultural implements . . . The prices of Australianmade agricultural implements have been regularly and consistently reduced since the protective tariff of 1920-21 was introduced. Australian implement makers are not charging excessive prices, neither are they making excessive profits. … In concluding this report the Tariff Board would mention that for some considerable time now the agricultural implement makers in Australia seem to have been made the chief target of attack by those who are critical of the protectionist system which has been adopted by the people of Australia. The Tariff Board considers, in view of its exhaustive investigation and report, this industry might be permitted to perform its useful function to the community without being made the main objective of such attack. Every phase of the matter has now been examined by the board . . . The result of the investigation is wholly favorable to the local industry, and the Tariff Board unanimously agrees that the protective duty should not be disturbed.
Having regard to all the circumstances, the duties imposed under this item are in conformity with the recommendations of the Tariff Board, which speaks very highly concerning the Australian agricultural implement-making industry generally, and of the benefit it is to Australia. As these duties are now being inquired into by the Tariff Board, I trust that the committee will agree to pass the item in its present form.
– I intend to support the request moved by Senator Johnston. I remind the Minister that the report from which he quoted was made in. 1925, when primary produce was selling at extremely high prices. Since that time there has been a serious drop, and it cannot be contended by the Tariff Board or any other authority that the cost of the implements which primary producers have to use should be maintained at the 1925 level. To-day, primary producers cannot afford to pay the high prices they did in 1925 when the Tariff Board made its report. The duty of 20 per cent, on agricultural machinery obviously increased costs. It is quite impossible to dissociate customs duties from exchange and primage, which on these implements total in all, approximately, 60 per cent. The cost of practically all implements used by primary producers is nearly double what it was in 1911, when the prices received for primary products were normal. The only way in which to lower the cost of production is by reducing duties. “We shall never get back to normal conditions while customs duties press with such undue severity upon farmers and others engaged in primary production. This item includes garden and field spraying machines, not including those operated by hand or foot. I do not know whether they are admitted free of duty, but if power spraying machines are used, purchasers have to pay a duty of at least 20 per cent. Thousands of bushels of apples produced this year will not be exported, yet apple-growers who wish to keep their crops clean have to pay a duty of 20 per cent, on an imported spraying equipment. Spraying is a costly operation, as in some orchards it is necessary to spray five or six times a year. Spraying is made even more costly by the duties imposed on spray pumps. Under this item, heavy duties are also imposed on horse road-rollers and machines, road-scoops and scrapers, and other equipment of that kind. The Government is actually taxing local governing bodies which purchase these machines to the extent of 20 per cent, for keeping the roads under their control in order.
Many local governing bodies have the greatest difficulty in collecting rates, and some of them have their rates pledged a year ahead in order to keep the roads in good condition, and to relieve unemployment. A duty of 20 per cent, is also imposed on milking machines; but when the dairyman sells his butter fat he receives only 7½d. or 8d. per lb.
– He is protected by a duty of 6d. per lb. The honorable senator would not be in favour of the removal of that duty?
– I would not. The duty is imposed simply to protect the Paterson scheme.
– The consumer pays for that.
– All butter and other primary products exported have to be sold in the markets of the world, but the products of our secondary industries cannot be exported at a profit.
– Nearly all of our butter is consumed in Australia.
– Only 40 per cent, to 45, per cent, is consumed in Australia. As the volume of export increases, the benefits which the producers receive under the Paterson scheme will diminish. Everything which the farmer, dairyman or orchardist uses is heavily taxed, but his produce is sold at low prices. Those engaged in secondary industries receive a much higher remuneration, than those employed in primary production ; there are few primary producers who get anything approaching the basic wage. The secondary industries are not pulling their weight, and until some adjustment of duties is made, our primary industries cannot be expected to reduce their producing costs. The primary producers are the only persons who are making real sacrifice, and instead of the Government helping them, as it could in this instance, it is imposing unnecessarily heavy duties upon the implements they require. I support the request.
– Item 161a covers cane loaders, unloaders, and harvesters; but unlike Senator J. B. Hayes, I am not going to suggest that the implements used in the production of sugar cane should be admitted free of duty, because I recognize that that industry receives benefits in other directions. The honorable senator should remember that the people of Queensland arc not permitted to purchase New Zealand potatoes, because an embargo has been placed upon importations from that dominion. “When it was suggested that a certain quantity of New Zealand potatoes should, be imported, and thus enter into competition with a Tasmanian product, the people in that State made a very strong protest. The duties provided under this item are comparatively low, and are not of such a nature that they should be opposed by those believing in moderate protection. I remind the honorable senator that hops, which are produced extensively in Tasmania, are dutiable at approximately 50 per cent. Senator J. B. Hayes should realize that the duties under this item are not unreasonable, and ho should be prepared to extend consideration such as the Tasmanian industries receive, to other industries.
– I agree with Senator Johnston that the three or four items which follow this one are among those that most vitally affect the interests of those engaged in agricultural, horticultural and viticultural pursuits. I also agree that the situation now is radically different from what it was when, the Tariff Board report of 1925 was produced. As a matter of fact, questions were asked in another place three months ago about this report, and it was then stated that the matter had been in the hands of the Tariff Board for some weeks, so that we may assume that, for the last three or four months at least, the board has been inquiring into this subject. I do not wish to criticize either the Ministry or the hoard because the report Ls not before us. The board must have enough work to do at the present time if it is engaged in making a complete survey of the whole field. Whatever our opinions may be on other matters, we can agree that the board must have worked during the last year in a quite Herculean way in order to turn out the amount of material that has been placed before Parliament. But. although I have no wish to criticize the Tariff Board, it is admittedly an inconvenience to the committee that this report is not before us, just as it is an inconvenience that the difficult exchange question was not settled before we moved on to the schedule. We are, in a sense, hamstrung in the absence of that report.
The Minister, quoting a resume of the Tariff Board’s report, pointed out that the object of the duty was to bring about quantity production. Eight years have elapsed since the report was issued, and if quantity production has not been achieved in that time to a sufficient degree for the industry to be able to stand on its own feet, it should have been. To revert to the subject of exchange, what is now being urged by us is no radical scrapping of protection. As Senator Johnston pointed out, we ask merely that the duties bc free, British, and 15 per cent, general, which, at the present rate of exchange and primage duty, will afford protection greater by 20 per cent, than wa3 given when the duties were first imposed. ) particularly urge that a decision be made on this point,” because it appears to me that, in some ways, item 192, covering ploughs, harrows and plough-shares is of even more vital importance than ‘this. It is only reasonable that the unfortunate wheat-farmer should not be unnecessarily taxed on his ploughs, shares and harrows. They are the elementary essentials of his work. I trust that the committee will support, as I shall, Senator Johnston’s proposal.
– I have listened very carefully to-day and yesterday to the speeches on the tariff, and have been somewhat astonished at the turn of events. I had understood that a majority, if not all, the supporters of the Government believed in adhering to the reports of the Tariff Board. I thought that they supported the principle laid down at Ottawa that the Tariff Board was to decide what degree of competition should be allowed between overseas and Australian manufacturers. We on this side of the chamber are, generally speaking, opposed to that view, but, being in a minority, we have to accept what is done, leaving the responsibility on the Government of the day. Now we find that there is an extremist majority on the other side who are actually prepared to ignore the principle that the measure of protection afforded to Australian industries should be left to the determination of the Tariff Board. They are prepared to go beyond that principle, and frame a tariff which will not give the Australian manufacturers even a competitive chance. I am not personally interested in any Australian manufacturing industry, nor have I shares in any manufacturing firm. My activities have mostly been connected with the land. During this discussion I gathered a great deal of information about prices of barbed wire and other farm necessaries. Senator Johnston gave me the impression that he was quite prepared to go to the length even of abolishing the anti-dumping duties.
– On wirenetting from Great Britain.
– Evidently some honorable senators are prepared to destroy the Ottawa agreement.
– We wish to implement it in the proper way.
– If proper protection to Australian industries is removed, we shall go outside the policy laid down at Ottawa, which was that there should be reasonable competition, between British and Australian industries. We, on this side, do not object to the duty of 25 per cent, on cane harvesters, though that is an impost which affects Queensland. I believe that Australian manufacturers should be given every opportunity of producing a fair article, as most of them are doing now. Senator J. B. Hayes surprised me by putting his own construction on our national policy in regard to butter. Some time ago I asked a pertinent question on what amounts to peculation in regard to the butter industry. As a matter of fact, butter is a nationally protected industry, and the Dominion of New Zealand is the particular enemy at which the duty of 6d. per lb. is directed. I was pleased to see that Senator Greene, who has an historic connexion with the dominion, was selected to go there in an endeavour to adjust these matters. We should make an earnest effort to come to an amicable arrangement with regard to trade with New Zealand. On defence matters, New Zealand and Australia are both in the same boat. We should take particular care that no bad feeling is engendered between the two countries, because we know, from the experience of the United States of America, that wars may arise even between kinsmen because of economic rivalry. The population of New Zealand is largely British, the descendants of British immigrants forming probably a greater percentage of the population of that country than is the case in Australia. Were it not for the action we have taken in regard to New Zealand butter and potatoes, we should still be able to sell to that dominion the citrus fruits which are produced in such large quantities in several States of the Commonwealth. I believe that we should protect the Victorian and Tasmanian hop-growing industry. I drink beer occasionally, and I should be prepared to pay even a little more for it in order to ensure that only Australian-grown hops are used. This item covers a wide range of agricultural and horticultural implements, and most of them can be made in Australia. I object to those honorable senators opposite who set, themselves up as the only supporters of the farmers. Senator Foll and myself, though we differ politically, and have fought strenuous political campaigns against each other, are as one in this : we each represent a large number of farmers. Queensland probably has more farmers than any of the other States, except New South Wales and Victoria.
– The honorable senator should hear what the farmers of the other States think of Queensland.
– The other States are being amply recouped for any concessions Queensland industries receive. We have only to consider the number of secondary industries in New South Wales and Victoria to realize that.
– It is not the farmers who complain, but those who farm the farmers.
– That is so. It is usually those who handle the farmers’ produce who endeavour to sowdissension between the workers in the city and those on the land. I know a good deal about farming; I have had an interest in farms for years. Bad as are conditions for the farmers at the present, time, they are not so bad as for the workers. The great bulk of the workers to-day are either out of a job - this applies to some 400,000, at any rateor in debt. Before I was elected to the Senate I had been out of work for eight months, and was in debt to the extent of £200. When I spoke to other men of this, I was told that some of them had been out of work for three years. No farmer can be worse off than the man who is out of a job, and is tramping the roads looking for work which he cannot find. The man who has to sell his labour power i3 always the worst off, and 3 speak as one who started work as a boy of eight years old. I resent this attempt to divide the people of the country from those in the towns. We are all of the same flesh and blood, and the worker of to-day may, in a few years time, be on the land. If we assume that history will repeat itself in our land industries, the shearer, the labourer, the quarryman, of to-day will be the man on the land in ten or fifteen years’ time.
– Would the honorable senator advocate an equitable partnership between city and country interests as regards the costs of protection?
– I think there is such equity at the present time.
– Not according to the report of the Tariff Board.
– The requested amendment would, if adopted, benefit city as well as country interests, because the sub-item covers a number of requirements of suburban gardens.
– And we are not objecting to their inclusion.
– But how c;m the honorable senator argue that the purpose of the request is to drive a wedge between city and country interests, seeing that both will benefit from reduced duties?
– I am fully convinced that Senator Johnston’s purpose is to drive, not a wedge, but a wagon and a dozen horses between city and country interests.
I do not desire the work of the committee to be delayed by a general debate on every item, because the Government is committed to the Ottawa agreement, and must give effect to it; but it is remarkable that certain honorable senators who, a few months ago, were strong advocates of that agreement, are now pre pared to disregard the views of the Tariff Board. Senator Johnston’s requested amendment is intended to remove any obstacles to the dumping of goods from Japan, China, or any other cheap-labour countries.
– From GreatBritain. Be fair.
– I believe that the honorable senator would have no objection to the dumping of goods by Japanese, Chinese, or the manufacturers of any other low-wage country where workmen in factories have to be content with about ltd. a day.
– I cannot understand the attitude of Senator Johnston and those who support him in this and the other requests which he has submitted in this debate. Perhaps there is something in the observation by Senator Brennan that, after all, these are only requests, which will have to come before another place for a final decision. It seems to me that Senator Johnston and his supporters are “pulling the legs “ of our country people by endeavouring to persuade them that these requested amendments are being submitted in their interests. Let us examine the sub-item and see what interests are affected by it. It covers such articles as garden and field rollers and garden hose-reels. No one will suggest that we cannot manufacture all these articles in Australia. Hose-reels are probably the simplest things ever constructed. Any handy man can produce one from a bit of scrap iron. The sub-item also includes horse road-rollers and machines which have been manufactured in South Australia as long as I can remember, and I .suppose they have also been manufactured in the other States. It covers also road scoops and scrapers. I do not know whether manufacturers differentiate between these two implements, but in South Australia we use what is known as a buck scraper, which is the result of the inventive genius of local blacksmiths and Australian manufacturers. The patents have been copied by manufacturers on the other side of the world, and, but for the operation of this duty, this implement and many others which have been invented by Australians and manufactured in this country, our foreign competitors would be able to dump their surplus products on our market and eliminate the Australian industries which produced the original implements. The sub-item includes also garden ploughs for which there is not now a great demand, with the result that the local manufacturers have gone out of the business, and as the American firm which copied the Australian patent, has now ceased sending supplies, owners of this garden implement are unable to obtain shares or spare parts. Stump extractors are also covered by this sub-item. This is another piece of agricultural machinery invented and pioneered in Australia. Would honorable senators care to see this local industry left “to the mercy of foreign manufacturers? Other agricultural implements protected by this sub-item are straw stackers and sub-surface packers, invented and pioneered by Australians. Are our local manufacturers now to be exposed to competition from any part of the world?
During this debate, we have heard a great deal about the benefits to Australian industry of the present high rate of exchange. Is it not a fact that Australian manufacturers have to pay wages, rents, taxes and overhead charges, as well as buy raw materials, with Australian currency, and are they not losing through the depreciation of Australian currency in comparison with .the currency of Great Britain? This being so, the alleged benefit due to the high rate of exchange is really of no advantage at all to them.
– The honorable senator’s assumption as to the effect of exchange will be proved to be wrong.
– As Australian manufacturers pay wages and all other charges in Australian pounds, it follows that the burden represented by the difference between the Australian and the English currency falls upon them. Our export industries have been reaping the benefit of the exchange rate for some time now, and my contention is that it is paid for, in part, by industries such as those covered by the sub-item now under discussion.
.- Senator O’Halloran has said that those honorable senators who advocate lower duties in this item are really pulling the legs of country people. I suggest that the country people would gladly submit to that process if it meant that they were going to benefit by a material reduction of their costs of production. I was also interested in the honorable senator’s observations about the effect of the high rate of exchange. Surely he knows that our manufacturers are not bearing any portion of that burden. On the contrary, they benefit in a very substantial w-ay, because they pay wages and all other costs in Australian currency, which is 20 per cent, below sterling.
– They have to purchase raw materials from overseas.
– The proportion of raw materials purchased overseas is very small compared with the total required in industry. The bulk of it is obtained in Australia. In addition, Australian manufacturers enjoy the benefit of primage of 10 per cent and, in the case of heavy machinery, a further advantage of probably 15 per cent, in freights, so that, apart from these duties, they have an advantage of approximately 50 per cent, over British competitors. The Minister has referred to the report of the Tariff Board dealing with this subject. Up to the present time, that report has not been made available to us. Although exchange is a very important matter, we are left entirely in the dark as to the views of the Tariff Board on it. Exchange is a vitally important matter, but we are left in the dark regarding the Tariff Board’s recommendation and the Government’s attitude thereto. As I intend to lose no opportunity to reduce the costs of primary production by helping the farmers to get cheaper machinery and implements, I shall support the amendment.
– Do honorable senators realize the amount of work that the Tariff Board has been required to do? Soon after the present Government took office it referred to the board, in accordance with promises made by the Prime Minister on the hustings, all the duties which had been imposed by the Scullin Ministry without prior reference to the board. In addition the board had to deal with those items which had been actually referred to it by the Scullin Ministry. Therefore, it is unreasonable of honorable senators to claim that the reports of the board should now be available to the committee. The board has had to deal with various matters in their logical sequence. In regard to agricultural implements and machinery, it showed more convincingly than in any other of its reports I have read, that local manufacture was in the interests of the primary producers.
– That report was made many years ago.
– What was true then is true to-day. Earlier I quoted reports showing that local manufacture reduces the prices of commodities, and the Tariff Board has assessed at 6 per cent, the advantage accruing to the primary producers from the manufacture in Australia of agricultural implements and machinery. In 1926 we confirmed the earlier invitations to the manufacturers to develop their industries on the basis of customs protection. They believed that this protection would be permanent, but now this committee, without waiting for the careful consideration of the matter by the Tariff Board, is asked to abolish the duties on machinery imported from the United Kingdom. Is that fair to these secondary industries?
– Is the present policy fair to the primary producers?
– Parliament has solemnly encouraged the manufacturers to invest their money in secondary production, and is the committee, without inquiry, going to repudiate an arrangement that has almost a contractual significance? I yield to none in my sympathy for the primary producers, but that sympathy should not lead us to do an injustice to those who have invested their money in secondary industries.
– The excessive tariff inducements to investors have been the cause of many failures.
– Is it not a fact that the protection at present enjoyed by this industry is much greater than the protection given when the duties were first imposed?
– It is, if primage and exchange are taken into account. But exchange is a transient factor, and influences now at work may result in a considerable reduction of it; indeed it may disappear altogether. In any case, it is a factor which can be dealt with in other ways.
– Have not the manufacturers got a minimum protection of. 50 per cent, at the present time?
– The customs duties are 20 per cent, and 30 per cent., and it is futile for honorable senators to try to lull their consciences by including in the protection of the industry the uncertain factors of primage and exchange. The duties actually provided in the tariff schedule are the foundation upon which industries have been established, and are their only assured protection. As evidence of the benefit which local manufacture has conferred upon the primary producers, the Tariff Board’s report included a comparative list of prices in the Argentine and Australia. Strippers and headers, 9 feet, with power take-off, were sold in the Argentine at£511 10s. ; in Australia the imported article was sold at £395, whilst a locally-made 10-ft. machine, with a power take-off, was quoted as low as £255. The Argentine price of an 8-f t. binder was £103 10s. ; the Australian price of an imported binder was £102, and of a locallymanufactured binder, £92 10s. Hakes were slightly cheaper in the Argentine; but in Australia the price of the local article was £19, as compared with £20 10s. for the imported. The Tariff Board’s report shows clearly that primary production, so far from suffering through the operations of the secondary industries, is deriving a direct benefit from them. Parliament having adopted the report and recommendation of this advisory body, we are now asked to wipe out the 20 per cent, protection given to the manufacturers, and expose them to the chill blasts of overseas competition, except for the uncertain factors of primage and exchange. Such an action would not be fair to those who, in good faith, have invested their money in these manufacturing enterprises.
– When Senator Johnston sat in opposition to the Labour Administration he asked a series of questions which implied that the Scullin Government should remove the embargo on elephants, in order that they might be imported for i lie hauling of ploughs in “Western Australia. Have the supporters of the request, for an amendment any conception of the industrial aspect of their proposal? Do they imagine that the primary producers are the only contributors to the general taxation?
– In all countries they are the fundamental producers of wealth.
– I recognize that all wealth comes from the land; but it is not, the product solely of the individual efforts of any section of farmers. Will the honorable senator argue that agricultural implements and machinery should be admitted into Australia free of duty? If he is prepared to do that, I am willing to debate the question with him publicly, at Sunshine, in Victoria. In 1930-31, no fewer than 3,043 persons were employed in the agricultural, horticultural and viticultural implement manufacturing industry in Victoria, and the salaries and wages paid to them amounted to £607,421. Those employees, of course, purchased clothes and many other commodities made in this country. Senator Badman, who, I understand, has cultivated wheat extensively in South Australia, knows that a suggestion has come from the World Economic Conference that Australia’s output of wheat, should be restricted. The value of the production of the horticultural, agricultural, and viticultural implement manufacturing industry in Victoria in 1930-31 was £832,891, and the value of the plant, machinery, land and buildings, was £1,296,067. Is that industry to be allowed to go to the wall, because Senators Johnston, Badman, and Elliott favour low duties, or no duties at all?
In its last report on the’ agricultural industry, the Tariff Board remarked that it had no hesitation in saying that, from the aspect of price alone, the farmer was better served under the present tariff than he would he if there were no local manufacturers of agricultural implements. Are our secondary industries and the workmen employed in them to receive no consideration? In Australia, the protection given to primary industries is greater than that enjoyed by farmers in any other part of the world. Even if the revenue of this country results mainly from primary production, is it fair to suggest that Australian manufacturers and their employees make no useful contribution to the economic life of this country? Senator Johnston would have freetrade conditions, with the workers receiving. coolie wages.
– I ask that that remark be withdrawn, as it is offensive to me. -
– I withdraw it; but are not honorable senators opposite aware of the conditions of employment that characterized industrial development in the “ black country “ of England ? I refer particularly to Birmingham. Have not honorable senators read of the lives of the chain-makers?
– Those conditions do not prevail to-day.
– Of course they do, to a. great extent. Australian factories are efficient, and their employees work under Industrial and Arbitration Court awards. Although the workers’ remuneration is not so high as it ought to be, they receive much better pay than similar employees in Great Britain. The Australian manufacturers of agricultural implements and machinery have evolved types of machines that are particularly suited to Australian conditions. A bulletin issued by the United States of America Department of Commerce, states -
The enormous increase in wheat-growing in Australia would hardly have been possible had not suitable machinery been evolved capable of satisfactorily handling the matured crops under the climatic and labour condition’s prevailing in that country. The entire credit for the development and perfection of the stripper, and, later on, of the stripper harvester, is due to the Australians themselves, as both of these machines were invented and first perfected and built in that country. When it is considered that these machines, as built at present, are but little different from the first ones built, and that under ordinary conditions they work in a most excellent manner, it must be admitted that Australian agricultural engineers arc second to none when given an equal opportunity.
The psychology of Senator Johnston is such that he would have elephants pulling ploughs in Western Australia. Are Senators Johnston, Elliott and Badman, in their attitude to these duties, considering the interests of the Australian farmer, or of the banks that are crushing the farmer ? I deprecate the little- Australian outlook of those honorable senators.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
.- The Tariff Board made a report on this matter some time ago, and up to the present time, this Parliament has been guided by it. One of the chief issues on which the last election was fought was that the Scullin Government had raised duties considerably, without consulting the Tariff Board ; but that action was taken under circumstances which, in my opinion, were thoroughly justified. They were for the purpose of meeting a serious national emergency. The experience of this Parliament shows that the board cannot investigate the conditions obtaining in an industry, and submit a report regarding them, within 24 hours. If its report is to be reliable, much research must be made. The gentlemen who now want to depart from the recommendations of the Tariff Board are those who, during the last election campaign, pledged themselves not to interfere with the tariff except on a report by the Tariff Board. The duties on this sub-item are the same as they were in 1925 ; they were not interfered with by either the Bruce-Page Government or the Scullin Government. The Tariff Board’s 1925 report on this item contained a number of interesting statements regarding the agricultural implementmaking industry in Australia. It pointed out that many harvesting and tillage machines were the product of Australian brains. In this respect, Australia stands in a unique position. The board’s report also stated - fu most cases imported as well as Australian machines are sold at a. lower price in Australia under a protective tariff, than in the Argentine and New Zealand where they arc free of duty.
In another part of its report the Tariff Board said -
The board has no hesitation in saying that on the question of price alone the farmer is better served under tho present tariff provisions and the consequent local manufacture, than he would be without a protective tariff and without the consequent local manufacture.
The same report also stated -
Australian-made implements are sold cheaper than imported implements . . The prices of Australian-made implements have been regularly and consistently reduced since the protective tariff of 1920-21 was introduced.
That shows that Australian manufacturers have kept faith with those who use the machinery they make. The board also stated in its report -
There is no need to import dutiable agricultural implements.
That is the considered opinion of the Tariff Board after an exhaustive inquiry into the subject. In the opinion of the board, Australia in 1925 was selfsufficient so far as the manufacture of agricultural implements was concerned. The report also stated -
The Australian farmer has the advantage of efficient service from factories on the spot.
What more do honorable senators want? I direct attention also to the following quotation from the board’s report: -
Australian implement makers are not charging excessive prices, neither are they making excessive profits . . . The effect of the tariff on agricultural implements is not detrimental to the best interests- of the primary producers.
That honorable senators who pledged themselves to reduce duties only when recommended by the Tariff Board should now repudiate their platform pledges is beyond my understanding. Having won an election on the assurance given to the electors, they now adopt the opposite attitude; if they have not betrayed the people, they at least have misled them. The people of Australia expect their representatives in this Parliament at least to be consistent. They will want to know why solemn pledges given on the hustings have been broken. I feel so strongly on this matter that I find difficulty in giving adequate expression to my thoughts. I find myself in a peculiar position; I am forced to defend the Government against some of its own supporters who would mutilate the tariff on which the party now in power won the last election. What will the people of Australia think of the action of those honorable senators who would betray their election pledges? Those who support this request would injure the makers of agricultural implements who have to observe arbitration awards. The electors of Australia will not be satisfied until they have dealt adequately with those who have broken their pre-election pledge.
– Senator Grant twitted the Government about the delay in obtaining a report from the Tariff Board on this item. When the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) was similarly twitted in another place, he reminded the committee there that the whole subject covered by this item was before the Tariff Board for investigation and report, which body, he said, was hard at work endeavouring to bring the tariff into conformity with the Ottawa agreement. On hat occasion, the Minister said -
I give ku assurance that, if a reduction of duties is recommended, the recommendation will be acted upon, either in this chamber or in another place.
He anticipated that before this item couldbe dealt with in the Senate, the Tariff Board’s report would have been furnished. He went on to say -
In all the circumstances, it can be confidently declared that there was no exploitation of the farmers, and that the price of these machines is quite reasonable.
For the information of the honorable senator I now,repeat that assurance.
– Senator Johnston and those who support him in his request wish to refer this item back to the House of Representatives on the ground that the manufacturers of agricultural implements are making exorbitant profits. It is true that the makers and the owners of the patent rights of many of the agricultural implements used in this country have made huge fortunes. It is stated that the late Hugh McKay was a millionaire. I have no quarrel with any man for being a millionaire, but what I do quarrel with is the system that allows individuals to become millionaires.
– The system of high tariffs?
– That is a senseless interjection. Many manufacturers of Great Britain, Canada, Germany and elsewhere have under a freetrade or a low tariff policy become millionaires. The members of the party to which I belong fully realize that a protective tariff, like arbitration, allows the workers to travel only a certain distance along the road to the fulfilment of their ideals.
– The honorable senator must confine his remarks to item 161, and not enter into a discussion of the tariff generally.
– If this duty were reduced, the overseas manufacturers would benefit at the expense of our own manufacturers. The effect of the request of Senator Johnston would be to increase our imports, and to swell the profits of the overseas shipping combine. The employees of the Sunshine works in Victoria, the railway workers, the timber workers, the miners, the clerical workers, and ‘all of those engaged in our principal manufacturing industries, have a right to be protected under our tariff policy. Senator Johnston has shed many crocodile tears about the plight of the primary producers. The fact ‘is that the farming implements of 90 per cent, of thu farmers of this country are owned, not by them, but by the banks.
– How does the honorable senator know that?
– Hansard is practic ally full of statements of the honorable senator and his colleagues, emphasizing the distress that prevails to-day among the farmers, and the fact that there are liens upon, not only their implements of production, but also their crops.
– I insist that the honorable senator confine his remarks to the item under, discussion.
– Why is the honorable senator stonewalling?
– If the honorable senator takes that attitude, I shall speak as often as the Standing Orders permit me.
– I am sorry that I was unable to hear the whole of the discussion on this item, but there are two reasons which influence me in adopting the Government’s view on this occasion. One is that this duty is not at all exorbitant, and the other is that it has been in existence for a long time, apparently without serious protest. Most important of all, we have the statement of the Minister in charge of the measure that in the House of Representatives an assurance was given that when the report of the Tariff Board on this item was received by the Government its recommendations would be adopted.
As I have already indicated, the true solution of all our difficulties respecting the tariff is to be found in removing it as much as possible from the atmosphere of party politics, which will allow us to devote our time to national issues, free from questions of self-interest, and in so doing to accord more weight and importance to the findings of the Tariff Board. This duty, as it now stands, has existed since the tariff of 1921-30, which means that it has existed probably since 1921. In those circumstances, I shall support the Government. . I regret that I cannot followSenator Johnston in his request, although my general sympathies, as he knows, lie with him. I thought that it was only right for me to make that explanation, in view of the fact that a division upon this item may be called for.
Question - That the request (Senator E. B. Johnston’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sub-item agreed to.
Chaffcutters and horse gears; corn shelters; corn buskers; cultivators, n.e.i. ; harrows; ploughs other; ploughshares; plough mould boards, scarifiers, ad valorem, British, 20 per cent.; general, 30 per cent.
– I invite honorable senators to consider this item in conjunction with item 163b, which covers “ discs for agricultural implements, mould board plates in the flat, whether cut to shape or not “ which are admissible British free, and general 10 per cent. In these circumstances, why should a duty of British, 20 per cent., and general, 30 per cent., be imposed on the implements covered by the item now under consideration? It is all very well for the Minister to quote the Tariff Board report; but I remind him that conditions are entirely different now from what they were when the report was made. At that time wheat-growers, who must use ploughs, were getting a high price for their produce. To-day, the high prices have disappeared, and the exchange situation is totally different. Our wheatgrowers are to-day obliged to sell their wheat on the markets of the world at 2s. 3d. a bushel or so, and, consequently they are quite unable to pay these duties. I move -
That the House of Representativesbe requested to make the duties, ad valorem, British, free; general, 15 per cent.
– Honorable senators will realize that the same arguments would apply in a debate on this item as applied in the debate on the item just passed. I shall, therefore, not go over the ground again, but ask them to reject the request.
Question - That the request be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Items 163 (a) (b), 165 (a) (b), 166, 167 and 169 (a1) (b) (c2), agreed to.
– I desire to discuss one of the items that you have declared agreed to.
– I have already declared the items agreed to. I regret that I did not see the honorable senator rise. I appeal to honorable senators to call to the Chair if they are not noticed when they rise to speak.
– I rose before the items were agreed to.
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to discuss one of the items that has just been agreed to, namely, harvesters and harvesting machinery ; but when I saw Senator Badman rise I did not rise.
– I regret that I cannot allow a discussion at this point. Honorable senators will have an opportunity to move for the recommittal of items.
Item 171, sub-items (a) to (e) -
Machinery, machines, and appliances: -
Reapers and binders each, British, £6 10s.; general, £10; or ad valorem, British, 30 per cent. ; general, 45 per cent. : whichever rate returns the higher duty.
Metal parts, n.e.i., of -
1 ) Reapers and binders, per lb British,1¾d-; general, 2d.; or ad val., British, 30 per cent; general, 45 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty.
– The price of reapers and binders was £38 in 1914; to-day I believe it is £77 in Sydney. I have endeavoured to get accurate information of the number of wheat-growers in Australia. The latest Year-Book shows that there are 16,382 wheat-growers in. New South Wales; 19,622 in Victoria; and 14,038 in South Australia. There are also at least 12,000 in Western Australia. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), who is well informed on this subject, stated in another place, while the Financial Relief Bill was being discussed in 1932, that there were 65,000 wheat-farmers in Australia, including those of Queensland and Tasmania. We know, of course, that reapers and binders are very much in evidence in Tasmania during the summer months. A reaper and binder is just as necessary to a farmer as is a harvester, and there is no justification why this heavy duty should be imposed on such machines. I, therefore, move -
That the House of Representativesbe requested to make the duties, sub-item (b), ad valorem, British, free; general, 15 per cent.
.- This is one of the items that the Tariff Board has under consideration, and I ask honorable senators to allow the duties to stand until the report has come to hand.
– Do I understand that the Government will act on the Tariff Board’s report when it comes to hand?
Request (by Senator Hardy) put -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties, sub-item (b), British, each £35s., or ad val. 15 per cent.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 6.16 to 8 p.m.
– I should like to ask the Minister whether the British preferential rate includes parts which come from Canada.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties, sub-item (D1 ) per lb. - British, 3/4d. ; general, 1d.
I do so because I consider that the present rates cause hardship to those who need these parts, most of which come from Canada, for, as they weigh anything from 50 to 100 lb., a charge of 15s. for duty might easily be incurred on a minor, replacement, I believe that at present no binders are imported, because the Sunshine Company is manufacturing McKay and Massey-Harris type reapers and binders suitable for our requirements. However, those who are unfortunate enough to have imported machines have to pay an exorbitant price for replacements. To give some idea of what happens, I instance an order that was sent to Canada last year for £1,000 worth of duplicates, which, when duty, freight and primage had been paid, cost £2,300 landed in the warehouse! The farmers have to rely on these machines for harvesting their crops, and must pay cash on delivery when they need replacements. I claim that, relatively speaking, this is the highest impost that is borne by primary producers on any line which they use. The lower duty would not bring about any additional unemployment in Australia, nor would it cause competition with local manufacturers, for it would not pay them to put in a plant to manufacture these parts, which, in a few years, will not be wanted. The request is a reasonable one, and would grant relief to those who need it. I, therefore, commend it to honorable senators.
– This is in the same category as several of the items which have already been discussed. The matter has been referred to the Tariff Board, and was previously dealt with in its report, No. 105, from which I quoted extensively this afternoon. From information which has been supplied to me, I gather that the importation of these parts is negligible and that the present duty imposes no great hardship on farmers generally. The importations for the past three years were as follow: -
I suggest that it is not worth while tinkering with this sub-item when the whole thing is in the melting pot, and we shall shortly have a comprehensive report from the Tariff Board placed before us for consideration. So, despite the fact that the duties may operate harshly against a few, I ask honorable senators to approve the rates which appear in the schedule.
– It would be interesting to know, in connexion with this and other items that we have yet to consider, what exactly is the plan of honorable senators who are opposing these duties and demanding reductions. I am quite sure that, in connexion with this particular sub-item, they have no definite plan, because when the request was being put to the committee Senator Badman was urged to reduce the existing ad valorem duty by half, and he was undecided as to what to do. It’ is obvious that the intention of honorable members of the Country party is to slash indiscriminately at these duties, and trust to luck that some of their requests will be approved. It is tragic that such tactics should . obtrude themselves when we are dealing with a national policy designed to give protection to Australian industries. The Minister has already indicated that importations of these parts are negligible, while Senator Hardy has said that the farmers are too poor to buy replacements. If that is so, it does not matter much whether the duty is Id. or 1¾d. per lb. I enter my protest against such unscientific attempts to mould a tariff, which has had the approval of the Minister and the Customs Department, and is being investigated by the Tariff Board. The tactics of honorable senators of the Country party are undignified, and unworthy of a deliberative assembly such as ours.
– I enter my protest against the protest that was registered by Senator Collings. What right has the honorable senator to oppose t,he full discussion of any of the items that are contained in this schedule, and to classify as unscientific any opinion which is different from that which he entertains?
– I rise to a point of order. Is Senator Brennan in order in attributing to me remarks which I did not use? I did not make any request that the discussion should be curbed.
– I am sure that if the honorable senator has been misrepresented, Senator Brennan will withdraw his remark.
– I did not say anything about the honorable senator having attempted to curb discussion; I entered my protest against the protest registered by the honorable senator, which was an objection against any other honorable senator disagreeing with his views upon the tariff. Is the honorable senator becoming so very touchy that we are not to be permitted to criticize the principle upon which he criticizes us ? If I may say so with all respect, Senator Collings makes my part a somewhat difficult one, because, though I may be tempted to accede to the view that is put by the Minister in charge of the schedule, when I remember that by doing so it will put me upon the same side as, and cause me to vote in company with, Senator Collings, I feel inclined to hesitate.
– So that with the honorable senator it is not so rauch a matter of principle.
– I am not sure that it is not a matter of principle to be opposed to the honorable senator. Daniel O’Connell once said that when the
Times was praising him for anything he always examined his conscience to see what he had been doing that was wrong.
– We are discussing item 171.
– I made that illuminative excursion merely for the enlightenment of other honorable senators. I shall listen to the reasoned argument of the Minister in charge of the schedule as to why the sub-item should, or should not, remain as it is, and cast my vote according to my determinations and consistently with the votes that I have already recorded; but I do desireto claim for myself and those who entertain similar views the “right to express them without being subjected to the protests of honorable senators opposite for having done so.
Question - That the request (Senator Bad-man’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. ( Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 175 agreed to.
Item 176, sub-items (e) (g) -
Senator MILLEN Tasmania) [8.20]. I move
That the House of Representatives be re-, quested to make the duty, sub-item (b), ad valorem, British, 15 per cent.
There is not a government in Australia that it not doing something - some are doing a great deal - to increase the possibilities of employment being provided in the mining industry. Prospectors are everywhere doing their utmost to increase the mineral production of this country, and the different governments are preparing geological maps, adding to their geological survey staffs, and doing whatever else they may to increase the output of this great and important industry. It appears to me that those efforts may be given an impetus by the reduction of the duties on mining machinery. This is one case in which we may render assistance without detriment to any other Australian industry! The beneficial effect that is likely to accrue is so perfectly obvious that I am confident the committee will agree to my request.
– These duties are identical with those in the 1921-30 tariff. During the last few years, the importations of machinery under this item have been above the average. For 1928-29 they amounted to only ?79, while for 1930-31 they reached a value of ?15,302, of which machinery to the value of ?3,767 was admitted under by-law at the rates, free British, and 10 per cent, general. This item covers only such mining machinery as is not specifically provided for under other items. Sub-items b to f of item 170, included in group 2, cover a large proportion of the mining machinery imported. The largest importations are under sub-item f of that item, which covers rotary and percussive rock drills. Those drills are admitted free from Great Britain, and are liable to a duty of 15 per cent, if of foreign origin. Coal-cutting machines, which arc covered by sub-item e, also are admitted free if imported from the United Kingdom, and are liable to a duty of 15 per cent, if of foreign origin. A large percentage of the mining machinery imported is admitted free under different items of the tariff, or under departmental by-law, if it comes from the United Kingdom. These duties have not formed the subject of a Tariff Board inquiry since 1925, when the board recommended the rates that are now operating. Only in March last, however, the matter waa again referred to the board, the Government recognizing that there may be a case for the reduction of the duties in view of the position of the country from the unemployment and other angles, and of the necessity for stimulating mineral production. In its last report, the board differentiated between a number of items of mining machinery. The rates that it recommended were, free British, 5 per cent, intermediate, and 10 per cent, general, in the case of coal-cutting machines, rotary and percussive rock drills, roller bearings and ball bearings, log band sawing machines and band resawing machines. Other rates recommended were, in the case of cylindrical cement dryers, which apparently were being manufactured in this country, 27^ per cent., 35 per cent, and 40 per cent., in the case of cement-making machines, n.e.i., road-making machines, n.e.i., stone-crushing machines, &c, 35 per cent., 45 per cent., and 50 per cent. ; and in the case of machines and machinery n.e.i., 40 per cent., 50 per cent., and 55 per cent. I ask the honorable senator not to press his request. I am particularly interested in the mining development of this country, and I know that the matter has had the consideration of the Government. By dealing with it in this general way, we may enable .a few men to obtain employment, but we may deprive of employment others who are engaged in the manufacture of certain kinds of machinery. The Government has asked the Tariff Board to expedite its inquiry as far as possible.
.- I support Senator Millen’s request. As the Minister has pointed out, every encouragement is being given to the employment of men in. the different branches of the mining industry. “With money so hard to obtain, however, we cannot expect mining companies to extend their operations while they have to pay this exorbitant duty. There are also primage, exchange, and other charges, which make the cost prohibitive lt may be thought that the importations are so small that it is hardly worth while to bother about the matter; but if the duties were made more reasonable I believe that the development of mining throughout the Commonwealth, which is so badly needed, would be considerably extended. 1 should like to receive a definite assurance that we shall be given the Tariff Board reports on all these items before they are finally dealt with by the Senate. As things are now, it is possible that not one of those reports will be available. I object to that, because our votes in some instances have been influenced by the implied assurance that the reports would be available to us.
– I never gave any such assurance, and never intended to do so. It would be impossible for the Tariff Board to turn out reports in a machine-like way without reflection or consideration, or the hearing of technical evidence. All I promised was that when we came to group C of the schedule, those Tariff Board reports which have been considered by Cabinet will be placed before honorable senators, and appropriate action taken in regard to them. The items in group 2 have been referred to the Tariff Board with a request that they be dealt with expeditiously, because the Government is alive, as I am, to the necessity for putting the mining industry on a stable footing by giving it all the relief we can. It is possible, however, if we act without duo consideration, that in avoiding Scylla we may be wrecked, in Charybdis. In order to assist one industry, we may so injure others as to throw large numbers of men out of employment, and then our last condition would be worse than the first. All the items in the various groups dealing with mining requisites have been referred to the Tariff Board.
Honorable, senators, in the feast of reason and flow of soul we have had during this debate, have, perhaps, forgotten what the Government promised in regard to Tariff Board reports. Our policy is to carry out our election pledge, and we are doing so. Cabinet is still in possession of a number of Tariff Board reports. Some hundreds of items were referred to the board immediately the
Government took office, items on which the Scullin Government had increased the duties without consulting the board. Some of the reports were returned during the passage of this schedule through another place, and were given effect to there. Some have been returned since, and the Senate will have an opportunity to discuss them. Unfortunately, some of the reports which we are most anxious to receive, including that on this item, are not yet available. As new reports come to hand after the passage of this schedule, and are considered by Cabinet, those recommendations which the Government accepts will be embodied in new schedules which will he brought before Parliament, and honorable senators will have an opportunity to discuss them. The passage of this measure is not the last word on the subject, but it is necessary to have a complete tariff of some sort to go on with, although I hope that, before the life of this Parliament expires, it will be possible for every item in the schedule to be considered by the board in the light of the Ottawa agreement.
This item is of a complex character, and no report later than 1925 is available to guide the Government. The duties are the 1921-2S rates, which were passed by a number of senators who- are still in this chamber. They were not interfered with by the last Government. All we could do was to rectify what we believe to be wrong through the machinery of the Tariff Board. “We have given an undertaking to employ that machinery ; not to indulge in ministerial tariffmaking, but to deal with duties in a scientific manner. The Minister for Trade and Customs has assured me that, immediately Tariff Board reports are available, they will be embodied in a new schedule and submitted to the House of Representatives when it. re-assembles. Later, of course, that, schedule will come before the Senate. Similar action will be taken from time to time, as required. I had anticipated that we should by how have about twenty reports available on items in group 6; but I find that only a dozen or so are ready. Some of these matters require considerable study by Cabinet. We do not simply take the board’s report, and accept it as a matter of course. It is necessary for us to have the board’s reasons for its recommendations, and to examine the evidence on which the board came to its conclusion. If we cannot see the reasons for the recommendation, we refer the matter back to the board, with a request for an explanation, or a statement regarding the effect of the recommendation, if accepted, upon other industries. I ask honorable senators not to attempt to substitute themselves for the Tariff Board. Most of the important trading countries, including Great Britain, Carinda, and New Zealand, have now appointed tariff boards to take the place pf the haphazard regulation of tariffs by Parliament. Our Tariff Board may not bc working as quickly as honorable senators would like, but that cannot be helped. If we are to have a multiciplicity of tariff boards, it follows that a multiplicity of principles will apply to tariffmaking. . The present board is familiar with its work. In regard to some minor matters, it may be possible to divide the board into sections; but, on the major issues, it must work as a single unit. I ask honorable senators to hold their hands, As Senator Brennan pointed out, nothing is really accomplished by making requests for the reduction of duties; but such action has a disturbing effect upon industry. A tremendous amount of money has been invested in Australia in manufacturing enterprises affected by the tariff, and those in control of such industries are not likely to enlarge their undertakings while this air of uncertainty prevails. Believing that the Senate is after them hot foot, with a majority which is prepared to deal with the tariff without consulting the Tariff Board, they are likely to adopt a policy of wait and see. Surely honorable senators would not care to have every manufacturing pundit at the bar of the House showing his wares, and explaining his case.
– Who proposed such a thing?
– That is the only way in which the Tariff Board, or any other body charged with tariffmaking, can arrive at a due, understanding of the matter, unless it comprises a collection of veritable Solomons. They cannot arrive at a proper conclusion by guess work.
.- The Minister has made a mistake in suggesting that a majority of honorable senators are prepared to fix duties without receiving any reports from the Tariff Board. I, for one, am not. I have always realized the value of the Tariff Board, and believed in employing it in the manner prescribed in the act; but that does not bind me to accept all its reports. The board makes its recommendations to Parliament, and in our wisdom we accept or amend the recommendations as they come before us.
– That is all we are asking the honorable senator to do now.
– I have taken the trouble to look up the debate which took place on this very item in 1926, when the duty was raised from 27^ per cent. British to 40 per cent. I strongly objected to that at the time, and there have been no developments in Australia in the meantime to cause me to recede one iota from the stand I took up then. Rather do I believe that recent developments should induce us to give even a greater encouragement to the mining industry, in order to put it in a sound position. I can say that without retracting anything from my profession as a protectionist. I believed that the protection given in 1926 was more than was justified on the evidence submitted to the Tariff Board, and that was why I opposed it. Senator Millen has submitted a proposal to reduce the duty from 40 per cent, to 15 per cent. That is going a long way further than I would propose ; but we must remember that, even if Senator Millen’s proposal were agreed to, the local industry, because of the incidence of exchange and primage, would still be receiving the same protection as, if not more than, it received when the duty of 40 per cent, was first imposed.
– Does not the honorable senator think that we should have the report of the Tariff Board on the subject of primage and exchange?
– It would be helpful if it were made available to us. The absence of it places us at a disadvantage in discussing this item and others, because, after all, the Tariff Board’s view of the effect of the exchange rate might be in keeping with that of many honorable senators, including myself, namely, that its protective incidence should be taken into account when fixing the rates of duty. I feel that I must support Senator Millen’s requested amendment. If it is not carried, I shall do my best to induce the committee to request another place to make the rate the same as that which operated in 1926.
– I hasten to assure the Minister (Senator McLachlan) that I appreciate his *’ flow of soul “, and I sincerely trust that lie will appreciate our “ feast of reason “. All honorable senators, I hope, appreciate the necessity for assisting the mining industry, and particularly those prospectors who were induced by various governments to engage in the search for valuable minerals. It is important, that, discoveries having been made, the mining companies should be able to obtain the necessary machinery at a reasonable price, otherwise all the searching that has been done will have to go by the board. I trust that the committee will carry my requested amendment to reduce the duty to 15 per cent. British. The Minister has indicated that shortly we may ger a report from the Tariff Board dealing with this industry. I am perfectly certain that if the board’s report shows that a duty of 15 per cent. British is not an equitable arrangement, no complaints will be heard from those who have announced their support for my requested amendment. The most pressing need a£ the moment is to give relief to those engaged in the mining industry, and my request has been submitted with that end in view.
– I am rather surprised at the reasoning advanced by the Minister (Senator McLachlan) in opposition to Senator Millen’s request. He has suggested that if the British duty is reduced from 40 to 15 per cent., injury might be done to some other industry. I take this opportunity to remind him that in the nineties, when the discovery of gold in Western Australia was attracting worldwide attention, the manufacturers of mining machinery in Victoria were able to supply the requirements of the Western
Australian fields under a revenue tariff of 5 per cent, imposed by the Victorian Government, and we then heard no complaints about their having to meet competition from Great Britain, the United States of America, or anywhere else.
– What wages were paid by the machinery manufacturers in those days?
– The difference in wages then paid, compared with existing rates, was not so great as is the difference between the rate of duty on mining machinery then imposed, namely, 5 per cent., and the present rate of 40 per cent. British.
– I should like to know, because I was looking for a job in those days.
– So was I, and, need I add, I was successful, notwithstanding the depression then prevailing in Melbourne. A reduction of the British duty will not endanger any other industry as has been suggested, but there is a great possibility that it will lead to greatly increased employment. The Minister’s general observations may be taken to mean that, because the Tariff Board may, in the near or distant future, present reports upon a number of tariff items, the Senate should not discuss the schedule, but should accept the Government’s proposals in globo. I do not at all agree with the Minister’s reasoning. If we followed his advice we should be merely strengthening the hands of those people outside who declare that the Senate is an unnecessary part of our parliamentary machinery; that it is merely an echo of another place. It is the duty of this chamber to discuss every subject brought before it, and in tariff matters, not to accept, without comment, any reports which may be presented by the Tariff Board. I intend to support Senator Millen’s request, but I believe that, if he had urged that the duties be reduced to 20 per cent, instead of 15 per cent., he would probably have had more support. I support his request because Australian manufacturers have already shown that they can supply mining machinery, in competition with the rest of the world, under a tariff of 5 per cent.
– I cannot follow Senator Carroll’s “reasoning in this matter, and I agree with the Minister in charge ofthe schedule (Senator McLachlan) that because of the wide ramifications of the industry, this duty requires a great deal of consideration. I had occasion to visit Western Australia some’ time ago, and discovered that, at Kalgoorlie, one machinery firm practically controlled the whole of the business of selling mining plants.
– Nothing of the sort.
– I was referring to the Victorian firm of Thompson Brothers, at Castlemaine.
– My inquiries in Kalgoorlie led me to the conclusion that one firm there had a monopoly of the sale of mining machinery.
– Probably that firm handled second-hand plant.
– Perhaps the honorable senator is right. As regards the industry itself, what greater stimulus does it need than an increase of 100 per cent. in the value of gold?
– That increase of price is confined to one metal only.
– What other metals has the honorable senator in mind ? The market price of a metal determines whether or not its production is profitable, find as the value of gold has increased by 100 per cent, it seems to me that the gold-mining industry has all the stimulus that it needs, particularly as batteries are much cheaper than formerly.
– And more up-to-date, which is everything.
– That is so, and they are sold much more cheaply than they were twenty years ago.
– Cheaper even than three years ago.
– As modern mining machinery is more efficient, consequently it must be cheaper to the companies requiring it, and, in view of the increased price of gold, I fail to see any justification for a reduction of the duty.
– We are all glad to listen to Senator Millen, who usually makes a. very valuable contribution to any debate in this chamber. He told us just now that his motive in submitting his request for amendment was to ensure increased employment in the mining industry. 1 should like him to tell us where this increased employment will take place. The latest available statistics indicate that, apart altogether from tariff changes, the number of persons employed in the gold-mining industry has increased during the last three years. In the State which I help to represent in this chamber, we have the famous Mount Morgan mine.
– It was killed by high wages.
- Senator Brennan, with his usual facility for explaining everything, has told us why the Mount. Morgan mine has gone out of production. I tell him that it failed because the dividend mongering profit-making proprietary, represented by the Mount Morgan Company, took millions of pounds out of the mine in the way of dividends and left nothing with which to carry on in a time of difficulty.
– Order ! I must ask the honorable gentleman to confine bis remarks to the item.
– I am endeavouring to do that, and I submit that whatI am saying is quite relevant to the discussion. Senator Milieu’s request to have the British duty reduced to 15 per cent, is put forward because, allegedly, it will mean more employment, and I have shown that employment in the industry has been increasing during the last two or three years without any alteration of the existing tariff.
– The Mount Morgan mine did not pay dividends for years.
– That is exactly what. I am endeavouring to show. Mining activities at Mount Morgan for some years slumped to a comparatively negligible quantity, but during the last three years, due largely to the advice of Sir Herbert Gepp and Mr. Gunn, the position has improved and employment has increased. The same conditions obtain in all the gold-producing States of Australia for the reason which Senator Dooley has just given, the fact that the price of gold has doubled in recent years. I doubt that any reduction of duties on mining machinery will give a stimulus to the industry.
Senator Carroll has suggested and I think the honorable senator’s remarks are worthy of notice, since they might supply the motive for opposition to this and other tariff items - that if we follow the advice of the Minister, the Senate will become merely the echo of another place. I certainly have never been content to allow the Senate to become an echo of the other branch of this legislature; but I shall not support proposals regardless of their merits merely in order to assert the independence of this chamber. Senator Carroll said he would have preferred the request to be for a reduction of 20 per cent, instead of 15 per cent., because he thought that the higher duty would receive more support. We might follow his contention to its logical conclusion, and, after requests for 15 per cent., 20 per cent., and 25 per cent, have in turn been defeated, decide to allow the duty to remain at 40 per cent. If the argument that lower duties would increase employment is intended to apply to coal-mining machinery, it is worthless, because throughout the world there are tens of thousands of coal-miners for whom there will never again be employment in the industry, with which they have .been connected all their lives. I hope that the request for an amendment will not be adopted.
– I gladly support the request. I entered the Senate shortly before the Pratten schedule was dealt with in 1926, and I remember vividly that the then Leader of the Labour party in this chamber, Senator Needham, moved on thi3 very item that the duties should be reduced from 40 per cent, to 27? per cent. With Senator Millen, I voted for that proposal, which received a great deal of support, and was defeated by only three votes. I assure Senator Collings that the present proposal to increase employment, by reducing the duties on mining machinery, applies to all classes of mining, and I hope that it will be adopted.
.- Australia has mining and metallurgical engineers as capable as those of any part of the world. A mining engineer will design the machinery to meet the various problems, and his orders’ will probably be placed with local foundries or engineering shops. Therefore, the adoption of this request for a reduction of duties would not adversely affect employment in those establishments. Senator Collings said that he would support the request, if he could be convinced that it would lead to an increase of employment in the mining industry. Only recently a corporation has been investigating the nickel deposits about Zeehan, Tasmania, and calculating very closely the possibility of erecting a plant for the working of the deposits so that they may be of value to the Commonwealth and the Empire. The only means of profitably working this ore is by the erection of a satisfactory plant, and, therefore, the duty on machinery would have an important bearing on the project.
– Could not the machinery be made in Australia?
– Ores that contain other metals in conjunction with nickel have been the subject of research in other parts of the world, and it would not be commercially sound to undertake experiments in Australia when proved methods and plant can be obtained abroad.
– Such machinery would probably be admitted free of duty under by-law.
– The intending investor looks first at the duty on the machinery. he will require, and the first glance may be sufficient to deter him. If he pursues his inquiries .further, he may learn of the possibility of admission under by-law. Only companies which thoroughly investigate beforehand every factor, and estimate their costs to a fraction of a penny can be expected to achieve success. An enterprise of this description offers no scope to the reckless, haphazard promoter of wild-cat schemes. I sincerely trust that the committee will agree to request the reduction of the duty to 15 per cent.
– Although in the grouped memorandum this item appears isolated, it is in the complete schedule merely one of a large; list of machinery items, many of which are on the free list. Surely those interested in primary production have just reason to complain when, of all the types of machinery mentioned in the schedule, mining machinery, which is the most important in the world at the present time, should be singled out for so heavy an impost. The Minister has again asked the committee to rely on the Tariff Board’s report, but has made it clear that there is little prospect of that document being available to Parliament before this schedule has been disposed of. The number of persons engaged in mining has greatly increased, but that increase is mainly represented by those earning a humble living by prospecting. There are two phases of the gold-mining revival; prospecting is one, and the other is the working of large bodies of ore by highly specialized machinery. In Western Australia, many large mines are being reworked profitably because of the high price1 of gold, and some of the companies have nor. found it necessary to incur heavy expenditure on new machinery.. A similar revival has occurred at Mount Morgan, which appears likely to provide considerable employment for several years. On more than one occasion during the consideration of this schedule, the Minister has deprecated the taking into account, as part of the protection enjoyed by local industries, the adverse exchange rate and primage. I do not dissent from the general proposition that exchange may prove only a transient factor, but we’ can certainly rely upon it continuing for some years. The mining industry may require prompt assistance, and it is of the utmost importance that every encouragement be given to mineral research and development at the present time. Nothing could be of greater advantage to Australia or to the world at large than the discovery of new gold-fields. We all know what gold-mining did for Australia in the middle ‘nineties, during a crisis similar to the present, but not comparable in magnitude. An intending investor who is likely to require machinery naturally studies the tariff schedule, and compares the probable costs of imported and locallymade plant. During the dinner hour, a gentleman who is interested in machinery informed me of representations made to the Customs Department on one occasion for the admission of machinery under bylaw; eventually, the request was granted, but the negotiations occupied nine months. The 1 consideration which most urges me to vote for the request is that the great primary industry of mining appears to have been singled out for a particularly heavy duty. I believe, however, that if Senator Millen had not carried his request quite so far, it would have been supported, if not by greater numbers, certainly with greater heartiness.
Senator Sir WALTER KINGSMILL (Western Australia) [9.12], - The mining enterprises which Senator Millen had in mind when he referred to the possibility of increasing employment by reducing the costs of machinery are those concerned with large low-grade bodies of ore, working on a small margin of profit, and depending on the quantity rather than the richness of the ore treated. These mines must be equipped with the most up-to-date machinery, some of which is not, and cannot be, made in Australia, and perhaps has never been used here previously. Sometimes applications for the admission of machinery under by-law are granted. On other occasions, the officers of the Customs Department are at particular pains to assure gentlemen trained in mining and metallurgical science that they are mistaken in their ideas as to what they need. On behalf of mining companies in Kalgoorlie, I have, on many occasions, had to interview the customs officers, and endeavour to persuade them that special classes of machinery could not be made in Australia commercially, because it would not pay local manufacturers to erect expensive plant for the purpose of supplying a very limited demand. Mining companies working low-grade ores on small margins have to reckon closely every penny of cost, and it is believable that a decrease of tho cost of essential plant by 20 per cent, would be the determining factor in the consideration of a proposal for undertaking a new venture. That is why I shall vote in support of the requested amendment.
– The honorable senator has given us the usual tale of woe.
– I .wish that Senator Collings would not be so shrewish. I think that he tries to be the Socrates of this chamber, but he has failed in that aspiration. He more resembles Xanthippe, the consort of the sage, who drove him to such a stale of mind that he gladly accepted the hemlock cup.
– Order !
– Senator Millen’s proposal does not concern the kind of mining which it is my desire to see flourishing in this country; I refer to individual mining. I would welcome the restoration of the prospector who works for himself, and carries on by means of his own funds.
– A reduction of this duty would not help that man.
– But the prospector helps those who establish big companies. He is, in fact, the origin of mining, and often he fails to do well himself. The requested amendment, however, would be more likely than the item, as it stands, to set in operation mines which otherwise might not be sought for, and for that reason I shall support Senator Millen.
– I should not .have participated in this debate, had it not been for the fact that there are several aspects of this matter that have not been mentioned. When a protective duty has been in operation for a certain period, and an attempt is made to reduce or remove it, we are invariably reminded of the effect that it has had. If we apply that kind of reasoning to the duty under consideration, we find that a duty of 40 per cent, on mining machinery has been in operation for the last eight years, and, partly as a result of our excessive tariff, the rnining industry has been undergoing the painful process of gradual extinction. If this heavy duty has produced no beneficial effects on the mining or any other industry, is it not time we doubted the wisdom of maintaining it ? I shall be met by the objection of those honorable senators who are ever reminding us that we should so model the tariff as to provide a maximum amount of employment fo: Australians; but is there any proof that employment has resulted from the heavy impost of 40 per cent, on mining machinery? On the contrary, is it not possible that, in protecting the local manufacturers, we have removed the possibility of employment in other direc tions? I am reminded of the old illustration of a man trying to remove a buckle from a steel plate, and only succeeding in causing the buckle to appear in another place. Why do we attempt the impossible?
I support to the full the remarks made by Senator Carroll. I am a living witness of the truth of his statement. In the pre-federation days I was in charge of a plant on the Golden Mile that drove a 50-head battery at the Lake View Consuls mine. That plant was made in South Australia by James Martin and Company, but it was not manufactured with the assistance of a protective tariff, because in those days the only State which had a tariff worthy of the name, was Victoria.
– That firm manufactured under a South Australian tariff before federation.
– The Austral Otis Company, of Melbourne, and Thompsons’, of Castlemaine, also supplied plant to the Golden Mile at that time, and Victoria did not then have a 40 per cent, duty on mining machinery. We talk about this method of dealing with the tariff as a haphazard proceeding, but, when we recall the effects of this 40 per cent, duty, which has remained in operation for eight years, we must regard it as a superfine example of haphazardness. Formerly 27-J per cent, was considered a sufficient rate of protection, and the introduction of the 40 per cent, was only in keeping with the maniacal protectionist spirit that had come over the Parliament at that time, when duties were increased from about 15 per cent, and 20 per cent, to 35 per cent., 40 per cent., and 50 per cent. To show bow haphazardly this tariff-making has been done, compressors for making ice are admitted free, apparently on the ground that a compressor is of much more national value if it is used for making ice in the coastal cities or towns, than if it is taken far inland to help develop the untried mineral fields. Surely it cannot reasonably be contended that a compressor for making ice in a metropolitan area should be admitted free, while a compressor needed for a mine at Wiluna should have to bear a cost of £2,000.
– Yet this is called a scientific tariff!
– In my judgment it provides a superlative example of haphazardness in tariff-making. When we contrast the vast untouched areas in Australia that are awaiting development with the army of idle men on the coastal fringe of this country, we are forced to the conclusion that an idiotic policy has been followed in tariff-building. Can it be said that we are doing justice to the pioneers when a penalty of 40 per cent, is placed on mining machinery that is required in the interior of this continent? Instead of encouraging the pioneers, we are placing a penalty on our most worthy citizens. Never mind what conventions we smash in the process, let us get down to bedrock, and ask ourselves : Is it not better to help the man, the most worthy member of the community, who turns his back on the coastal fringe, and brings to light centres like Wiluna, in Western Australia, Mount Isa, in Queeusland, and other hitherto undiscovered fields? In my opinion, if we are to give any a fair deal, it should go to such a man as that, disregarding what has been done in the past. This schedule presents such an array of examples of capricious, haphazard tariff-making that I hope this committee will not be guilty of adding a further blunder.
– The honorable senator has put the case for the freetrader, but I was impressed by the interjection from Senator O’Halloran that, in the early days, South Australia had a tariff of its own. Apparently Senator Lynch was unaware that South Australia had a tariff in pre-federation days. There was evidently need for protection at that time, both in South Australia and Victoria, against imports even of mining machinery from abroad. For several years, in the course of my work in Queensland, I had to visit the mining districts, and I understand that one of the causes of the depression in mining in that State was the serious decline in the prices of metals after the war.
– Would not that mean that it was necessary to cut costs?
– Yes ; but, once a plant is installed, it can be used for a great many years.
– Not necessarily.
– I should say that there are many mining plants in Australia that would be found useful if the price of metals increased. One of the reasons for the resumption of operations at Mount Morgan is the increased price of gold. A considerable quantity of gold could be won from the Mount Morgan mine, although its main product is copper. It was the fall in the price of copper after the war, rather than labour troubles, that was chiefly responsible for the closing down of that mine. I need not say how many million pounds worth of copper and gold was obtained from that mine.
– High operating costs had much to do with its failure.
– I claim that the closing down of it was chiefly attributable to the fall in the price of copper, and I think it can be shown that that was also the reason for the failure of Mount Elliott and other mines in the Cloncurry District. There was no frenzied yell about the duty on the machinery imported for the Mount Isa mine, in which £3,700,000 of foreign capital was invested.
– That machinery was admitted free under bylaw.
– Mining machinery is generally admitted free if a good case for free entry is made out.
– That is not so in the case of wood-working machinery.
– We are now dealing with mining machinery. I do not think that any honorable senator would object to machinery which cannot be manufactured in Australia being admitted free. Like Senator Collings, I should be prepared to consider a reduction of the duties on mining machinery if its introduction would lead to further employment in this country. Unfortunately, however, the introduction of machinery, instead of creating employment, often displaces large numbers of workers. The up-to-date trucks which carry the ore at Mount Isa are operated automatically, and do not need men to unload them. At Mount Isa to-day, there is only one- third of the number of men who were employed there previously, showing that the introduction of uptodate machinery sometimes creates unemployment. There will be practically no local market for our primary products if the process of displacing men by machinery is carried much further.
.- Every honorable senator who represents a State in which mining is carried on is in sympathy with Senator Milieu’s proposal for a reduction of the duties on rnining machinery; but, as the Minister has pointed out, the Tariff Board may recommend a lower duty, in which case the matter would have to come before us again for further consideration.
– Is that not an argument for postponing the item?
– Its postponement ia practically automatic. “Whatever the Senate does with this sub-item, the present duties will continue until altered by another place. Should the Tariff Board’s report be received before the schedule has been finally dealt with in this chamber, it could be recommitted for further consideration of this subitem. Senator MacDonald said that the modern mining machinery installed at Mount lsa had displaced a number of men. That may be; but were it not for that machinery, Mount Isa would be idle, and no men would be employed there. Indeed, Mount Isa continues to be worked only because of the protection afforded by the exchange rate.
– The slump there is due to the low price of silver lead.
– The modern machinery installed there, plus exchange, makes it profitable to continue to work the mine, even at the present low price of silver lead. If we were to go hack to the days of the handharrow, Mount Isa and other mines like it would be forced to close down. In Hansard of the 4th March, 190S, there appears the following report of an interesting speech by Senator Lynch, the President of the Senate:–
– It should be an unchallengeable argument with any person who wants to see a reasonable protectionist duty imposed on item 145. Let me take the articles which it includes. Cane-loaders on wheels are farming implements for the use of cane- growers in Queensland and New South Wales. While we give a protection of £0 per ton to cane-growers in Australia, I do not see any logic in not asking them to stand a reasonable burden of protection in order that their farming implements may be made locally. If we protect the products of the primary producers - for instance, their butter, cheese, bacon, hay, corn, and other articles - is there any injustice iri asking them in their turn to bear a share of the burden of protection in order to help a large body of consumers alongside them?
– It is a burden, then?
– It will be a burden until such time as our industries are firmly established, and then I believe that the farmers will get their implements very much more cheaply than they do at the present time.
On that occasion the honorable senator contended that the manufacture in Australia of machinery - and I take it that he included mining machinery - would ultimately benefit primary producers as well as manufacturers. It must be admitted that the manufacture of mining machinery in Australia has given employment to a number of Australian workmen. The present satisfactory position of the gold-mining industry is due to the increased price of gold consequent on the depreciation of our currency. The price of gold to-day is half as much again as it was three years ago, and it is therefore not unreasonable to suggest to the gold rnining industry that it should, as far as possible, purchase machinery manufactured in Australia. I recognize the merits of the argument of Senator Millen that the prospector is mainly responsible for mining operations. After all, it is the prospector with pick and shovel who discovers the mine, and he is followed in turn by the investor, the mining experts, and others. I am hopeful that when the report of the Tariff Board is made available and its recommendations are acted upon, a reduction of mining costs within Australia will result. It was the high cost of rnining that caused the Mount Morgan and Cloncurry mines to close down much earlier than they need have done. .Senator Collings .referred to the fact that millions of pounds had been extracted from Mount Morgan, but I know of people who had money invested in that mine for years and did not draw one halfpenny dividend. They kept their money in the mine and invested more in it in order to keep it in operation, and before it went out of existence, the State
Labour Government of Queensland was compelled to subsidize, the wages of the men employed there. I am hopeful that the cost of mining machinery, whether manufactured locally or abroad. will be reduced so as to give some additional encouragement to the mining industry of Australia.
.- I fail to see what beneficial effect this request, if carried, would have, because the Minister in charge of the bill has definitely stated that this item has been referred to the Tariff Board for investigation and report. The board was established by this Parliament so that it could be guided by expert evidence, and it visits the various States taking evidence from those who are directly interested in the various industries of Australia. As the Tariff Board does not take its instructions from honorable senators, it is not likely to take much notice of any opinion expressed by this chamber, particularly if it has expert opinion to the contrary. What will be our position if we agree to this request and the board recommends a duty- of say 35 per cent, or 40 per cent. ? That will merely show to the public generally that this Parliament is unfitted to deal with technical matters, and we shall then be in the position of having made ourselves look foolish. Since 1925, the costs of machinery and other articles required by Australian industries, including gold mining, have changed considerably. The Tariff Board investigates the whole question of costs, and it may recommend that no alteration be made in the rates appearing under this item. The gold mining industry is at present the only industry in Australia which is in a good position; in fact, it is in a much better position than it has ever been before. Why attempt to alter this duty when within a few weeks the Tariff Board will submit its report? The Government has signified its intention to alter duties in accordance with the recommendations of the board, so that before the expiration of the life of this Parliament we shall have on the statutebook a tariff which represents presentday opinion. I arn a great believer in the Tariff Board-. We may have expert opinion in this chamber, but it is not in the majority. Most of us are influenced by State interests. Honorable senators who represent Western Australia are in favour of a reduction of the duty on machinery so as to assist the gold mining industry of that State. Queensland also has its gold mines, such as Mount Isa and Mount Morgan, which already have their mining machinery. The mines of Western Australia and of the other States also have their machinery. We are not likely to discover, within the next few months, any new mines which will require mining machinery; and as the Tariff Board will present its report within a few weeks, I see no necessity for this request. It is not the use of mining machinery, but the prospecting for and finding of gold that is helping Australia to pay its way. Our mines are not producing any more gold than they were previously.
– Yes, they are.
– Although our gold output has not altered to any great extent, the price that is being received for it has increased considerably. We have no need for any further mining machinery except for replacement purposes. We have two firms in Australia which specialize in the manufacture of machinery - Walker’s Limited, of Maryborough, Queensland, and Thompsons’, of Castlemaine, Victoria. These firms have installed valuable plant, and they give employment to a large number of men. The mining industry is practically dependent upon these firms for the machinery that is needed in mining operations. No one has found fault in any way with the products of these firms. I do not think that the prices charged by them can be regarded as unduly high, bearing in mind Australian wages and conditions. While I am not opposed to a decrease of duties on machinery if it can be made reasonably, I would rather wait a few weeks or months until the Tariff Board submits its report on this subject than take the risk of holding the Senate up to ridicule for acting too hastily.
– I should not have spoken again had not Senator Foll endeavoured to show that Senator Lynch, in the speech that he has made this evening, had changed his mind.
– I have not changed my mind.
– Personally, I have no objection to a man changing his mind. Experience sometimes makes it necessary for us to change our minds. 1 remind Senator Foll that the Minister in charge of this bill (Senator McLachlan) has changed his mind. In 1926 he supported a proposal to reduce the duty on road-making machinery from 40 per cent, to 27½ per cent. I quote the following remarks by the honorable senator from the Hansard report of the 8th June, 1926:-
We who represent the more benighted, and certainly the more neglected, portions of the Commonwealth, view these proposed increases differently. Surely those who purchase and use road-making and cement-making machines ought to know whether the proposed duties will he instrumental in increasing the cost. We should turn a deaf ear to those who say that higher duties will lead to reduced prices. As a protectionist, I cannot accept such a statement.
The honorable senator’s concluding remarks on that occasion “were -
I intend to support the request of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) for a reduction of this duty.
These remarks show that even a Minister may change his mind.
I intend to support the amendment because I assist to represent a Stale to which the mining industry is valuable. Tasmania has, in the past, contributed greatly from her mining industry to the material welfare of Australia. But, in spite of the great mineral wealth produced in that State it is felt that we have only scraped the surface of our mineral deposits. Senator Reid has said that the future development of the mining industry depends very greatly upon the work of fossickers and prospectors discovering new fields. But of what use is it to discover new fields if they cannot be economically developed ? It is more necessary than ever to-day that the cost of mining should be reduced. Unless some reduction of costs is made possible the development of the industry will be retarded. There is, in my opinion, considerable prospect in Tasmania, as there is in the other States, of new mineral deposits being discovered. I have no doubt that before very long discoveries will be reported which will justify the expenditure of capital for developmental purposes. “When that time comes the cost of mining plant and machinery may be the determining factor in whether such work can be proceeded with or not.If we can help to reduce mining costs we should do so.
– Cannot the Australian machinery manufacturers produce the plant required ?
– I think they can, but even if the amendment is agreed to the local manufacturers will still enjoy as much protection as in 1926-30. If by agreeing to this request we can help to reduce costs to even a slight degree it will be advantageous to the mining industry.
.- Senator Reid has suggested that it is of no use for us to discuss any of the items in this schedule until the reports of the Tariff Board have come to hand. He fears that the making of requests for reductions before the Tariff Board reports are received will make the Senate look ridiculous.
– I was speaking only of this item.
– If such a remark may be made on this item, it may be applied just as appropriately to other items which have been referred to the Tariff Board. On every occasion on which I have spoken in favour of a reduction of duty I have been told that the item under discussion was being inquired into by the Tariff Board. How many of the items of this schedule are under the consideration of the board at present?
– The honorable senator’s party promised prior to the election not to make any reduction of the tariff except on a recommendation . from the Tariff Board.
– I made no such promise, and, because of the circumstances in which Icame into this chamber, I am not bound by any promise of that kind that may have been made. I entered this Senate a free man, and I shall exercise my vote as I think fit. In any case, I have, throughout my political career, insisted on retaining my freedom to vote in the best interests of the State that sent me here. Honorable senators ou this side of the chamber are not caucus-bound like some honorable gentlemen opposite. We are at liberty to express our individual opinions. Most of the speakers on this item have confined their remarks to the gold-mining industry as though it alone has any significance. It may be t. li at gold-mining is the only branch of the mining industry which is worth any consideration in any of the other States, but that is not so in Tasmania. We have the largest copper mine in the Commonwealth in our State. In tlie last few days a report has appeared in the press to the effect that the management is seriously considering the closing down of the mine on account of the low price of copper. Any reduction of costs that can be made is, therefore, an important consideration in that case. If the mine can be kept in operation until the price of copper improves it will be to the benefit of Australia in general, and Tasmania in particular. We also have silver-lead mines in Tasmania. Senator Millen has spoken of the possibility of the production of nickel in Tasmania. So far nothing has been done in this direction in Australia. If that industry could be established, employment would be provided for a large number of men.
– Has not the Mount Lyell company all the machinery that it requires ?
– I am not in a position to say whether it has or not; but I know that during the last few years it has expended a great deal of money in installing additional machinery in order to lessen the cost of production. Had it not done so, the mine would have closed down. Two or throe years ago, some of the most productive gold-mines in Australia were operating in Tasmania, and they might be able to re-open if it were possible to reduce costs to a reasonable level. There are Other classes of mining to which the same remark applies. I am not prepared to accept the dictum of Senator Reid that we should not alter any duty in the schedule upon which we have not received a report from the Tariff Board. I should like to know how many of these items have been referred to that body on which it has not reported ?
– The Minister stated that 85 items have been submitted to the board.
– I am pleased to have that information, but it will not influence my vote.
– It is my intention to pair in favour of the request, because I think that anything that will stimulate the mining industry will create opportunities .for the expansion of those firms at Castlemaine and Maryborough to which reference has been made.
Question - That the request (Senator Millen’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - .Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
.- I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (e) ad val., British, 274 per cent.
I do so because, in view of the remarks that were made by the present Minister when we discussed the item in 1926, 1 feel that there is an excellent possibility of securing his vote, and also one or two of the votes from honorable senators who sit opposite. The arguments in 1926 were all in favour of the retention of a duty at the rate of per cent., and I feel justified in making an appeal that we should go back to that figure which, I think, will afford ample protection to those who are manufacturing this class of machinery.
Question - That the request (Senator Payne’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Ch airman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Sub-items agreed to.
Items 179 (d 3b) (e), 180 (a 1), 181 (a 1) (b 2), 183 and 185 (a) agreed to.
Item 187, sub-items (a) (d) (Nails).
– Can the Minister explain why the duties on horse-shoe nails are 12s. per cwt. British, and 15s. per cwt. general, while those on saddlers’ tacks and nails are ad valorem free, and 15 per cent, respectively?
– The rates on horse-shoe nails are the same as they were under the 1921-30 tariff. There is no Tariff Board report on this matter. The revenue collected on clearances during 1931-32 was, United Kingdom £3,000, Canada £5, foreign £1,452. The ad valorem equivalents of the fixed rates of 12s. and 15s. per cwt., based on the 1931-32 clearances, are, United Kingdom 20.3 per cent., Sweden 33.3 per cent. I understand that the reason for the differentiation is that imports of these nails compete with the local product.
Sub-items agreed to.
Items 188, 189 (e) (f) (h), 191 (a), 193, 196, 198, 199, 202, 204 (a) and 205 agreed to.
Item 206, sub-items (c) (e) (Oil or spirit heating lamps; lamp chimneys n.e.i.).
– I direct the attention of the Minister to the heavy duties of 20 per cent, and 30 per cent, ad valorem on oil or spirit heating lamps, and of 2s. 6d. and 3s. 6d. a dozen on lamp chimneys, n.e.i. Lamp chimneys are used by people outback, who cannot obtain electric light. I should like to know what explanation the Minister has to offer of these high duties, to which I strongly object, and whether there is any prospect of relief being given.
.- In 1925, the Tariff Board recommended in regard to lamp chimneys the rates that are at presentoperating. The value of the total importations of all this class of goods, according to the last record that we have, was only £1,529.
– How can the Minister justify the inclusion of this item under the ‘heading of metals? It should come under that of glass or chinaware.
– Some lamp chimneys are made of metal.
Sub-items agreed to.
Remainder of division, viz., items 207, 208 (e), 214, 218, 220 (a), 221 and 222 agreed to.
Division 7. - Oils, Paints and Varnishes
Items 223, 225 (a), 227 (a) (b), 228 (a1, 2) (b) (c) (d), 229 (a) (f1, 2) (g) (h2, 3) (i), 231 (a2) (b1, 2, 3) (c) (d) and 233 agreed to.
Division 8. - Earthenware, Cement, China, Glass and Stone
Items 234 (a) (b) (c), 235, 236, 238, 240 (a), 241 (a), 242 (a) (d) (e) (g), 243 (b), 244 (a) (c), 245 to 249 (a) (b), 251 (b), 252 (a), 253 (a) to (d), 254 (a), 257 (a) (b) (c), 258, 260 and 262 (a) (b2) (f) (g) agreed to.
Division 9. - Drugs and Chemicals
Items 264 (a) (b) (cl, 2), 266 (a) (b), 268 (a), 269 (d), 272 and 274 (a) agreed to.
Item 275, sub-items (a1, 2) (b) (c) (Sulphur, pyrites).
.- There is a footnote stating that, so long as a bounty is payable on sulphur, it may be imported free of duty. There was no duty on sulphur until 1926. This commodity is used fairly extensively both in connexion with mining, and in the manufacture of fertilizers. I observe, also, that sulphur may be imported free if used for manufacturing purposes. I should like to obtain from the Minister some information as to how the duty is operating.
– The bounty is still being paid, and sulphur is still admitted free.
Sub-items agreed to.
Items 276 (a) (b), 277, 278 (a1) (b1, 2) (c) (d) and 279 (c) agreed to.
Item 280, sub-items (a) (c) (d1) (Drugs and chemicals).
Senator Sir WALTER KINGSMILL (Western Australia) [10.24]. - Sub-item 280 d1 deals with saccharin, and I should like to know from the Minister whether it is manufactured in the Commonwealth. If not, I do not think that there should be a duty on it.
– If the honorable senator turns to page 125 of the memorandum he will see that saccharin for medicinal purposes, as prescribed by departmental by-law, is admitted free.
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 281, sub-items (e) (h) to (Ll, 2)-
Drugs and chemicals -
Carbon bisulphide, ad val., British, 25 per cent.; general 45 per cent.
– Sub-item 281 h provides a duty of 25 per cent. British on carbon bisulphide. This chemical is used extensively for the destruction of rabbits, and, as we know, rabbits are numerous and increasing. The duty is not justified, and I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (h), ad valorem, British, free.
Tariff Board Report on Exchange and Primage - Party Voting on. Tariff Schedule.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– In view of the nature of the debate, which has taken place to-day on the customs tariff, I feel that we should urge upon the Government the need for making available to honorable senators the report of the Tariff Board on exchange and primage. It is impossible to conduct this debate satisfactorily without that report in our possession. We know that, the Government has been able to stave off defeat time and again to-day only by the help of members of the Labour party. The credit for assisting the Government, goes, not to members of the Scullin Labour party, but to members of the Lang Labour party. The Government has Senators Rae and Dunn to thank for having saved it from defeat. When we analyse the division list, and see how the members of the Country party and. the United Australia party have voted on the various items, we see in it the condemnation of the Government’s fiscal policy. I was pleased when the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) informed us that members of the Senate would have the Tariff Board’s report in their hands for the third reading of the bill. In the absence of that report, we are working in the dark.
– Did the honorable senator hear the speech of the Leader of the Government?
– I did, and I read the speech again next day most carefully. He said that the Government had not come to a decision regarding the report, and, consequently, could not release it. He then went on to say that, because revenue matters were involved, it would be necessary to summon the House of Representatives. That, I contend, is not such a tremendous undertaking. With the other members of my party,I feel that if the Government desires to restore confidence, and to dissipate a sense of injustice in the minds of many honorable senators, it should place the report in our hands. It may be an intricate document containing drastic recommendations; but, at the present time, when motions for the reductions of duties are constantly being moved, we should have in. our possession all the data bearing on the matters under discussion. I do not bring this proposal forward from any feeling of hostility to the Government. Mine is a constructive proposal designed to assist Ministers. I trust that the Government will take advantage of it, and will bring the report down, even if it involves summoning the House of Representatives.
– I should not have risen if Senator Hardy had not mentioned that Senator Rae and I had, in a number of divisions to-day, saved the Government from defeat. The honorable gentleman said that the Government has been dependent on the support of the Lang Labour party, as the Australian Labour party of New South Wales is sometimes called. I remind him. that we voted with the Government to-day in pursuance of plank No. 5 of the Australian Labour party, dealing with new protection, which is defined as -
My colleague, Senator Rae, and I voted for the Government to-day, not to save it from defeat, but in defence of our general principles. We believe it to be our bounden duty to support any measures to counteract the coolie outlook of Country party members and some supporters of the United Australia party. We are not so concerned with the political outlook of the Government, in a general sense, but we are concerned in protecting Australian industries, and to this endwill give our support to any pallialive measures which may be introduced, in the march of progress, in the interests of the workers, believing that such proposals may benefit those men and women engaged in industry who sent us to this chamber. It is from this angle that we gave our support to the Government today, and saved it from defeat by the combined forces, of disaffected Government supporters and Country party members, who have definitely stated, time and again, that their policy is to encourage the introduction of black-grown sugar from Java or any other cheap-labour country.
– An unholy alliance !
– The unholy alliance is between certain members of the Country party and a number of Government supporters. Since any proposal to alter the tariff schedule must be submitted to another place in. the form of a request, the defeat of the Minister in this chamber does not mean the defeat of the Government. It follows, therefore, that our support of the Government in divisions on a number of tariff items to-day did not mean that we saved the Ministry from defeat at all ; but it did mean that we did something to protect the basic principles contained in plank No. 5 of the Australian Labour party’s platform.
– I support the request made by Senator Hardy, because, in the absence of the Tariff Board’s report on the protective incidence of the exchange rate, we are to some extent working in the dark. I make no apology for the vote which I gave on a number of occasions to-day. for I was in good company, and I voted according to my convictions. Not having the Tariff Board’s report before us, it is possible that we did not do the right thing in respect of some items. We are entitled to know more about the situation. If the board’s report had been made available to us, perhaps we should have been able to work more amicably, and situations which developed to-day would not have arisen, the Government being saved from defeat by members of the Lang party voting with the Labour Opposition against requested amendments moved by Country party members. The request made by Senator Hardy ia so reasonable that I hope the Government will place the report of the Tariff Board in our hands as soon as possible.
– I should not have troubled the Senate at this late hour if Senator Hardy had not indulged in what I regarded as sneers at the expense of Senators Dunn and Rae, whom we regard as the representatives of the Lang party in this chamber. I do not see how those honorable senators could have done otherwise than vote for the Government, to protect the interests of the Australian workers. The so-called country section of torydom the representatives of the United Country party in this chamber, are Labour’s bitterest opponents. I do npt wish to make use of this occasion to say anything that may affect our relationship in this chamber, hut I will say that the Labour party was approached by a certain member of the so-called Country party with a proposal that its supporters should join with the United Country party in voting against the Government.
– When did this happen?
– The honorable senator may not be aware of the overtures, but I think a number of other honorable senators are. The incident reminds me of the story of a bad king with an even worse son. When the latter hotly denied that he was a party to a plot to take the crown from his father, the king bitterly replied, “I am not worrying Harry; they will not take my crown to give it to you.” Labour is not going to get hot and sweaty to smash the United Australia party for the United Country party. That is our position in this chamber. In Queensland we are unaware of the existence of a Country party. In. that State, there is only one anti-Labour gang, which is known alphabetically as the C.P.N.’s, otherwise, the Country Progressive National party. If the order of adjectives means anything, the so-called Country group is on top of the nationalist section of the verbal trinity of “ See Pea Hens “, and the Nationals at the bottom, with anything progressive squeezed tightly without hope of release between the upper and nether millstones. Personally, I am strongly against a multiplicity of parties, with confounding slogans and policies. Labour knows only one enemy, and it is not seeking the aid of, nor is it anxious to assist, false friends, because it knows that, while a bad motive may secure a temporary success, the straightforward course is the only short road to a victory that is satisfying and lasting. One tory senator from a southern State entered this chamber by performing the circus trick of riding the National, Liberal, and Country parties, and getting votes from each. It is a form of political dishonesty for Labour’s opponents to pose as separate parties, and coalesce at the last moment before the elections, or in Parliament, unitedly to oppose Labour on every critical issue. We have supported the Government on the tariff items because its policy was more acceptable than that of its opponents. I have been tempted to ask for increased duties on certain items, but did not do so because the Labour party had not the numbers to secure the adoption of a request, and because I know that the Government is committed to tariff revision upon the basis of the Tariff Board’s reports. It is ridiculous for the extreme wing of the non-Labour parties to attempt to reduce duties merely for propaganda purposes. Senator Hardy cast an undeserved shir on the members of the Lang group. At the elections in 1928, Senators Dunn and Rae were returned as members of the Federal Labour party. Since that date the Lang group has had a difference of opinion with that party, but it was as members of the party that the electors of New South Wales entrusted Senators Dunn and Rae with the responsibility of representing Labour in this Parliament. Those honorable gentlemen are fully entitled to join with other members of the Opposition in supporting the moderately protective policy of the Government. There is no justification for the sneering statement that the Government is uniting with members of the Lang group, but I, personally, would sooner he associated with the Lang group than with the Country party which seeks Labour votes only for its. own purposes.
– When, during the debate on the second reading of the customs tariff, Senator
Hardy asked for the production of the Tariff Board’s report on primage and exchange, I was much impressed by what he said. But the answer of the Leader of the Senate fully satisfied me, and it has not since been canvassed. If not unanswerable it was unanswered.
Some senators have referred to-night to the Government having been saved from defeat on the customs tariff by the votes of its political opponents. I remind honorable senators that governments are not defeated in this chamber, and that fact is of extreme importance to those who have voted against items sponsored by the Government.
– Senator MacDonald made the astonishing statement that some members of the Labour party had been approached on behalf of the Country party to vote against the Government. If there is one senator in this chamber who can. speak officially for the Country party, it is myself, and I give that statement a straight-out denial. A member or members of the Country party may have spoken to members of the Opposition regarding their votes on certain items dealt with to-night, but such representations were certainly not made on behalf of the Country party.
In regard to the Tariff Board’s report on primage and exchange, I was quite satisfied with the assurance given by the Leader of the Senate during the second-, reading debate that that document would be made available to honorable senators as early as possible. But, as the discussion of the tariff schedule proceeds, the fact becomes increasingly apparent that the report is essential to a proper consideration of many of the items.
– Senator Hardy complimented the Government on having been saved by Senator Dunn and myself. Certainly, politics makes strange bed-fellows at times, and overtures were made to us to-night by those intending to vote in opposition to the Government. ‘ Certainly more than one member of the Country party approached Senator Dunn and me and asked us to vote with them against the Government.
– We would be glad to have the support of the honorable senator.
– Senator Hardy was one of those gentlemen and Senator Elliott was another.
– This is very interesting.
– In supporting the Government on certain tariff items, we chose the lesser of two evils.
– Did Senators Hardy and Elliott approach the Lang group for a coalition?
– They asked us for our support, but offered us nothing in return. We are pledged to the policy of “ new protection “ which means that, when we grant protective duties, we shall endeavour to ensure as far as possible that the manufacturers do not either unduly exploit the consumer or drag down the wages of the workers. Although members of the Country party asked for our votes, they are not prepared to support any item of our policy. They will not help us to raise wages; on the contrary, they want to reduce the cost of production by the easiest method, namely, by reducing the workers’ standards of living, and they would admit the products of black-labour countries free of duty, or at very low rates. Therefore, Ave could never dream of supporting them as a party.
– Did not some honorable senators on the Opposition side volunteer the statement that they intended to support Senator Johnston’s amendment to the second reading of the bill?
– Senator Dunn and I certainly did not; other Labour senators can answer for themselves. In no circumstances could we support a freetrade policy, which would mean opening the doors to the importation of goods produced by coloured labour. I have no racial prejudices, but coloured labour is utilized for breaking down the standard of living of the white man.
.- The party to which I belong has ample justification for the votes that it has cast to-day in support of the Government’s tariff policy. In that respect, we have been consistent, and we shall remain so. I wonder, however, how Senator Hardy, who became hysterical in this chamber about a fortnight ago in his denunciation of the Government, and particularly of certain members of it, for having broken an alleged agreement between them and the Country party prior to the last election, can justify the votes which he and his colleagues have given here to-day, in view of a statement made by Mr. C. L. A. Abbott, who, according to Senator Hardy, took a prominent part at the conference between representatives of the United Australia party and the United Country party. In to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald, Mr. Abbott is reported to have said -
The conference was unanimous on this, and it was undoubtedly implied that tariff revision should be carried out by an impartial tribunal, such as the Tariff Board, but not by Parliament.
Yet to-day we have had the spectacle of Senator Hardy and his Country party colleagues consistently voting for tariffmaking by the Parliament, ignoring the appeal of the Government to wait until reports on the items had been received from the Tariff Board. It is not we, but they, who have changed their front.
[10.55].- I thought that I had fully dealt with the subject of exchange, which has been mentioned by Senators Badman, Carroll and Hardy. If those honorable senators read my speech, they will realize that it is impracticable to deal with the exchange position in connexion with individual tariff items. I distinctly pointed out, and, I think, proved that it would be necessary to apply a formula or formulae to the tariff as a whole. At any rate, I was under the impression that I had thoroughly satisfied the Senate on that point.
– The only reason why we brought the matter up was to avoid the recommittal of the bill.
– We have heard some interesting revelations to-night, and I desire to say a few. words regarding some of the reflections of Senators Hardy and Badman upon the association of the Labour party with the Government in support of the tariff schedule. Honorable senators of the Labour party have given their reasons for this. They have voted in accord ance with their party’s policy of protection, and because the requested amendments were for the reduction of the amount of protection afforded. For that action members of the Labour party will answer to their own constituents. I can only express my surprise that the Government was not supported by members of the Country party, for I say, advisedly, that we had far more right to expect the votes of honorable senators of the Country party on the divisions that have taken place during the last two days than those of any other section in this chamber.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Because practically every item on which we have had a division provides for a duty that was either introduced by the Bruce-Page Government, or was on the statute-book during that Government’s term of office, and that Government could not have lived for a day without the support of the Country party. That ministry always included four members of the Country party, and those members were equally responsible for the items with which we have been dealing to-day. If the Bruce-Page Government had not received the support of the Country party in another place, it could not have continued in office for a day, and could not have placed those duties on the statute-book or retained them there.
– But the exchange position was not the same then as it is now.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Country party is just as responsible as the Nationalist party for every one of the items on which we have voted to-day ; but we have had the spectacle of members of the Country party voting to reduce items sponsored by a government that was kept in office because of their support. We have every right to expect the support of the Country party for a government whose only crime is that it has asked for the continuance of duties that were imposed or retained by the BrucePage Government. Therefore, I think that Senator Hardy’s criticism to-night might better have been directed to his own party than to members of the Labour party.
– We were endeavouring to save Australian industries.
– To Senator Hardy it is, apparently, heinous for the Labour parly to vote strictly in accordance with its principles, and support the Government, as it has done, during the last few days; but it would be a praiseworthy act if Labour senators had listened to the blandishments of Senator Hardy, and voted against’ their own convictions for a reduction of duties. Labour senators are taunted because they are voting in accordance with their own principles, which on this occasion happen to coincide with the attitude taken up by the Government, and that is precisely the attitude taken up by the Bruce-Page Government on. each of the items voted upon to-day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 June 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1933/19330621_senate_13_140/>.