13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1933; No. 80.
Northern Territory Acceptance) Act and Northern Territory (Administration Act) - Public Service Ordinance - Regulations amended. -
Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act - Regulations amended- -Statutory Rules 1933, No. 71.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs on what basis the Tariff Board assesses the rates of duty recommended to the Minister?
– Presumably, the hoard recommends the duties which, in its opinion, are necessary to enable Australian industries to compete satisfactorily with the manufactures of other countries.
– I ask -the Leader of the Senate - 1. What is the maximum subsidy that the Australian taxpayers may be called upon to pay in connexion with the Singapore-Cootamundra service? 2. Has Australian Empire Airways Limited officially conveyed to the Minister for Defence an ultimatum, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, to the effect that if the’ contracts are sectionali zed that company will not tender ? 3. Will the Minister table the text of the negotiations that have taken place, according to the Sydney Morning. Herald, between the Imperial Government, Imperial Airways, and the Commonwealth Government? 4. Does the Minister propose to afford the Senate an opportunity to discuss the proposals before tenders are called, in accordance with the promise which Senator Hardy alleges the Minister made to him? 5. In view of the Minister’s promise, that only Australian companies will be considered, will the Minister include in the conditions of tender a clause specifying that all tenders must be accompanied by a statement of the tenderer’s paid-up capital and a list of its shareholders?
– The conditions of tender are at present under consideration by the Government, and until a decision has been reached, no disclosure of them can be made. They are not, however, likely to depart from the announced policy of the Government, and, therefore, the Government will proceed to invite tenders. Should, however, any variation of government policy be contemplated, members of the Parliament in both chambers will have an opportunity to discuss it in connexion with the budget, which will be presented before tenders can be accepted. No inquiry into the composition of any company likely to tender is called for at this stage.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs state what -action the Government proposes to take to investigate the allegations made by SenatorReid last week regarding the bribery of customs officers ?
– -The allegations have been brought to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs, who, I understand, has communicated with SenatorReid, and is now awaiting a reply from him.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
Invalid pensions, 72,842.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The answers ‘to the honorable senator’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the Prime Minister’s statement that “those who know Australia best are confident that we can people and develop our Commonwealth with the white race “’ -
Is it a fact that at present immigrants from Europe with money, who have the means and wish to settle on the land, are denied admission to Australia?
Is it a fact that relatives, including brothers, of established settlers from the Continent of Europe, are denied entry to the Commonwealth to join their relatives here, even where satisfactory guarantees for their permanent maintenance are available?
What are the reasons for such restrictions, if any, upon the admission of white settlers, and are they reconcilable with the Prime Minister’s statement . quoted above?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions are -
asked the Minister rep resenting the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
Bill brought up by Senator McLachlan, and read a first time.
In committee : Consideration resumed from 7th July (vide page 2960).
Group 5. - Amendments made by the present Government which are supported by Tariff Board reports.
Division 7. - Oils, Paints and Varnishes
Item 226 agreed to.
Division 8. - Earthenware, Cement, China, Glass and Stone
Items 237 (a) (b) and 239 agreed to.
Item 241, sub-items (b) (cl, 2).
,- In sub-item c, the duty on sanitary and lavatory articles of earthenware is 35 per cent, when these articles do not exceed in value 20s. per article, and in the case of articles above 20s. per article, it is 25 per cent. “Will the Minister explain the reason for the variation of the duty?
.- The Tariff Board dealt with this industry recently, and in its summary stated that the evidence indicated that the operations of the local manufacturers are confined to the production of the cheaper grades of earthenware articles, for which there is a general demand. Practically the whole of the trade is held by Australian manufacturers, although some goods which could be supplied from local sources are being imported, and it is with a view to stopping importations of these goods that the extra 10 per cent, is proposed in paragraph cl. The board states that the more expensive lines are not manufactured in Australia, and accordingly recommends a reversion to the 1921-30 tariff.
.- I had expected the Minister to explain that the local manufacturers had experienced difficulty in carrying on because of insufficient protection, and owing to the falling off in purchases of the cheaper sanitary and lavatory earthenware articles. I understand . that the bulk of the importations come from Great Britain. I cannot see justification for increasing the duty on the cheaper grades of sanitary earthenware.
– The differentiation in the duties, I am informed, had the support of the British manufacturers, whose representatives tendered evidence before the Board. They recognized that it would be more economical to establish one manufacturing unit in this country for the making of the cheaper articles locally. The duty in paragraph 2 of subitem c is a reduction on the Scullin tariff, which was 35 per cent. British.
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 242, sub-items (b) (c) -
Glass, viz. : -
Sheet, viz.: - Plain clear, per 100 sq. ft., British, 2s.; general, 4s., and in respect to sub-item (B), a deferred duty as follows: - On and after 1st February, 1934, . . . ad valorem, British, 45 per cent.; general, 75 per cent.
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-item (b) by leaving out the provision for imposing deferred duties.
No Australian industry enjoys a greater monopoly than does the Australian Glass Company which, having command of the market, charges whatever prices it pleases. The Tariff Board, in its report in August, 1932, stated -
The board considers that the rates it is now recommending should not apply until the local manufacturers conclusively demonstrate that they are able to produce glass satisfactory as to types, weight and quality, and in quantities sufficient to meet a reasonable proportion of the Australian requirements. To this end, the board suggests that the rates be inserted in the tariff schedule as a “ deferred duty “, and that, pending the bringing into force of such rates, the following rates operate: - Per 100 sq. ft., British, 2s.; intermediate, 3s.; general, 4s.
When the Government decided to adopt the beard’s recommendation, the director of the Australian Glass Manufacturers Company announced his intention to dismiss 250 men from the company’s employment; but in response to an appeal by the Prime Minister, he re-considered his decision, the understanding being that the Prime Minister would refer the matter back to the board for further consideration. In the meantime, and before the embargo was imposed on importations, merchants in Adelaide and Perth had placed orders overseas for supplies of glass, but, owing to the virtual prohibition which was then placed on the importation of glass, they were permitted to take only 28 per cent, of their orders out of bond. This was a serious matter for those who were relying on imported glass with which to fill orders. The Australian Glass Company was given a virtual monopoly of the
Australian market. This is a wealthy firm. The price of its fi shaves has varied considerably from time to time, but in to-day’s newspapers the most’ recent sales were quoted at 48s. 6d. Merchants of Adelaide and Perth are not allowed to obtain supplies from overseas, even though they could get them cheaper after paying the present duty, exchange, &e. Under the Scullin tariff, there was a duty on 16-oz. glass of 12s. 6d. per 100 square feet, British preferential, while the general tariff was 16s. 8d. Under the duties which prevailed after -the Government had accepted the Tariff Board’s recommendation, some consignments were imported by merchants from Adelaide and Perth, and in one instance an order worth £S8 in London cost £154 when landed in Australia. Later, when the Glass Company approached the Government, the Tarin* Board’s recommendations were brushed aside, though I cannot understand why the Government should have allowed itself ‘to be influenced by an organization which enjoys such exceptional trade advantages in this country. There was no excuse for such weakness, particularly having regard to the Tariff Board’s report. Senator McLachlan has stated, time after time, that the Government proposes to be guided by the Tariff Board’s recommendation, but, in this instance, although it allowed itself to be so guided for a little while, it eventually yielded to the representations of the Glass Company. Discussing the proposed restriction to be placed on importations, the Tariff Board, in its report of the 26th January, 1933, stated -
It is very plain that the selling price of glass as quoted by Australian Window Glass Proprietary Limited is high as compared with the landed duty free price of imported glass. Taking the first bracket? (-/25) of 16-oz. glass as typical, the f.o.b. price of Belgian thirds is 8s. 7d. per 100 square feet, and of British fourths 12s. Hd. per 100 square feet (the prices quoted being in sterling), whereas the Australian manufacturers’ .price is 27s. per 100 square feet. Prior to the 20th June, 1930, when the revenue duties of 2s. (British preferential tariff) and 4s. (general tariff) per 100 square feet were operating! and exchange ,’was normal, fourths quality British glass was being landed into store at 19a. 4d. per 100 square feet, and thirds quality Belgian glass at 17s. 6d. per 100 square feet. This represented a duty-free price of 17s. 4d. for the British, and 13s. 6d. for the Belgian product. These prices compare with 27s. for the Australian-made glass.
At present, in spite of the added cost of importing due to exchange and primage. 16-oz. glass, first bracket, can be landed into store from the United Kingdom at 23s. 10$d. per 100 square feet, including 2s. duty, and 2oi per cent, exchange, and from Belgium at 21s. 7d. per 100 square feet.
Here is a telegram which I have just received from a glass distributor in Adelaide -
Cannot obtain Australian sheet glass from manufacturers. In view of board’s reports consider reduction essential. Embargo restricts legitimate business. Landed cost per case 22s. against Australian 27s.
There appears to be little doubt that the public in Australia is being fleeced. Why cannot Australian manufacturers keep their costs down, instead of taking full advantage of protective duties, primage, exchange rates, &c. ? The report’ goes on -
In the terms of the Customs Tariff Act the company has no claim to the duty until glass is produced in Australia in reasonable quantities and of satisfactory quality, and the board has already expressed the view that these conditions have not yet been fulfilled. As stated above, duties equivalent to 100 per cent. (British preferential tariff), and 17« per cent, (general tariff) would be necessary to secure the market to Australian-made glass. Moreover, most of the protection would have to be used in fixing the price of the Australian glass. The board is not prepared to recommend these duties. . . . The board considers that in view of the importance of glass in the building industry, higher rates than these would not be justified, and has only increased the previous recommendation with a desire to meet the very difficult situation that has developed. The industry based on se high a cost would be of doubtful value on economic grounds, but the board is actuated in recommending it by the fact that the deferred duty encouraged the installation of the factory. The board further considers that for the twelve months’ period importations should continue to be rationed under cover of the prohibition now operating. On the evidence submitted at the inquiry, the board is of opinion that at the present moment the annual consumption in Australia might lie placed at 5.000,000 square feet, and it is considered that 3,750,000 feet of that quantity should be permitted import. The disposal of glass now in bond, because of the prohibition, does not come within the terms of the reference to the board, but the board considers on the evidence submitted at the inquiry, that the conditions of the market, and also the circumstances under which the prohibition was issued, warrant the immediate release of this glass at the rates of duty now operating.
Another telegram from an Adelaide glass distributor is as follows : -
Consider Parliament should carry out Tariff Board report. Uncertainty caused by embargo demoralizes trade. Evidence previously submitted to Tariff Board clearly indicates what heavy price increases consumers have to pay.
Is Australia ever going to give the consumers a fair deal, or are the manufacturers always to he in a position to exploit the public?
– I do not know whether the honorable senator desires this whole subject to be ventilated, but I remind him that the very thing which he proposes to strike out’ from the schedule was recommended by the Tariff Board. The only part of the Tariff Board’s recommendation to which effect was not given was that relating to the rationing of importations. The Tariff Board has furnished two reports on glass in fairly rapid succession, the first in August, 1932, and the second in January, 1933. In September, 1932, the duties on glass were reduced to the 1921-30 level, the principal reasons being stated as follows: -
The board stated that the high duties then obtaining would have meant an added cost to the community of over £150,000 per annum if the whole of the requirements were imported, and at that date glass had not been successfully manufactured in Australia. ‘
I ask honorable senators to note that point, as it has an important bearing on the subject. At that time glass was not being commercially manufactured in Australia.
In view of the claim of local manufacturers that the position with regard to local production had greatly improved since June, the time when the board held its first inquiries, the question was again referred to the Tariff Board on 23rd September, 1932. The board was asked the following questions: -
Concurrent with the reference of the question to the Tariff Board, a proclamation was issued prohibiting the importation of plain clear sheet glass, except with the consent of the Minister. Delivery has been allowed of all the glass on order at the time the prohibition was proclaimed, the deliveries aggregating some 4,000,000 square feet. Rationing did occur in respect of 4,000,000 square feet already ordered, and the whole of that quantity has been distributed to importers.
The Tariff Board furnished its second report on plain clear sheet glass on 26th January,. 1933. The board is of opinion that the justification of ‘protective duties is dependent on the ability of the local manufacturer to supply the needs of the Australian market, and that three aspects should be considered, namely: (1) quality; (2) supply; and (3) price. Briefly, the board’s conclusions with regard to these three aspects are as follow : -
The board concluded that, although there has been an improvement in the average quality produced, there have been considerable fluctuations and variations of the quality marketed.
Honorable senators will recall the discussion in this chamber, in which I participated, in regard to the prohibition of importations. I then explained that the works engaged in the production of plain sheet glass had been equipped at a cost of £300,000. The failures which occurred were due not to any defect in the equipment, but in operating the plant. These difficulties had been practically overcome when the manufacturers were again confronted with similar trouble. The board had these facts before it as also had the Government, as well as a few additional points. The board’s conclusions continue -
It was also remarked by the board that the average quality of the glass produced up to the temporary closing down of the factory is far below the quality of glass imported into Australia in recent years, and is not such as to fill the demands of the building trade.
The closing down of the works was necessary to enable certain parts of the plant to be cleaned. After examining the volume of evidence submitted at the inquiry the board considered that the local manufacturers had failed to meet the requirements of ‘ the building trade in the supply of suitable plain clear sheet glass. The board points out that the local manufacturer’s selling prices of the four brackets commonly ordered in 16-oz. and 21-oz. weights exceed the landed costs, of imported glass, excluding duty, but including exchange, by - British, 16-oz., 4s. 6d. per case of 100 square feet; 21-oz., 7s. 6d. per case of 100 square feet. Belgian, 16-oz., 9s. per case of 100 square feet; 21-oz., 13s. 6d. per case of 100 square feet. “With regard to the local manufacturer’s contention that, by doing the bulk of distributing himself, the cost to the public will be lowered, and that the high rates imposed by the Scullin Government will not affect prices to the user, the board states that, taking all factors into consideration, it is convinced that distributing costs will be increased rather than decreased by adding seriously to’ the first cost of glass to the distributing trade. The board concludes that the present selling prices of Australian plain clear sheet glass will mean increased costs to users. The board points out that the Australian market is limited, and difficulty will be experienced in disposing of the large proportion of the lower grades of glass. These factors, coupled with the costs of production as submitted by the company, led the board to the conclusion that satisfactory glass can be produced in this country only at a cost that will detrimentally affect the building industry, and that this will tend to decrease employment. Expressed in a few words, the board was of opinion that the industry is not economic, and can only bc supported at a cost too great to a dependent industry such as the building industry.
On referring the glass duties back to the board, the Minister asked, first, as to the capacity of the local sheet glass comp.any to supply the Australian market with suitable glass in sufficient quantities at a reasonable price, to which the reply was made that the company had failed to satisfy the board on all three points, namely, quality, quantity, and price.
The second question asked of the board was what rates of duty were necessary for the protection of industry, providing the industry is efficiently organized. The board was of the opinion that the industry was not efficiently organized, but that if the company could bridge the gap between costs of production then obtaining, and selling-price rates of .100 per cent., British preferential tariff, and 175 per cent., general tariff, would be necessary to secure the market to the Australian manufacturers. The board was not prepared to recommend such high rates, for the reason that they would be used in fixing the price of Australian glass.
The board recommends the present ra tes of 2s. per 100 square feet, British preferential tariff, and 4s., general tariff, with provision for deferred duties of 45 per cent., British preferential tariff, and 75 per cent.,- general tariff, such deferred duties to be either operated or terminated at the end of twelve months, according to whether it can or cannot be proved that such duties would be effective. The deferred rates now recommended are higher than those at present included in the tariff by 5 per cent., British preferential tariff, and 15 per cent., general tariff. The board is also of the opinion that for the twelve months’ period importations should continue to be rationed under cover of the prohibition now operating. The present annual consumption in Australia i3 estimated by the board at 5,000,000 square feet, and the board considers that three-fourths of that quantity should be permitted importation. The Government was quite prepared” to abide by the Tariff Board’s recommendation^ provided the facts Were as set out in the report. However, since the Tariff Board reported on this matter in January last, the local manufacturers have made representations to the effect that there is now a. marked difference in the condition of the industry from that in which the board then found it, in regard to both supplies and the quality of the output. On the question of price, the company states that since manufacture in Australia commenced, the prices to the user, as distinct from the distributor, have shown a marked decline. The local manufacturers claimed also that the adoption of the hoard’s recommendation would result in 240 men being thrown out of employment. The importing interests contend that the board’s recommendation for the continuation of the prohibition and the rationing thereunder is illogical and against the weight of evidence tendered to the board. The feasibility of rationing is also questioned.
The Government considered that it was inadvisable to accept statements made by sectional interests, but felt that an opportunity should be afforded the opposing interests to establish their statements. At present there is a sufficient quantity of glass in Australia to meet the demand for at least twelve months at the present rate of consumption. Such being the case, there is no need for further importations at present. As to the board’s suggestion that importations be rationed under the cover of the existing prohibition, there are practical difficulties in rationing imports as distinct from rationing of glass in bond. It’ was easy to ration the glass in bond, but almost impossible to ration further importations.
– Is not rationing contrary to governmental policy?
– It is; but the honorable senator will realize the difficulty confronting the Government. The Leader of the Country party expressed himself in accord with what the Government had done, and said that there was no other alternative.
– Is not this subitem, which provides for prohibition of imports, a breach of the Ottawa agreement?
– No. It does not touch that matter at all. There is no blinking the fact that £300,000 was expended by this company in the establishment of this part of its factory, thus there has been no violation of the terms of the Ottawa agreement. I repeat that there are practical difficulties in the way of the rationing of imports as distinct from the rationing of glass in bond. Some of these are -
Accordingly, the Government came to the decision to give effect to the duties recommended, and to refer the matter back to the board for further consideration, meanwhile maintaining the prohibition against imports.
– May no glass be imported at the present time?
– Not at the moment. The department advises that the supplies on hand are ample to meet Australia’s requirements for the next twelve months. “When imports are shown to be necessary, they will be permitted. Doubtless some honorable senators may consider that this is a loose sort of way in which to conduct business. I point out, however, that this company has entered into a new department of glassmaking in Australia. The one fact that stands out in the report of the board is that the company encountered tremendous difficulties at the outset. On one occasion the board found that it was producing glass satisfactorily, and on another occasion that it was in a muddle, the product being either inferior in quality or brittle. The former Minister for Trade and Customs, Sir Henry Gullett, took the opportunity, before he left for Ottawa, to inspect the company’s works accompanied by departmental experts. They were then found not to be functioning satisfactorily. Early in the present year, however, the present Minister (Mr.White), accompanied by one of the same officers, and other experts, visited the works, and found that glass was being turned out satisfactorily. I am informed that it has been turned out in the most satisfactory manner ever since.
– On what date was the last inspection made?
– Towards the end of February, , or early in March last. The Tariff Board has reported that the duty proposed by the Government is necessary. I hold no brief for this company, and do not think that it has treated the people of Australia as well as it might have done; but it was embarking on a new enterprise, and its difficulties must be recognized. Its shares may stand at a very high price ; but that is probably due to. the excellent quality of the other glass articles that it produces.
– Its profits also are high.
– I am assured that the price of glass is lower to-day than it has been for some considerable time, and that it compares most favorably with the price overseas. We are all rather inclined to stress the aspect of profits; but there is something to be said also on the other side.
– The Minister has exhausted his time.
– Last September the Tariff Board reported, in effect, that the manufacture of glass of this kind in Australia was not economic. It practically recommended the sweeping away of the embargo and the very high protective tariff of the Scullin Government, which raised the price of glass by1½d. or1¾d. per lb., and the reversion to the light revenue duty of the Bruce-Page Government. The Government acted upon that report. Then this powerful combine represented to the Government and in the press that, if the former duties and the embargo were not re-imposed, a number of its employees would be immediately dismissed. The Government, which is supposed to legislate for a continent, ran for cover like a startled’ hare, reimposed the embargo as quickly as it could, and again referred the matter to the Tariff Board, although the ink was hardly dry on its previous report.
– I regard the remarks of the honorable senator as offensive, and ask that they be withdrawn.
– I ask the honorable senator to withdraw his remarks.
– I withdraw” them. I object to the action taken, particularly as, under the Ottawa agreement, we have undertaken to act in accordance with the reports of the board. ‘ In connexion with article after article, especially those produced by monopolies of this sort, the
Government refers back to the board any report that it does not like, thus practically requesting the board to alter its recommendations,’ and favour increased protection to the local industry regardless of its effect upon the consumers. It is surprising that although evidence apparently reaches Ministers which induces them to refer matters back to the Tariff Board, when these matters have been sent back, that evidence does not appear to be forthcoming.’ It seems that until the board presents a report that will meet with the wishes of this powerful combine, the public will obtain no relief from the merciless exploitation to which it is to be subjected under this deferred item, so soon ‘as it comes into operation. Then good-bye to reasonably cheap glass in Australia.
It is interesting also to remember that the Minister who referred the matter to the board for another hearing said that there were about 5,000,000 feet of glass in Australia, and that, therefore, no harm would be done by rationing the supply for an extended period, or by placing an embargo upon importations. When that statement was made, the Minister might have added that no harm would ‘be done to the fortunate owners of the glass, but the unfortunate consumers could pay and look pleasant, as they did not appear in the picture. When these deferred duties are again imposed, we shall return to much the same condition of affairs as obtained when the Scullin tariff was in operation, although, of course, the deferred duties are not quite so heavy as those ruling under the Scullin Government’s regime. On this matter, I have received a letter which was published in the West Australian newspaper, and written by Mr. J. M. Hill, a leading builder and contractor in Western Australia. Writing from Cottesloe on the 18th July, 1931- I am not blaming this Government for the tariff that obtained then - he said -
In your issue of 16th inst. Mr. Hume Cook, in a statement defending protection, concludes as follows: - “It is part of the protectionist policy to admit commodities free of duty that are not produced in Australia.”
Common window glass is one example of the way this protectionist theory works out in practice. It is not produced in Australia, but is, nevertheless,. subjected to an extremely high duty. The result is that a square to suit a very ordinary sash, and worth in its country of origin ls. 6d., coats in Perth 12s. The farmer called upon to produce’ the value o£ six bushels of wheat to make such a purchase here, and who realizes its worth abroad is less than one, can scarcely he expected to share Mr. Cook’s enthusiasm for high protection.
As a fact, common window glass is now a luxury even for the rich. Others may soon have to use pa.per for windows, as do the Japanese. It can however be said, the .Japanese are steadily progressing from paper to glass; in Australia, progress is in the opposite direction.
The report issued by the Tariff Board on the 26th January last, stated -
In the terms of the Customs Tariff Act, the company has no claim to the duty until glass is produced in Australia in reasonable quantities, and of satisfactory quality, and the board lias already expressed the view that these conditions have not yet been fulfilled.
As stated above, duties equivalent to 100 per cent. British preferential tariff, and 175 per cent, general tariff, would be necessary to secure the market to Australian-made glass. Moreover, most of that protection would have to be used in fixing the price of the Australian glass. The board is not preferred to recommend these duties.
The board suggests that the rates nowoperating, namely, 2s. British preferential tariff, and 4s. general tariff, per 100 sq. ft., remain in the schedule for twelve months, and that deferred duties be inserted, to be either operated or terminated at the end of that period according to whether it can or cannot be shown that such duties would be effective. The deferred rates recommended are 45 per cent. British preferential tariff, and 75 per cent, general tariff, which are higher than those recommended in the board’s previous reports, namely, 40 per cent, and 60 per cent, respectively.
As the result of the matter being referred back to the board, it altered the recommendations made by it a few months previously. The board added-
The board considers that in view of the importance of glass in the building industry, higher rates than these would not be justified, and has only increased the previous recommendation with a desire to meet the very difficult situation that has developed.
I object to the deferred duties, and more still to the embargo that is now operating.
– Once again we are witnessing a struggle between the importing interests and the real interests of the people of this Commonwealth. It appears to me to be remarkable that persons living in Australia, and entirely dependent on Australia for their means of livelihood, should adopt such an un-Australian attitude as is displayed by some honorable senators in the matter of the protection of our own industries. It is only within the last year or two that plain sheet glass has been manufactured to any extent in this country. It is urged that the company which makes glass in Australia has not “ played the game.” I am aware that not long ago this company went to the Arbitration Court, and demanded a reduction! of the wages of its employees. “With that action, of course, I have no sympathy whatever. A government carrying out the protective policy of the Australian Labour Party would see that the company was not allowed to offend in that respect, because my party stands for the “new” protection, under which the benefits given to Australian manufacturers must be shared with their employees. But .that is not the question we are now debating. It has been said that the local company makes enormous profits, because of the protection accorded to it under .the tariff ; but are not all commercial operations conducted for private profit? “We, on this side, say that the manufacture of all the things needed for the use of the community should be carried on, not for private profit but for public benefit. It is an interesting psychological study to observe the holy horror with which some honorable senators opposite view the profits made by Australian companies, while making no protest whatever against the even .greater profits of the importing interests. I have here an extract from The Australian Manufacturer of the 23rd January, 1932. The document is valuable for its illustrations of the factory established at Alexandria, in New South “Wales, by Australian “Window Glass Proprietary Limited. This company began the manufacture of window glass in Australia early in 1932, and since it has been in operation it has accomplished a great deal. The document also give3 a concise account of the process of glass manufacture.
Reference has been made to the conflicting reports submitted on different occasions by the Tariff Board, and Senator Johnston suggested that some mysterious influences had been at work. No definite charge was made - there never is - but the suggestion cannot be evaded. There are those who claim that there is no special virtue in consistency, and I am inclined to agree with them, excepting when fundamental matters of principle are involved. The difference between the two reports of the Tariff Board can easily be accounted for-, in the interval the conditions surrounding the manufacture of glass in Australia altered considerably. When the second report was submitted, the position in the industry was entirely different from what it was on the first occasion.
Before reading what the Australian Window Glass Proprietary Limited has to say for itself, I wish to make it clear that I have no connexion whatever with this company. I do not even know where its factory is, except that it is at Alexandria. I have never seen it, nor have I met any of the men connected with it. I have no shares in the company, which, considering the fabulous profits which it is said to be making, is obviously my misfortune. I rise to-day, as I did last year, when we were discussing the manufacture of window glass, solely because so long as I remain a member of this chamber, I shall do what I can to protect Australian industries.
– What is the date of the document which the honorable senator holds in his hand ?
– I do not know why the honorable senator always seems suspicious regarding the date of any document from which I quote, hut I hasten to inform him that the document is dated the8th May, 1933. Before proceeding to read from it, I wish to emphasize that this company manufactures a number of articles other than plain, sheet, window glass. Its manufactures include fancy glassware, as well as lampshades, globes, and other articles. I have seen displays of these goods, and I know that they are of good quality, although I have never seen its window glass. The company states -
The Australian Window Glass Company Limited based its request for protection on four points, viz.: -
1 ) The action of the Government in1925 encouraging the expenditure of the necessary capital by providing a “deferred” duty, imposes an obligation on this Government to adequately protect the industry.
The quality and the quantity of the Australian glass is entirely satisfactory.
The rates of duty recommended by the Tariff Board as deferred duties are inadequate.
Australian manufacture means reduced prices to the consumer.
I hope that Senator Badman is paying attention to that reply to the inaccurate statements contained in the telegram which he read. The statement continues -
In November, 1932, the Tariff Board conducted its inquiry. The report was made available this week - nearly six months after the inquiry. The board says - “ The justification of protective duties 1 on sheet glass centres 1 round the ability of the local manufacturer to supply the needs of the market and in this connexion three aspects must be considered, viz. : -
Following upon this, the board says, “ The company has failed to satisfy the board on all three points “. We challenge the finding of the board.
– Of course it does.
– Senator Payne would challenge any statement which supports an Australian manufacturing concern. The company’s statement proceeds -
It is wrong on all three points, and its finding is not in accordance with the evidence nor with the position that can be demonstrated to-day by a visit to the factory. 1. As to quality -Our glass is sold on a guarantee that it is superior to that imported from Belgium - and Belgium has been the chief supplier of sheet glass to this market for years. We are prepared to submit 1,000,000 square feet of our glass to any independent tribunal at once for judgment on quality. The board’s remarks’ regarding quality and “the art of glassdrawing” shows the board to be ignorant on the subject and totally unfit to express an opinion involving a technical knowledge of glass. Further than this, the board has expressed an opinion on statements made (by opponents of the industry) from six to twelve months ago - statements which subsequent events have proved to be incorrect. The truth may be ascertained by an examination of the stocks we hold and the products at present coming through the machines. We, therefore, register a definite and emphatic protest and denial of the board’s finding on the quality of our glass, and submit an offer for any test that the Government cares to suggest.
Supply. - The board has said that it is not satisfied with the “ supply “ or quantity of Australian glass. This is truly a remarkable statement, and is directly contrary to the actual position. How the board has arrived at its conclusions does not appear in the report, but the answer is simple. In four months since the Australian Window Glass Company rebuilt their furnaces the production has exceeded demands by over 100 per cent., and stocks have accumulated in sufficient quantities to meet the next five months’ requirements. This applies to builders’ quality, picture frames, and horticultural - anything, in fact, from 12 ounces to¼ inch. We, therefore, definitely deny the board’s statement regarding the inability of our company to supply requirements - we” can supply four times the present needs without any difficulty.
Price. - We pointed out in 1924 that we could not . produce as cheaply as overseas factories. We also pointed out to the present Tariff Board, however, that the price the user has to pay is more important than the price at which an overseas factory can sell to Australia.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
. - A great deal of propaganda has been sent to me, in common with other honorable senators, from the chairman of directors of the Australian Window Glass Proprietary Limited, Mr. “ Gunboat ‘.’ Smith, who appears to think that he has merely to overwhelm politicians with his screeds to gain their support. I suppose that Mr. Smith is not to be blamed if he thinks that he can get away with it, and obtain from the Government a rate of protection which will ensure high dividends for his shareholders. It is a pity that he does not pay a little more attention to another side of the business, the payment of appropriate wages to em ployees.
– Does he not give the “new protection “ to his workers?
– The policy of new protection has been evolved from a sequence of conferences held among supporters of the Labour party, and extending back as far as 1905. Unfortunately, like many other manufacturers, the allabsorbing purpose of Mr. Smith is to give full range to the licence allowed him under the existing order of things, and pile up acceptable profits for his shareholders. Through his over-zealous application to that purpose, he ran foul of the trade union movement in New South Wales, for the Crystal Glass Works, Sydney - a subsidiary organization of the Australian Window Glass Proprietary Limited - endeavoured to get away with a scale of wages to its em ployees which would not have had the approval of a judge of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court; also, that company endeavoured to exploit hoy labour. I have been through the extensive works of the Australian Window Glass Proprietary Limited, which employs some 700 men and women, and I regret that it should stoop to such tactics. Fortunately, the Disputes Committee of the Trades and Labour Council, representing 75 trade unions and some 175,000 men and women, was able to persuade Mr. Smith and his colleagues to see the light, and to give the employees a fair deal. Whenever Mr. Smith, or any other representative of an Australian industry, attempts to prostitute a plank of the fighting platform of the Labour party, I shall do my utmost, by criticism, to nullify his efforts. Though these gentlemen may think that, with their “ heelers,” “urgers,” and voluminous propaganda, they can obtain the votes of most honorable senators, they will find that the representatives of my party will demand in return fair treatment and protection for those engaged in the industry concerned.
Some honorable senators have claimed that the Australian Window Glass Proprietary Limited is a combine. That may be, but it is not more a combine than is the British merger of glass companies operating under the name of Pinkerton’s Limited, and situated at St. Helen’s, Lancashire, England. That firm is the driving force behind the glass-making industry throughout Europe and the British Empire. Before the war, crystal glass was manufactured largely in Austria and that part of Europe now known as Czechoslovakia. Since the application of modern science to glassmaking, the industry has progressed considerably in Belgium, and in certain parts of Germany, Bohemia, and elsewhere. The industry has been established in New South Wales, and Australian crystal glassware is now on sale in every capital city of Australia. All the ingredients necessary for glass-making, such as sand, limestone, and magnesia, are to be found in Australia, with the exception of soda ash, which, I understand, is imported from the Old” Country. It has been stated that many cases of ptomaine poisoning have occurred through the canning of our’ products in’ tins, and, because of that, the Australian Glass Company has now established a subsidiary industry for the manufacture of glass containers for meat products, such as tongues. In conclusion, let me say to the representatives of the Australian Window Glass Proprietary Limited, who are at present in Canberra, that, on their return to Sydney, they can inform Mr. “ Gunboat “ Smith that SenatorRae and myself, as representing one Labour group in this chamber, are not prepared to assist any Australian firm of manufacturers which is prostituting one of the cardinal planks of the Labour party’s platform - new protection - by refusing to mete out fair treatment to its employees, and particularly its boy operatives.
– Senator Dunn referred to Mr. Smith, the manager of this glass company, as “ Gunboat “ Smith. His reference to that gentleman recalled to my mind the saying of Napoleon about another Smith - the famous Sir Sidney Smith, who resisted the siege of Acre - “ That man made me miss my destiny “. So I say to this Mr. Smith that if he is not careful, he may cause the glass company to miss its destiny, which we can take to be, under proper management, the supplying of Australia with its requirements of glass. We, on this side of the chamber, are strongly in favour of the application of the policy of new protection. to Australian industries; it is only fair that when an industry is protected by the tariff from the competition of cheap-labour foreign countries, it should treat its employees decently. We know that in the past many manufacturers, who were otherwise good Australians, treated their workers as mere dumb beasts; but, since then, through the efforts of the Labour party, a great deal has been done in the direction of emancipating the workers. Before we grant the request of the Australian Window Glass Proprietary Limited for protection against foreign manufacturers, we must make certain that it is treating its employees decently. As a general rule, we believe in giving protection to Australian industries, to prevent them from being subjected to unfair foreign competition. This firm, in its propaganda, says -
A statement which is absolutely false has been circulated by the representative of a foreign company with the object of injuring the reputation of the Australian glass companies. The statement is to the’ effect that the Australian Glass Manufacturers Company Limited took advantage of the tariff by increasing the selling price of stocks of imported glass sold by the company. Similar statements have been made by other opponents of the Australian glass companies, and in order to settle the question we had the matter fully ventilated at a public inquiry of the Tariff Board on figured rolled glass.
Whatever the report of the Tariff Board may have been, the Labour party is strongly averse to any manufacturer taking advantage of protective duties to exploit the workers and the consumers.
– Some important facts relating to this industry have not yet been disclosed. When, this item was discussed in the House of Representatives in May last, some details which have been only hinted at to-day, were stated in full. I quote from a speech made on the 18th May -
The price of imported glass to-day is56s. 6d. less 33¼ per cent., less 5 per cent., or a net amount of 35s. per 100. square feet. . It is evident that . the Australian community has been exploited. Prior to the establishment of the Australian company, glass which was valued at 12s. per 100 square feet, f.o.b. British ports, cost 56s. 6d. in Australia. The present price of Australian glass is 28s. 3d. per 100 square feet compared ‘with about . 30s. in New Zealand where glass is admitted duty free. These figures must convince the committee that the establishment of the Australian Window Glass Company has conferred material benefit on Australia. Honorable members must be surprised at the condition of affairs to which the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) drew attention. I am reliably informed that, as the result of a merger, the firm of Pilkington Brothers Limited -is the onlylarge glass-making company in Great Britain. There was also an arrangement between that firm and the Belgian and American companies to form a combine, and, given the chance, those organizations would again exploit this country as they did in the past. Our only safeguard is the existence of a glass factory in Australia. In the 1932 report of the Tariff Board, Mr. Norbury is quoted as saying that “ sheet glass can only be made economically in large quantities “. With that honorable members will agree; it is for that reason that there is only one glass factory in Australia. The Australian Window Glass Proprietary Limited has invested £300,000 in its business, and, with the assistance of protective duties, has formed what may be termed a combine. But is it not better to have a combine which we can control rather than to be subjected to the operations of an overseas combine which is beyond our control, for we can control the local combine by reducing or withdrawing the duty, also through the medium of taxation. As to the prices charged, the Australian Window Glass Proprietary Limited has arranged for the distribution of builders’ quality glass in the country at 38s. a single box of 100 square feet, or in 25 box lot?, at 30s. a box. Imported glass of a similar quality is being sold in Australia at 56s. 6d. a box. The company has also protected the public from exploitation in regard to figured rolled glass. At a recent deputation the Attorney-General asked a question similar to that asked of me to-night by the PostmasterGeneral. I pointed out that the manufacture’ of figured rolled glass is a sideline, without which it is doubtful whether the company could carry on under existing conditions. I sincerely hope that the committee will accept the proposals of the Minister, which, after all, will merely mean deferring the matter pending the receipt of a report from the Tariff Board.
Since that date ‘the Government has secured a further report from the Tariff Board, the nature of which the Minister has indicated. He has assured the committee also that, in the light of that report, the du’ties proposed in the schedule are fair, and adequate to protect a great Australian industry. The main charge against the Australian Window Glass Company is that it has exploited the public by charging the price of a first class article for glass of an inferior quality. We have definitely proved, not only that that statement is incorrect, but also that’ the very opposite is true. The further allegation that the company cannot supply the Austraiian requirements of glass also is incorrect. Because of the stocks it has on hand and its productive capacity, it is able to supply, not only the present subnormal requirements, but also the full demand when prosperity, which1 we are assured is “ just around the corner”, re-appears. Tor these reasons, I trust that the duties will be agreed to.
.- Senator Collings has stated the case for the Australian Window Glass Company, but I remind’ the committee that a company writing its own testimonial would not err on the side of modesty.
– The Tariff Board’s report agrees with what I have said.
– Because of what the Tariff Board has- reported, I shall support the item; but it is evident that a change has come over the scene in the last twelve months. It is undoubtedly true that last year this company could not supply the market. I remember Sir Hal Colebatch protesting repeatedly that he had received the complaint from users in Western. Australia that on account of the embargo imposed by the Government, they could not obtain adequate supplies of glass.
– Those statements were categorically denied.
– The company would naturally put the best possible face on its own operations, but people complained to’ me and to other honorable senators only a few months ago that, owing to a monopoly having been granted to this company, they were unable to get the quantities of glass they required. We know also that the company imported huge quantities of glass, just prior to the imposition of the embargo. Whether the company shut off supplies to other concerns, I cannot say; but it is useless to deny that the position of the glass market during the last twelve months has been unsatisfactory. Otherwise, why should builders and other users of glass complain to members of Parliament that on account of the Government’s policy, they were unable to secure their requirements?
– Importers’ propaganda !
– These people were not interested in importing; they wanted supplies of glass at reasonable prices to complete contracts for houses and glass houses for the raising of tomatoes. Although supplies for the next’ twelve months may be assured, as the Minister has said,. I do not accept the statement of the Australian Window Glass Company that users have not been treated unfairly. The complaints made to us from so many different quarters could, not have been without foundation.
– From the Government’s point of- view, the present position is satisfactory. It is admitted that, in August or September last, complaints were not’ unjustified ; but production is now proceeding normally, and honorable senators can accept my assurance that the Government is watching the position closely. With the operation of the Ottawa agreement, the deferred duty must eventually come to an end. It is admitted that, on two occasions - due, I understand, to mishaps to machinery - the company was unable to fulfil orders ; but I am advised that production is now on a permanent and satisfactory basis. The Tariff Board will again investigate the position. . Senator Payne desired to know if Mr. Irwin accompanied the departmental experts on the occasion of their last visit to the factory. Bie did not, because he is not an officer of the department, and the visit was purely a departmental one. It completely satisfied those who, prior to the departure of the former Minister for Trade and Customs, Sir Henry Gullett, for’ Ottawa, were not satisfied. Although the company did, at one stage, import sheet glass, its importations were not of the huge dimensions suggested by Senator Poll. Other persons or firms, which had resolved to get into thu business as well, did import heavily; in the belief, probably, that the Australian company would be unable to fulfil its orders. In the transition period between August or September last, and February of i.hi3 year, the company, I am informed, has overcome its difficulties, and is now producing good quality glass in sufficient quantities at prices that compare more than favorably with the prices charged for glass in New Zealand. I therefore ask honorable senators to support the item. If anything should happen to this Australian industry, which even its critics now admit is being conducted efficiently, 240 employees engaged in this branch of the company’s operations will lose their employment. . So long as the company is treating purchasers of glass fairly, we should not act hastily to interfere with the duties. Some of the things that have been said about the company may or may not have been true ; but no one will deny that this industry is of some importance to Australia, and I venture to predict that, if it is not supported, and if, as a consequence, the company discontinues this branch of its operations, users of glass in Australia will not obtain their requirements at present prices. Shortly after his appointment to the Ministry, the Minister for Trade and Customs (.Mr. White), .accompanied by departmental officers, inspected the works, in order to satisfy himself about the manner in which the manufacture is being carried on.
.- As one who has watched the progress of this new industry in Australia, I have to admit that, while ite product was at first somewhat crude, it is now satisfactory as to quality. The company’s initial difficulties were due to the fact that it was operating a new plant under conditions that may have been unfamiliar to the experts who were in charge of the plant.
– Why should the people of Australia be penalized while the company is in its initial stages?
– I have no doubt that the company anticipated being able to satisfy completely the requirements of all its customers in Australia; but, at the outset, it failed to do that. Consequently, it imported a certain quantity to meet the demand. Objection to the duties, on the ground that they will increase the cost of buildings, cannot be sustained, because very little clear sheet glass is used in modern cottages and dwellings, the preference now being for arctic and other forms of rough glass.
– While I admit that Senator Payne may be well informed about textiles, I attach little value to his opinion as to the effect of these duties on building construction. Nearly . all enclosed verandahs in Canberra and elsewhere are being carried out in rough glazed or coloured glass, and for construction work in cities, the preference now is for reinforced glass, to lessen fire risk and damage from rough usage.
– The position in regard to the Australian glass manufacturing industry has been debated in this chamber on several occasions since I have been a member. There was a full dress debate on it when we were validating the Scullin tariff, and I have heard nothing new in the debate which has taken place to-day. I intend to vote for these duties, but I desire to enter a protest against the manner in which this company is treating its employees. Unfortunately, we are in such a position that, while we can talk about new protection, we cannot enforce it. We may vote for duties which will help the manufacturers while they are organizing to defeat us, not only politically, but industrially also. We may feel hostile to the manufacturers, but, as the lesser of two evils, we must vote to protect their industry. At the present time, the manufacturers are talking of imposing a levy in order to raise a fund to fight Labour at the next election. At the same time, they invoke the assistance of the Labour party to enable them to make profits out of the community, while attacking the interests of the most necessary class in the community. Of course, when we merely protest and still vote for the. duties, the manufacturers have the laugh on us. Any government worthy of its position should take up this stand: If the Constitution prevents it from stipulating how the consumers on the one hand, and the employees on the other, must be treated, it should lay it down that those manufacturers who fail to do the fair thing by the public and by their employees should have their tariff protection withdrawn immediately. In such a case, I should be prepared to repeal a duty on the spot, without giving the offending firms a moment’s consideration. I have read much of the propaganda, literature issued by the Australian Glass Manufacturing Company, and have also heard the criticism directed against the company. Much of the adverse criticism comes from those who have failed to recognize the progress made by the company within very recent times. It has spent a great deal of money on improving its equipment, and is now in a better position to fulfil public needs than it was a little while ago.
If the Labour party gets into power again, 1 hope that the Government will insist that those manufacturers who are reaping profits as the result of a high tariff shall refrain from exploiting the public by charging unduly high prices, and shall treat their employees properly. If they commit either of these faults, or attempt to do so, the protection should be removed at once. As Senator Collings said, if we must have a monopoly, it is better to have one in our own country, where we may exercise some supervision over it, than to be at the mercy of one oversea, which we have no way of controlling. Much as I regret to have to support a firm which exploits those to whom it owes gratitude, I am compelled, in the present circumstances, to do so..
– I have always taken a keen interest in the glass-manufacturing industry, and more particularly in that branch of it which we are now discussing. I know that this company has had’ a struggle to make good in regard to the manufacture of sheet glass, but it has now done so, and prices are being reduced. Senator Reid, in order to justify a vote against the present duties, stated that sheet glass was going out of favour, and that most modern cottages were being equipped with coloured or crinkled glass..
– Millions of square feet of plain sheet glass are being used in public buildings.
– I know that, and I think that Senator Reid realizes it also. The honorable senator’s argument does not carry much weight with me. The company has made an honest endeavour to meet the requirements of the. Australian trade, but has had some setbacks. In some instances, I believe, those in control of the company have organized attempts to force the hand of the Government in certain directions, but it is not the first time that that sort of thing has occurred.
– And it will not be the last.
– It will not be the last, unless governments take a definite stand in the interests of the community as a whole, as against those of any one section. The glass company is not the only firm which has so offended. Plain sheet glass, as well as being still largely in demand for dwellings and other buildings, is used in the construction of motor car bodies.
– That is plate glass.
– Glass is being manufactured in Australia suitable for that purpose. I was a little surprised to hear Senator -Rae denounce the Government’s policy in regard to protection and the workers, because he was one of those who defeated a government that made every effort-
– The honorable senator is not in order in discussing the defeat of governments.
– Senator Rae said that the Government should insist on the stipulated conditions of employment being observed in industries in receipt of protection. The Scullin Government tried its best to protect the interests of the workers in those industries which enjoyed protective duties. It even introduced legislation with that object in view.
– The Constitution cannot be altered by legislation.
– The honorable senator did not raise that point when the legislation was before Parliament. One of the conditions of protection should be that the law of the land is observed in regard to labour awards and working conditions. The glass, manufacturers say that they cannot sell glass more cheaply, because they are compelled to recognize Australia’s working standard. “We have been inundated with literature from the company, and one of the arguments used before the Tariff Board was that the company could not compete with the manufacturers of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, and even Great Britain, because, in those countries, wages were so much lower than here. It was necessary for them, they said, to receive a higher price for their product in order to be able to pay the higher wages. I do not object to the manufacturers receiving a fair price, but when they receive it, they should do the fair thing by their employees, and observe the awards. I agree with Senator Rae that the Labour party has been a stalking horse for the manufacturers. “We have helped them, not because we love exploiters, not because we have any tender regard for profiteer but because we are concerned for .the interests of the people they employ. We wish to see our people employed at remunerative undertakings. Like Senator Rae, I am reluctant to support protection for any industry that merely takes advantage of it to reap high profits, and.- refuses to deal justly by the workers. It is time that industry as a whole in. Australia took stock of itself with a view’ to> paying more attention to serving the community; and less to winning profits.
– I suppose the honorable senator knows that the company does not show a profit on its sheet glass manufacturing branch.
– It is difficult at this time to say what industries are making profits.
– Other branches of the company’s business, of course, are making profits.
– -It is possible “that the company is not making a profit on the manufacture of sheet glass, and the reason would not he far to seek. The company at first experienced difficulty in manufacturing suitable sheet glass, and it is possible that it may also have difficulty in .the manufacture of crinkled glass, but, given fair opportunity, I have no doubt that ‘it will succeed. It. is unnecessary for me to add that I am in favour of supporting Australian industries in all circumstances. Our first consideration should be what is best for Australia and for our people.
– The duties on glass is an evergreen subject in this Parliament, and, notwithstanding what we may say, the man in the street will still have his own opinion. We are told that this industry cannot prosper unless it receives a thumping high duty of 75 per cent., which is to become operative in February next. T suppose that there is hardly any standard by which we can measure the ambitions of some in the matter of customs duties. A duty of 25 per cent, was once considered fair, but now duties of 35 per cent., 45 per cent., and 55 per cent, are imposed, and, apparently, maximum rates have not yet been reached. It is ridiculous to ask this Parliament to believe that an Australian industry cannot survive unless it receives tariff pro,tection of 75 per cent., plus other substantial benefits, which may represent another 75 per cent. We are told that the Australian glass industry cannot carry on successfully unless we are prepared to pay this price. Recalling the excuses put forward in support of local industries, I find that they are of an extraordinarily diversified, order. In thefirst place, high duties are recommended’ to- assist what are- termed’ languishing: industries. In a commercial sense, a languishing industry is one which is unprofitable to those engaged in it; but, judging by the experience of this particular company, I do not think that it can be said to be languishing. As there are not many other Australian companies that are paying so well, it cannot be included in that category. It is paying a high rate of dividend on the capital invested, and placing a fairly large sum to reserves even in bad times. In these circumstances, it is not entitled to a high protective duty. “We are also told from time to time that this and other Australian industries are being slashed. That term was extensively used prior to the last general election, and was to be seen on numerous hoardings in Melbourne. Oan it be said that this industry is being “ slashed “ when the glass it produces is protected by a duty of 2s. or 4s. per 100 square feet, when an embargo is imposed on importations, and on top of all, the rationing system is introduced? Where does the “ slashing “ come in? What application can such a term have in this instance? The glass industry has three separate coats of mail. It is protected by high duties, an embargo, and the rationing process, which enables it to obtain its own prices. Every citizen is supposed to stand equal before the law. I direct Senator Collings’ attention to the fact that while this and other Australian industries are protected in this way, another important Australian, industry does not enjoy any protection at all. Its products are sold in open competition in the markets of the world. The glassmanufacturing industry, having three - distinct and effective forms of protection, is ‘producing goods at an artificial price. Equality before the law! Where does the equality come in ? It is a sham and a farce to say that there is equality before the law when one industry receives protection in three forms, while the wheat, wool, butter, and other primary industries, which, unlike this industry, are of vital importance to the Commonwealth, do not receive any. Is that fair play? Australian producers, who have been selling large quantities of their products in the European markets, will not have a dog’s chance, because of the damage being done by this Parliament. Australian producers wish to dispose of 150,000,000 bushels of wheat and 2,800,000 ‘bales of wool in foreign markets, but when the foreigner realizes how we are treating them under this and other items in the tariff, what chance will we have of profitably disposing of these products? Our action in this and other matters will have a repercussive effect, resulting in such decreased markets and lower prices, that our wheat and wool producers will find their work so unprofitable that they will be forced to leave their holdings. Should that occur, the unemployed situation will be more acute than it has ever been.
Senator Reid informed the committee that the quantity of plain sheet glass used in the average dwelling-house is so small that it is not worth considering. The action we are taking will centre attention upon us, and show that, in framing tariffs, we do not know what we are doing. As a nation we could not pay our way, and as individuals we could not sustain our bodily strength but for the wheat and other primary products we produce. Quite recently the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said that . the rural producers are the backbone of this country. Without a vestige of protection they are producing goods for export which enable us to meet our overseas commitments. Why should we do anything which tends to diminish our sales of wheat and wool? We are. increasing the burdens, of our rural producers, and discouraging land settlement. This protection mania, which commenced 25 years ago, may go even further; but at last there are signs that it has reachedthe limit. The glass-making industry commenced operations with a duty of 25 per cent., but duties, like the bids of an auctioneer in a sale-yard, are continually going up. Is it not time to call a halt ? We cannot play ducks and drakes with duties in this way without others doing the same. This company, like many others, should be satisfied with’ paying dividends of 4 per cent, or 5 per cent., and in these bad times should not ask for high, duties. Many companies are not making any profits at all. Are the primary producers making any profits? They have incurred serious losses, which increase every time they set the plough in motion. We should reduce, rather than increase, the cost of production. The quantity of plain clear glass used in an average dwelling may be small, but it is the accumulation of what may appear small items that burden primary producers, and increase their producing costs. The Commonwealth Year-Booh shows how the cost of production has increased.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
.- I suppose that there is no industry in Australia which has been discussed more than the Australian glass industry. When this subject was first discussed in the Senate in Melbourne, the duties proposed were of such an extravagant character that I moved a request which, unfortunately, was not agreed to. To-day honorable senators have heard extraordinary statements made, and remarkable figures quoted, especially those given by Senator Collings, which show that the price of glass in Australia, presumably when the new duties were imposed by resolution of the Scullin Government, was 56s. 6d. a box.
– The Australian company cut the price down to 28s. 3d. a box.
– That company was partly responsible for the price of glass soaring as it did. I have official pricelists, which show that in April the price quoted by Brooks, Robinson and Company, London, for ordinary small glass, was 49s. 9d. On the let July, however, a week or so after the deferred duty was made operative contrary to law, the price rose to Gls. 9d. Who was responsible for that? Not the importers.
– Who does the honorable senator say was responsible?
– At that time the Australian Glass Company held very large stocks of imported glass. It is understood that the company did not increase, its price to the same extent as did other merchants. There is no doubt that the action of the Scullin Government was responsible for the increase. The Commonwealth Gazette had notified the further deferment of the duty until August or September of that year. Without withdrawing that notification, the Scullin Government, by resolution, brought the duty into operation, although no window glass of reasonable quality was being produced by the company at the time. The law provides that, when the Tariff Board reports to the Minister that an article of reasonable quality, and in sufficient quantity to provide for the probable requirements of the people, is being produced, the Minister may, by proclamation or resolution, lift the deferment of the duty. That stipulation was not observed. I have not risen to oppose the company; I wish to see the industry carried on, but under reasonable conditions. I am hopeful that, if Senator Badman docs not secure the acceptance of his request, a further request will be moved that I can support.
Let us look at what this really means. In the first place, it must he remembered that the whole of the glass business of this country wa3 very seriously interfered with by the lifting of the deferment of the duty before glass was manufactured here. At that time, it was difficult to obtain supplies of glass. The statements in regard to the quality of the glass first produced by the company are contradictory. The company ought to have known very well that it could not expect to produce suitable glass at the first attempt. I am prepared to accept its statement that the quality is now more satisfactory than it was last year, when even a layman could detect the difference between the local and the imported article. It must be recognized that glass is absolutely essential to the people of Australia, even in connexion with the construction of cottages, despite Senator Reid’s suggestion that clear glass is gradually being used to a less a.nd less extent in such buildings. It will be a long time before the Australian people consent to have opaque windows in their houses. I believe that there will always be a considerable demand for clear glass by some of our primary producers. I know very well how the tomato-growers were handicapped when the price of clear glass was enormously increased by the excessively high duties that were imposed contrary -to the law of the land. I trust that when this matter is settled, the Government will stick to its guns, and that we may regard it as having been decided for a reasonably lengthy period. I should like to know why the matter has been so frequently referred to the Tariff Board. The report of the board dated August, 1932, recommended a flat rate of 2s. and 4s., and a deferred duty of 40 per cent, and 60 per cent. In January of this year, the board made a further report, in which it slightly altered its previous recommendation, and now we are told that the matter is again to be referred to it.
– Mr. Smith says that if the last recommendation of the board i3 adopted, he will be ruined.
- Mr. Smith has stilted definitely in some of his letters that unless he is given a prohibitive duty, he cannot carry on. I am not prepared to vote for a prohibitive duty in this or any other case, because I do not consider that it is reasonable. All industries are more or less experimental in the initial stages; but surely, in view of the experience that this company has gained, we may look forward to its turning out glass at a reasonable price ! The price of Belgian glass has been quoted. It must be remembered, however, that when the deferred duty was made operative, the price of glass overseas was much higher than it is to-day. It has dropped in both Belgium and England as the result of the conditions that have operated throughout the world. We must follow that lead, and cheapen our products wherever we can reasonably do so.
I intend to vote against the request, because it aims at the removal of the proposal that a deferred duty shall become operative at the beginning of next year. In those circumstances, the whole of the expenditure incurred by the company would be wasted. The company is entitled to reasonable protection, and I am prepared to give it.
– The reason that the matter has again been referred to the Tariff Board is that there is a conflict of opinion as to the capability of the company to .produce the required quality of glass continuously. It is on that particular aspect of the matter that the Government desires the board to report. Last September, both the board and the departmental officers said that the production was not on this basis; but in February of this year, the reports showed that it was. The board has been asked to say whether it adheres to its recommendation, which meanwhile is being given effect. The duty can be further deferred if the board reports that the company i3 not producing glass of satisfactory quality, or that it is being produced satisfactorily at the moment, but that those conditions may not continue. I understand that the production is now continuously satisfactory. The Minister himself saw what was being done, but preferred to be fortified on the question of permanence. I wish to be perfectly just to the industry. Senator Payne will recollect that on two occasions, this company produced a good article, and that subsequently, its methods failed. In August last, the case looked hopeless against it.
– It then said that it was turning out glass of first-class quality.
– At the time that the officers of the department last visited the works, the production, had been continuous for from three weeks to a month; and I believe that it has been continued up to date. This is an intricate business, which needs to be expertly handled.
– Did not the company start off properly equipped ?
– It was a new industry, starting off from scratch, and probably the company took a lot for granted, with the result that it “ fell in.” Lt is believed that, on the present occasion, it has succeeded in maintaining permanently a good quality output.
-; - What would be the result if every other industry were treated similarly?
– The honorable senator is putting a position that does not exist. No Government with a souse of fair play, could ignore an industry, whatever its faults, that had spent £300,000 on one factory in which employment was provided for 240 men. This company says, “ We have put in all that plant, and obtained all the expert advice available, on the strength of the promise that there would be a deferred duty.” The local manufacturers are entitled to justice from this Parliament, and that,.
I think, is all that they are receiving. We may be even straining justice to the point of mercy’; but it is not for the Government, nor for the Parliament, to act other than fairly, despite the suggestions that have been made regarding this company. The Tariff Board has certainly not been merciful in its criticism of it.
– But it has been long suffering.
– And justly so, because the company has spent £300,000 in an effort to establish the sheet glass industry in this country.
– This debate has defined clearly the attitude of the tariffists and of the anti-tariffists. We on the Labour side support neither the tariff, per se, nor the glass company merely as a commercial undertaking; but we definitely . intend . to assist’ Australian industries, which we desire to see built up in the interests of the Commonwealth. Senator Lynch would reduce the Australian glass industry to such straits that it would be impossible for it to carry on, for he would provide every opportunity for glass manufactured under cheaplabour conditions to be imported from the other side of the world.
– The honorable senator would seriously handicap the people.
– We have no wish to do that. Our one object is to support local industries, and to help our own workers to obtain good conditions, so that this country may be independent of other parts of the world for those goods which can be satisfactorily made here. The other day, Senator Brennan quoted some lines from Goldsmith. With apology to that poet, I would say -
Ill fares our land, tohastening ills a prey,
Where imports mount, and factories decay.
Senator Massy Greene drew attention last week to a great increase of revenue from imports. It has been stated that the glass manufacturing company attacked the workers in the industry, who had applied to the court for an improvement in their working conditions.
– That shows that they are only human.
– Of course. Even in the sugar industry the employers fight the employees, and only lately, the employers in that industry opposed the workers in the Arbitration . Court. According to the press a week ago, the Australian glass company showed a substantial profit, yet we cannot agree to any lowering of the tariff wall to allow glass to be dumped into Australia from cheap-labour countries. Such dumping would not help the farmers, and it certainly would not improve the position of Australia as a whole ; in fact, it would make it decidedly worse. No argument that Senator Lynch, or any other member of the Country party, can advance will demonstrate that the admission of glass from overseas can be of advantage to the workers in Australia. This is not the only country that has erected a formidable tariff wall. Only this week France has raised the duties on 60 items in her tariff, some to the extent of 150 per cent. High tariffs are a natural phase of industrial development under the capitalistic system.
I regret that any member of this committee is prepared to attack an Australian industry that gives employment to between 300 and 400 workers. The Opposition is against the suggested reduction of the tariff on glass, and other commodities manufactured in this country, not in the interests of the manufacturers, but to prevent thousands of workers from having to walk the streets in search of employment. I believe that the local glass company paid no less than £80,000 for the right to. manufacture glass according to a process patented in Belgium.
– That money was paid to overseas interests that are now trying to destroy the Australian industry.
– That is so, and. those interests have the support of Senators Lynch and Badman, and a few other honorable senators from Tasmania. H. Hessell Tiltman, in a book entitled Slump, has a chapter dealing with the Belgian glass industry. He points out that, during 1931, the exportation of polished plate glass decreased to every country except Great Britain. Then, he says, came the tariff walls of Britain and the United States of America, with serious results to the Glaceries’ St. Roch, at Auvelais. He goes on to say -
When I entered the power-house, seven out of fourteen charts were idle, like the machines the movements of which they should have been recording. And the balance were working only four days a week. For the plate-glass factories at Auvelais, in common with other Belgian plate-glass plants, which were until 1030 among the most flourishing of that country’s industries, are to-day producing only 30 per cent, of their potential output. And they cannot find markets even for that reduced quantity. At Auvelais, the stock of glass normally represents ‘ six weeks’ production. To-day, a quantity representing the entire production of the last six months remains unsoldand if trade does not’ improve more workers will- have to bo discharged, and a three-flay week introduced. Workers have bean discharged, as . “the following figures show, owing to the developments in other countries, and the consequent reduction of demand for Belgian glase:-
Production is down 70 per cent, in the past two years., the present output at. the two plants being 000,000 square metres, compared, with an output of 2,000,000 square metres in normal times. And, as 1 have indicated, even with production on this reduced scale, stocks are piling up.
In Belgium, there are huge stocks of glass that could he dumped upon the Australian market at any time, to the detriment of the local industry.
– The honorable senator is prepared to use the local company.
– We on this side make no claim to be friends of the manufacturers; Ave support Australian industries, so that our own -workmen may have decent conditions of employment, and because of the need to develop » our economic system to. the full. I regret that some members of this committee favour a course, the adoption of which would result in throwing good Australians out of work. We should like to see a change for the better in the economic circumstances of Belgium, but we must have regard to the best interests of Australian workmen. The present earnings of the Auvelais workers average 25s. a week.
– What are their hours of employment?
– Ten hours a day for six days a week. Australian manufacturers have to compete against goods’ produced under those conditions; yet some honorable senators opposite would make it possible for Belgian glass to come here, to the detriment of the Australian glass manufacturing industry. I should like to know in what way the farmers of Australia will benefit by the importation of glass. Will it enable them to get a better price for their wheat or their butter ? . The more I hear of such arguments by honorable senators opposite, the more astonished I am that they should be willing for this Australian industry, to be destroyed. We, on this side, wish the standard of. living of Australian workers to be maintained, and desire also that those engaged in primary industry shall have stability. Senator Lynch, notwithstanding his experience as a farmer, and his association with farmers, would have us believe that by importing Belgian glass in large quantities, the lot of the Australian farmer would be improved.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– This is not the first occasion on which Senator Collings has questioned the accuracy of statements which I have made in this chamber. The telegram which I read earlier this afternoon was dated the 23rd June, 1933, and I challenge the honorable senator, to disprove the statements contained therein. There is no doubt that the Australian Glass Manufacturing Company is a wealthy concern which, as honorable senators opposite know, has endeavoured to exploit both its employees and the general public. It is significant that honorable senators opposite are now beginning to see the tariff in the light shed upon it by the leading article in the Labor Daily of the 8th July - a light in which many of us have regarded it for a long time. They appear to realize at last that high duties may enable Australian manufacturers to exploit the public. I quote the following extract from the leading article referred to - .
It has been obvious for a long time that employers have taken advantage of Labour’s wholesale high tariff policy to build up a protective wall behind which they can extract excessive profits from the public and drive their employees at the lowest rates that can be- wangled from friendly courts, while at the same time using .portion of the profits so obtained- to destroy the ‘ Labour Governments when the desired benefits have been obtained, and to smash the Labour movement. . . . The timehas arrived, and it cannot be too much emphasized, when the manufacturers must learn that they cannot have it both ways. If Labourhas been the clown of the Australian political circus, even a clown sometimes learns to laugh at himself. And the Australian Labour movement is laughing at itself now - but laughing bitterly.
Some particulars concerning this company, taken from its published balance-sheets,; may be of interest to honorable senators. From 1923 to 1933 it paid a dividend of 9 per cent, on its preference shares - evidently the £1 shares of those who were fortunate enough to get in on the ground floor. Its ordinary shares paid a dividend of 10 per cent, from . 1923 to 1928, and in the two succeeding years 12½ per cent. Even in 1931, the worst year of the depression, the company’s ordinary shares paid a dividend of 6 per cent. In 1932 the dividend rose to 7½ per cent, with a further rise to 9 per cent, in 1933. The paid-up capital of the Australian Glass Manufacturing Company Limited, of which Australian Window Glass Proprietary Limited is a subsidiary company, was £950,695in 1924; in 1933, it was £1,105,478. Its cash investments in 1933 amounted to £608,769, and its nominal reserves to £506,087.I take it that that money has come from the Australian purchasers of glass sold by the company.
There have been numerous complaints regarding the Australian company’s inability to meet orders from the trade. Mr. Harvey, of Clarkson’s Limited, Adelaide, informed the Tariff Board that, in order to test the quality of Australian glass, his company had given. Australian Window Glass Proprietary Limited an order for 112 cases of sheet glass on the 2nd November, 1931. That glass was delivered as follows: - Five cases on the 17th June, 1932; 21 cases on the 20th June; 30 eases on the 30th June; 43 cases on the 11th August; 10 cases on the 19th August, and the balance on the 8th September. The last consignment was delivered nearly ten months after the order had been placed. ‘ There is no justification for protecting a company which has inflicted suffering on the general public by charging unduly high prices for glass. Listening to honorable senators opposite, one might think that the Tariff Board existed merely for the purpose of assisting Australian manufacturing industries, and was not concerned with the interests of the Australian public. It is time that the interests of the consumers were considered. It has been said that because the Australian company paid £80,000 to the Belgian owners of certain patents, it is entitled to protection. I take it that the Australian company paid that money in the hope that it would be repaid by Australian users of glass.
SenatorCollings. - No one supposes that the company wanted to lose money.
– No company sets up in business for charitable purposes.
– Senator Brown claimed that the company paid that £80,000 in order to help Australia.
– Like all capitalistic concerns, the company was out to do the best it could for itself.
– We are not justified in granting this Australian, concern a protection of from. 130 to 200 per cent. Australian industries must be content to meet reasonable competition from British manufacturers. I hope that the committee will consider the interests of the Australian users of glass, and will give them an opportunity to obtain their requirements at lower prices than they are now called upon to pay.
– I am constrained to say a few words in reply to the wild and reckless statements of honorable senators opposite, who have spoken since I was last on my feet; I refer particularly to my young friend, . Senator Badman. who said that I have a habit of challenging the accuracy of his statements.If the honorable senator has that impression, I assure him that he is entirely wrong; I did not challenge the honorable senator’s accuracy, although I did challenge the poisoned sources of his information. In proving that the information which he gave us was inaccurate, I did not reflect on the honorable senator’s personal honesty. The honorable senator read an extract from the Labor Daily, and said that the views of honorable senators on this side of the chamber had changed since the appearance of the leading article from which the extract was taken. There again, the honorable senator was wrong, because for a quarter of a century the Labour party has had in its platform, to which we on this side of the chamber are all pledged, a plank providing for the new protection of which I spoke earlier. Another inaccuracy of the honorable senator’s was that this Australian company had exploited the Australian public by taking advantage of the duties placed on glass when it held large stocks of imported glass.
– Senator Payne proved that to be so.
– Then so much the worse for Senator Payne. It is true that Australian users of glass were cruelly exploited when the first duty on glass was imposed. The Australian company had on hand a fair stock of imported glass, but not so much as was held by those whose sole business was the selling of imported glass. When the Australian company decided to manufacture glass, it had first to sell the imported glass it had on hand; it was the only company in Australia which did not put on any additional charge, but sold its stocks at the prices ruling before the duty was imposed. Since I spoke earlier, I have got into touch with the company, and now have its authority for that statement. The company is prepared to submit its books for examination to prove the accuracy of my statement. Honorable senators opposite claim that the request is in the interests of the primary producers of this country. I have here a number of testimonials from tomatogrowers who, during the colder months of the year, grow their tomatoes under what is called horticultural glass, and each testifies to the fact that the Australian article is superior to the imported.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Question - That the request (Senator Badman’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Ch airm a n - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the deferred duties, sub-item (b), ad valorem, British, 30 per cent.; genera], 60 per cent.
That would amount to a protection of 3s. 7d. per 100 sq. ft. on the basis of the existing British price of 12s. for that quantity, which is 75 per cent, higher than the present rate of 2s. per 100 sq. ft. ; while the reduction in the general rate would be equivalent to 5s. 2d. per 100 sq. ft., working on the invoice cost of8s. 7d. per 100 sq. ft. for Belgian glass.
.- I support the request. While I am anxious to see the ad valorem duty retained, I also desire to ensure that it will not be unnecessarily heavy. The rates proposed by Senator Badman should give ample protection to the Australian industry, for a British ad valorem rate of 30 per cent, really represents an 80 per cent, protection when a 25 per cent, exchange, 10 per cent, primage, and a transportation cost amounting to 12½ per cent, are taken into consideration. The difficulties that have been experienced in the past should help the Australian Window Glass Proprietary Limited materially in the future to manufacture a suitable article at a reduced price. Glass is used extensively throughout Australia, and any action that would tend to interfere with general trade, and increase prices, would act prejudicially on the community as a whole. I believe that rationing of imports is most unwise, because it is impracticable, and prevents that freedom of business operation which is so desirable. While the department might adopt methods which it considered suitable, it would find, in practice, that they were most unsuitable. Only those who are handling glass and supplying the market can understand the proportions in which the various sizes and gauges should be imported. We have had the experience that, when a total embargo was first placed on the importation of glass, prices immediately increased. As soon as the embargo was removed, and entry was granted to a certain quantity of glass, prices dropped; then, when the embargo was re-imposed, prices again went up. The dislocation of trade that ensued must be prejudicial to our commercial life, and must react adversely upon those who have to buy sheet glass. For that reason I support the request, and I hope that the Minister will consider not only the removal of the embargo on the importation of glass, but also the practice of rationing.
Motion (by Senator Rae) negatived -
That the question be now put.
– It is not the wish of the Government, nor of myself, to stifle discussion in any way. The reasons that 1 gave in reference to the previous request that was moved by Senator Badman apply also to the one now before the committee. I ask honorable senators to adopt the rates that have been recommended by the Tariff Board, to which body this matter has again been submitted for consideration. The Government is not engaging in any process of rationing, as there are sufficient supplies of glass in Australia to meet all requirements, and, while that condition exists, the prohibition will remain in force. The department has come to the conclusion, that, while it is easy enough to ration such commodities while in bond, it is impracticable to ration importations.
– I shall support the request that has been moved by Senator Badman. I con fess that I envy theself -confidence and self-complacency of my very good friend, Senator Collings, who speaks invariably with a sublime authority. Generally, when my knowledge upon any subject is lacking, I repair to the Library and consult the Encyclopaedia Britannica, or some other suitable work. I now realize that it is unnecessary for me to waste time by leaving the chamber, for I may remain here and consult “ Encyclopaedia Collings,” a veritable “Enquire within upon everything.” Assuredly there is no uncertainty about this source of reference.
– The committee is discussing item 242, sub-item b, which deals with sheet glass.
– I- wish to consult Senator Collings on glass. Some honorable senators who have been in this chamber a little longer than has Senator Collings, have been literally cut to the quick with glass, and what the honorable senator has said to-day is merely the repetition of what is to them an old, old story. That which, to the credulous Senator Collings, is an amazing discovery, is the sort of propaganda that has been served up to other honorable senators - for five or six years by the Australian Window Glass Proprietary Limited.
A statement was made in this chamber to-day regarding the shortage of glass in Australia last year, and a little earlier than that, and it was claimed that it was then impossible to obtain supplies. Senator Collings says that there was no such shortage, and that any statement to the contrary is utter nonsense. For many years I have been connected with the building and timber industry, and I know from personal experience that there was at one time a shortage of glass, and that jobs were hung up because the glass companies could not supply orders.
– Is that the position now?
– I do not know what is the position at the moment, but I do know that plenty of imported glass is available. At one time the Australian Window Glass Proprietary Limited was a big importer. Let us get down to tin-tacks, and frankly acknowledge that it was a great pity that this industry was ever started and encouraged. I have in my hand a statement which was presented to the Prime Minister at Canberra on the 10th May by Mr. W. J. Smith, referred to by Senator Dunn as “ Gunboat “ Smith. This statement was issued subsequent to the last report of the Tariff Board, and in it these words appear -
The Tariff Board’s recommendation, if adopted, will ruin the Australian Window Gloss Company. . . . Our factory cannot operate under the conditions recommended. We must have either adequate protection or effective rationing of imports, amounting, in actual fact, to prohibition. > This firm wants to avoid fair competition from other countries, and to conserve the whole of the Australian trade for itself. This industry, although natural to Belgium and other European countries, is not natural to Australia-
– Why not?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is supplied by the Tariff Board. The extract I have just given continues -
Owing, however, to primage and exchange on our imported raw material - soda ash - we had to make our price 9d. per 100 sq. ft. higher.
What this firm wants is an absolute prohibition on imports in the form of either an embargo or terrifically high duties. If honorable - senators are prepared to agree to that sort of thing, knowing that it is the purchaser of sheet glass who will have to pay the price, we have reached a sorry state of affairs. It astonishes me to find that Labour senators, who are everlastingly prating about the people and the good of the people, should have such great affection for monopolies and monopolists. I know that, in the past, because of the unholy alliance which was entered into by the manufacturers and the trade unions as a result of the operation of the Arbitration Court and our tariff policy, the consumer was fair game. No one ever worries much about the consumer, and I believe that it would be a . good thing for the country generally if the consumers were represented on the Tariff Board. If the manufacturers cannot stand up to the rates of deferred duty proposedby Senator Badman, they deserve to go to the wall, and I intend to vote for the honorable senator’s request.
Question - That the request (Senator Badman’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Sub-items agreed to.
Items 250 (b) (c) (e) (f) and 251 (a) agreed to.
Item 262 (b1) (c) (d) (Stone and marble).
– Sub-item (b1) relates to marble, white unwrought, which is now to enter this country free of duty, although under the Scullin tariff, the duties were 10 per cent. British preferential and 20 per cent, general. I have with me the Tariff Board’s report on wrought white marble for monumental purposes. Mr. D. J. Rankin, manager of the Standard Quarries Proprietary Limited,Footspray, Victoria, when giving evidence before the board, stated -
Standard Quarries Proprietary Limited operates sandstone, granite, and marble quarries, and dresses and carves stone for supply wholesale to monumental masons. Modern plant has been installed to enable work in these materials to be produced as cheaply as possible. Since the war period the general demand for monuments has changed from the
Italian type in marble to an Australian type in granite and freestone. A lowering of the duty to allow for the importation of wrought marble, may lead to a change back to a general demand for the Italian type.
During the depression the value of marble importations into this country decreased from £20,000 to £2,000, but when good times return, it is quite likely that imports will increase to their former level.
– The importations under this particular sub-item have never been of a value of over £1,000.
– I object to any importations of marble. Some years ago I inspected the Ulam Carrara marble quarries in the Rockhampton district, and I was amazed at its beauty. The marble is pure and white, and for durability is first-class, if not equal to the best Italian Carrara. It has been used in a war memorial at a place about 30 miles from Rockhampton, for marble steps for the Rockhampton School of Arts, for a hotel bar in Sydney, and also for a wellknown cafe bar, and in every instance the marble has given complete satisfaction. In 1929, before the advent of the Scullin Government, I was told that, with sufficient tariff protection, this industry could capture the Australian market. Unfortunately, the depression arose, and, no doubt, the company operating in Queensland found it impossible to extend its operations at that time. This is a small industry, but still it is worth encouraging, since, according to the old saying “ Mony a pickle makes a muckle “. It seems strange that a country like Australia, of nearly 3,000,000 square miles, has to import stone of any kind. In addition to the Ulam Carrara marble, there are good deposits at Gladstone, Queensland, and in certain parts of New South Wales. Although Italian marble has almost a monopoly of the trade, Queensland marble to the value of £12,456 has been marketed. It is ridiculous to import stone, wrought or unwrought, when Australia produces every variety, of stone to granite and marble. We must protect the hundreds of small industries as well as the large ones.
Senator MCLACHLAN (South Australia - Vice-President of the Executive be read in conjunction with the other subitems of item 262, dealt with in group 4. Stone in the rough, n.e.i., is admitted free under the British tariff, and is subject to a duty of 10 per cent, in the general tariff. The proposal to admit free white marble, unwrought, for monumental and switchboard purposes is in accordance with the recommendation of the Tariff Board, which inquired into this item in 1930. The importations of unwrought marble, including rough or scabbled from the pick, were valued at £1,021 in 1928- 29 ; £1,710 in 1929-30 ; £544 in 1930-31 ; £803 in 1931-32 ; and £1,210 in 1932-33. The evidence obtained by the board showed that Australian white marble blocks can be purchased in any of the capital cities at prices lower than the landed duty paid costs of Italian marble blocks. Imported slabs, however, can be landed at a cost lower than that at which the Australian slabs can be delivered, but if blocks are purchased from the quarries, they can be cut into slabs in the monumental yards at a cost which makes them cheaper than imported marble. The board was satisfied that if prices were the only factor in the competition, Australian white marble could easily capture the market. Marble is used in Australia principally for monumental work, switchboards, and the interiors of buildings. The evidence showed that Australian quarries can provide the whole of the marble required for interior building purposes, but the local white marble possesses characteristics which render it unsuitable for monumental purposes and the making of switchboards. For monumental work, the texture must be crystalline fine and uniform in grain size. It would appear that the marble from Queensland and South Australia, which are the main sources of supply of the Australian product, is too friable, and the uses to which it may be put are definitely limited. Even in many cases in which it can he used, the marble has to be worked in a special and more expensive way to produce satisfactory results. .The white marble obtainable from the Newbridge quarries in New South Wales is considered by the trade to be quite satisfactory for monumental work, but the supplies are limited. Australian white marble, by reason of the metal impurities it contains, is unsuitable for the manufacture of switchboards.
Another objection is that its coarse texture renders it unsatisfactory because great precision in drilling switchboards is necessary. About 80 per cent, of the marble imported in the past has been used for monumental work and switchboards, for which purposes Australian white marble, generally speaking, is unsuitable. The board was of opinion that if the highest duty asked for were granted, very little of the white marble imported would be replaced by Australian marble. In respect of all classes of Australian stone and marble which can be used satisfactorily, the board has taken good cars of the local industry.
Sub-items agreed to.
Division 10. -DRUGS and Chemicals.
Carbide ofcalcium, per lb., British,1d.; general, 2d.
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives he requested to make the duty, British, free.
Under the 1921 tariff, the duty on British carbide was £4 a ton, and on foreign, £7 10s. With this protection, the industry was carried on successfully, almost three-fourths of our requirements being supplied by a company operating in Tasmania. In 1926, the Tariff Board recommended against an increase of the protection. In addition to those duties, the industry was further protected by gazettals under the Customs Tariff Industries Preservation Act, which prevented carbide from being imported at prices lower than £18 10s.1d. a ton c.i.f. Adding a duty of £7 10s., the landed cost amounted to £26 0s.1d., which was higher than the prices charged by the local industry c.i.f. at main Australian ports. The board considered in 1926 that under the existing duties, plus the protection afforded by the Industries Preservation Act, the whole of the Australian market would eventually be secured to the local manufacturers. The duty was sub1 sequently increased to £28 a ton. This schedule proposes a duty of £18 13s. 4d., but even this is an increase of over 160 per cent, on the 1921-30 duty. A feature of the Canadian Trade Agreement was a concession to the dominion in respect of this commodity, but Canada has been unable to benefit on account of the high rate of duty imposed by the Commonwealth. If primage and exchange also are taken into consideration, the proposed rates are prohibitive. The prices of the Australian product range from £23 7s. to £25 10s. a ton. Carbide is sold in Norway at’ £14 13s. 5d. a ton f.o.b., whilst Canadian carbide is quoted at £12 a ton f.o.b. This industry in Australia is a monopoly. There is no competition at present, and on account ofthe prohibitive duties there can be none in the future. The industry will be able to exploit the public, and as the principal users are men on the land who use acetylene gas plants, and poor working men who ride bicycles, the increase of duty is entirely indefensible. The small farmers are dependent on acetylene lighting, and carbide has to -be carried great distances to them. These people are the real pioneers, and should be helped and encouraged. Senator Payne, who has taken a prominent part in the debate on these tariff items, and has moved many requests for lower duties, should, to play the game, support this requested amendment.
– I cannot accept the honorable senator’s request. The rates which the Government propose under this item are considerably lower than those imposed by the Scullin Administration, the British preferential rate having been reduced by about one-half, and the general rate by one-third. On a per ton basis, the relative rates were : 1921-30 tariff, British £4, general £7 10s. ; Scullin tariff, British £18 13s. 4d., general £28. The proposed rates are : British £9 6s.8d., general £18 13s. 4d. In the production and distribution of carbide, employment is given in Tasmania to 200 hands, while all the materials used are Australian, with the exception of a small quantity of Welsh anthracite coal. I hope that the honorable senator will not press his request.
– I support the requested amendment, and welcome it as an indication, on the part of Senator Cox, of his support of lower tariff rates generally. It would, perhaps, have come better from him if it had related to some industry in which New South Wales was concerned, also if he had earlier considered the inter-action of the tariff as a whole, and the effect of high duties, not only on those who live in the back-blocks of New South “Wales, or any other State, but also on the Empire overseas, and the world at large. But I am afraid that, even if his request were carried, it would not make the slightest difference, because our imports from British countries and Norway this year were nil, and from other foreign countries only £47 in value. Last year we imported from British countries carbide to the value of £423, from Norway £1,051 worth, and from other foreign countries £375 worth, so it is perfectly obvious that the honorable senator’s request is more aimed, I suggest, at his colleagues from Tasmania than designed to help those unfortunate people who have to use carbide. But I shall support the honorable gentleman, provided he stands up to his arguments in support of it, and. provided, also, that he receives the Government’s permission to proceed with it. It may, after all, be a belated repentance for his attitude with regard to the duties on sheet glass. I happen to know something about carbide, because, for many years, I have used considerable quantities of it. I regretted exceedingly when it became impossible to procure the Norwegian article, which was very good. For a considerable time the Australian carbide was not so good. It was dusty, and, with the particular apparatus which I was using, it was not quite satisfactory. But, by way of rebuttal of what Senator Cox has said about it, I should add that the Australian industry has definitely improved during the last ten years. I only wish that all our secondary industries had shown the same advancement.
.- I appeal to Senator Cox to withdraw his requested amendment, which, I suggest, has been submitted as a joke against Tasmanian senators because of their general attitude towards a number of tariff items. Tasmania is vitally interested in this industry, and, because of the special difficulties now confronting it, I intend later to submit a request for an increase in the duty. The position of the industry has been entirely altered because of late developments in the exchange rate as between Canada and Great Britain, and, as a consequence, between Canada and Australia, the result being that a duty which was regarded as protective when the Tariff Board made its report, is no longer effective.
– Is it not a stronger argument to point out that the Canadian price for export has always been lower than the home market price, and that the same may be said of Norway ?
– The protection of 2d. per lb. in the general tariff is sufficient; but, as I have explained, the position has been entirely changed owing to the recent alteration in the exchange rate with Canada. Commenting on this subject, the board stated -
Excluding exchange and primage duty, the cost of importing Canadian carbide of calcium under the suggested British preferential tariff rate of Id. per lib. would be £25 12s. 5d. per ton, compared with the selling prices of Australian carbide of £25 10s. per ton, less 1 per cent, for cash for small purchasers, and £23 7s. Id. net for large parcels. The present exchange and primage duty represent an additional £(i 10s. 7d. per ton.
Because of the altered exchange position, there is nothing like that margin now. In fact, if Canadian manufacturers decided to “ dump “ their carbide on the Australian market, they could undersell the local product. Continuing, the Tariff / Board stated -
Before the 3rd August, 1931, carbide of calcium imported from Canada was subject to duty at the general tariff rate, and was also subject to dumping duty under sections 4 and 7 of the Customs Tariff Industries Preservation Act 1921-22. The Customs Tariff Canadian Preference Act, which came into operation on the Srd August, 1931, accorded to Canadian carbide of calcium the concession of admission under the British preferential tariff rate. Under section 8 of this act, goods imported from Canada were exempted from “ dumping “ duty. The altered conditions regarding importations from Canada have placed that country in a -more favorable position to compete with local manufacturers than the European countries which formerly supplied the bulk of Australian imports.
Every word of that comment is true. At the present time we have nothing to fear from Norwegian competition, hut everything to fear from Canadian importa- tions.
– Under the Ottawa agreement, we could prevent dumping by Canada upon giving three months’ notice.
– I have received the following telegram from the Tasmanian representative of the carbide company: -
There should he no reduction duties carbide, as the whole market Australia is needed to keep works going, so that we can sell at present low prices. Even Tariff Board did not suggest that consumers could benefit by any reduction tariff, but they seemed to think we could carry on with lower rate duty. We are under agreement not to increase price, and to maintain quality at equal British standard or better, so that fear of harm from monopoly is entirely unfounded. If a sufficient reduction of duty is to be made to allow Canadian carbide in, then the works are doomed. On the other hand, if the reduction is not. going to bo sufficient for this to occur, then why reduce ? We hope you will all oppose strongly any interference with the duties which have enabled these works to carry on without extra cost to the consumers of carbide, and thus also retaining a key chemical industry for Australia.
That was forwarded to me a few days ago from the company in Tasmania. Since then the position has become more acute, because of the alteration of the exchange position. “We can claim for the carbide industry what could not be claimed for the glass industry, which we were discussing a little while ago, that it has never increased it’s prices. When- ever possible, it has reduced prices, while always maintaining the quality of its product. Shortly after the company was inaugurated, the price of carbide was £80 a ton. The company gave an undertaking to keep its price in the vicinity of £26 a ton, and at the present time it is, I believe, as low as £24. It cannot, therefore, be said that the manufacturers are exploiting the public. The industry is worth about £100,000 a year to Tasmania, and, with the exception of a small quantity of anthracite coal imported from Wales, all the raw material, including limestone, steel sheets, timber for casks, fuel, &c, is obtained in Tasmania. The company is also a very large consumer of electric power produced at the hydroelectric works operated by the Tasmanian Government. Since the present’ protection became effective in June, 1930, users have paid less for carbide. than at any time since the war. In the report of the Tariff Board, it was stated -
Since the present company has been in operation all carbide that has left the works for the general market has at least equalled the British acetylene standard gas yield (300 litres per kilo), and for the last three years nothing has been shipped of a quality less than 310 litres per kilo - the weekly average being over 315 litres per kilo, which is 5 per cent, in excess of the amount required by the British standard.
That, I think, answers Senator DuncanHughes in regard to the quality of the product. I think he admitted that the quality ‘has recently been satisfactory, though, at first, he said it’ was not equal to the best Norwegian carbide. The price charged for carbide ‘ in Australia is approximately the same as that paid in other parts of the world, while the quality is’ equal if -not superior to that of carbide supplied to users elsewhere. When applying for the duty to be raised to 2d. per lb., the company gave an undertaking not to increase the price above the then ruling price of £26 a ton. The company has proved its bona fides by charging less than the stipulated amount, the average price being a little over £24 a ton. The company is being run. on sound commercial lines, and is not out to exploit the public. Since it has been in operation, it has never yet paid a dividend. The first company lost the whole of it’s capital, and the enterprise has now been run for some years by an English company having many Australian shareholders, which, as -I have said, has not returned, to its shareholders a penny on the capital subscribed. What I have said should be sufficient to prove that the industry is well worthy of protection. Had it not been that the position in regard to exchange has so materially altered, I should have been satisfied with the existing rates, but, in the present circumstances, duties of 2d. per lb., British, and 3d. per lb., general, would not be too much.
– What is the equivalent ad valorem duty ?
– I do not know, but the present duty on the basis of Id. per lb. works out .at £9 6s. Sd. a ton British.
– If was surprising to me to learn that, although only 43 cwt. of carbide calcium was imported into Australia last year the Tasmanian company engaged in the production of this commodity has not yet been able to pay a dividend. The fact that it has paid no dividend does not greatly concern me. The company is registered in London, and is, I presume, controlled from there. The Tariff Board report states that nearly half the capital was subscribed in Australia, but I presume the direction of the enterprise still remains in London. The request proposed by Senator Cox cannot seriously affect the matter, because no carbide is imported from British countries. As a matter of fact, the company has practically the whole market to itself.
– The company has an absolute monopoly.
– That is so. Et seems to me that it might profitably extend its business by selling some carbide to the many cyclists in Canberra, very few of whom ever seem to carry a light. I commend to the consideration of the freetrade Tasmanian senators who have been trying to reduce duties on numerous items the following extract from the Tariff Board’s report, in which Mr. ]ST. W. Hutchinson, on behalf of the General Calcium-Carbidemakers Association, states: -
In 1926, the Tariff Board conducted an exhaustive inquiry into the question of duty on carbide of calcium, and recommended that the rates then in operation be not varied.”
In spite of this recommendation, the duties applying to this commodity have been increased on three occasions by Government action, although in no instance has the increase yet been ratified by Parliament.
When, the sugar agreement was under discussion, the Tasmanian senators protested loudly because that agreement had not been ratified by Parliament. They conveniently overlooked the fact that the carbide industry of’ Tasmania had its protection increased three times by governmental action, without parliamentary ratification. The same thing has probably been done in regard to hops.
– Does the honorable senator propose to support the request?
– I am waiting for more light on this very interesting question of protection for Tasmanian carbide. So far, I confess, I do not know whether I shall vote for the free admission of carbide, or for still more protection. Having regard to the absurd and contradictory attitude of honorable senators from Tasmania, I feel that I must give the matter further consideration. I must try to be logical; but I know that sometimes when an individual is logical he is not practical, even though he has some show of reason for his actions. Though I sympathize with Senator Cox, I am not yet in a position to declare myself. Later on, perhaps, after the subject has been more fully debated* I may be able to do so.
– I am sorry that ‘ Senator Cox, who, up to the present, has always been an ardent supporter of Australian industries, has now fallen from grace. Possibly long years of friendship with Senator Payne has compelled him to speak on behalf of the consumers. I can understand the sympathy which Senator Cox has with the Australian users of carbide, and, how anxious he is that their living costs should be reduced. The honorable senator is keenly desirous of reducing the cost of living to the Australian farmers who use carbide, and possibly Senator Payne will support the request for a reduction of the rates. I am rather inclined to favour the request moved by Senator Grant. There appears to be a split in the Tasmanian camp, but of that we may hear more later. Apparently Senator Grant has a complete understanding of the’ meaning of tariffs, and after this debate he will, I am sure, support honorable senators on this side of the chamber who favour duties to safeguard Australian industries. I believe that, in Senator Grant, we have a convert, who will make up for the possible defection of Senator Cox. I may be able to persuade Senator Cox to’ withdraw his request, and, by argument, to show him where he is wrong, although perhaps that is unlikely. According to the evidence given before the Tariff Board - I take it that the witnesses before that tribunal are honest and prudent - prior to the establishment of this industry in Tasmania carbide was selling at £80 a ton, but immediately on the establishment of the local industry, the price fell by about 50 per cent. Those controlling the Tasmanian carbide industry are to be congratulated upon placing carbide on the Australian market at one-half the price previously ruling. This shows that in Australia, where the cost of labour is comparatively high, we have been able to market a commodity at a price which is lower than that at which it is produced in countries where labour is. much less costly than it is in Australia. Since the, establishment of the local industry there has been a gradual reduction of price. In support of what Senator Grant has said, Mr. Peacock, on behalf of the Australian Commonwealth Carbide Company, alleged that overseas carbide manufacturers, including those in the United States of America, and in Canada, had formed an international carbide ring, and fixed the price at rates to prevent competition. The Tariff Board report states -
These comparisons lead to the conclusion that overseas manufacturers are prepared to “ dump “ carbide of calcium into Australia at prices below normal world prices in order to obtain the local market.
Honorable senators on this side of the chamber are opposed to dumping from Great Britain, Canada, South Africa, or any other part of the British Empire, or to any action that may lead to operations being conducted in such a way as to place commodities on the market at rates lower- than those prevailing in the country of origin, to the possible detriment of Australian industries.
– Although the dumping provisions of the Australian Industries Preservation Act cannot be applied in this instance, the terms of the Canadian trade agreement prevent dumping.
– I am glad to hear that. Although Tasmanian senators have been bitterly opposed to Queensland industries engaged in the production of such commodities. as sugar and cotton, honorable senators on this side of the chamber are prepared to forgive them. We do not wish to enter into reprisals in any shape or form, and, in order to safeguard the calcium carbide industry of Tasmania, we will, after argument, I feel sure be proud to, support an industry in the tight little island of Tasmania so ably represented in this chamber.
.- I am sorry that Senator Duncan-Hughes should have considered it necessary to gibe Senator Cox in connexion with his request to reduce the duties on calcium carbide, because on tariff matters none of us can afford to throw stones. During divisions on items in ‘the schedule, honorable senators have voted on either side, and the suggestion that the request was moved to interfere with the interests of a certain section was ill advised, and one which I frankly admit I would hardly have expected from the honorable senator. In some of the divisions, Senator Duncan-Hughes has supported the Government, and in others he has opposed it.
– I have not assisted it so frequently as have the members of the Labour party.
– When the Scullin Government was in power, it sent the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) on a special visit to Canada to find additional markets for many of our primary products, particularly canned fruits. During the tariff debate, we have heard Senator Grant and some of his colleagues speak of the danger threatening Australian primary producers by the importation of goods from other countries, which compete with the products of our primary industries. When the textile duties were under consideration, Senator Payne said that Japan purchases a huge quantity of wool from Australia, and that if we refused to purchase goods from Japan the result might be disastrous to our wool-growers. Similar arguments were adduced by other honorable senators supporting duties lower than those provided in the schedule, yet Senator Grant, who has been one of the most prominent in seeking lower duties on practically every item, now expresses concern, because Canada may export a small quantity of carbide to Australia to enter into competition with the Tasmanian product. Even if it be detrimental to Australian industries to import goods from other countries, surely we should endeavour to give effect to the scheme which Mr. Parker Moloney accomplished, and under which Canada agreed to take a greater proportion of our primary products than formerly.
– Is that the honorable senator’s argument with respect to sugar ?
– There is a market for Queensland sugar even in Canada. L have no objection to the sugar industry being discussed, because it will bear the closest investigation. In tariff matters, Queensland senators have been consistent, and have not asked for something which they would not concede to others. Cn this instance, the duties should be allowed to remain as recommended by the Tariff Board. By increasing the duty against British carbide, we may injure trade in those primary products for which markets were sought by Mr. Parker Moloney.
– He did a good job.
– His friends and those opposed to him politically congratulated him upon bringing the Canadian Trade Treaty to a successful conclusion. I do not wish injury to be done to the carbide industry merely because it is in Tas mania; but I do not think it should be used in such a way as to injure any export trade we may gain. under the Canadian Trade Treaty.
.- The Tariff Board examined this matter very carefully, and ascertained that overseas manufacturers are quoting to buyers in Australia at prices which are much lower than those quoted to buyers in other countries. It came under the board’s notice that the price quoted to Australian buyers are substantially below the domestic price in the countries of export. For instance, Canadian carbide is sold to Australian purchasers at £12 per ton f.o.b., whereas the price on the Canadian home market ranges from £20 16s. 9d. to £22 8s. lOd. Again, Norwegian carbide is .exported to. Australia at £14 13s. 5d. per ton f.o.b., but it waa ascertained that the domestic price of Norwegian carbide recently imported into New Zealand was £21 10s. 4d. a ton. That was clear evidence of what was taking place in the matter of selling prices in two countries. Compared with the market prices for overseas carbide in the country of export, the prices charged by the Australian manufacturers at present are reasonable, and are much below the price at which overseas carbide could be landed free of duty in Australia under present exchange conditions. The Australian manufacturer’s present selling prices c.i.f. and e. capital cities are for 5-ton lots, £25 4s. lid., and for larger parcels, £23 7s. Id. The board shows conclusively that the industry can function successfully under the rates of duty proposed. The Government, of course, has in mind that there is only one manufacturer of carbide in Australia, and cannot overlook the fact that a monopoly in the industry may be harassing to the purchasing public as it may result in prices being charged on a much higher scale than if competition existed. Under the proposed rates, with normal exchange and no primage, Canadian carbide would be landed in Australia at £25 12s. 5d. a ton, and Norwegian carbide at £37 5s. lOd. a ton, compared with the Australian manufacturer’s selling prices of £25 4s. lid. for 5-ton lots and £23 7s. Id. for larger parcels. The rates that the committee is asked to adopt will adequately protect the local manufacturer and, at the same time, under normal exchange conditions, ensure the safeguarding of the interests of the purchasing public by establishing a maximum price level for Australian carbide. Carbide is one of the items included in the Canadian Trade Agreement. If Senator Cox’s request were agreed to, the Australian producer would not be able to carry on. If, on the other hand, the duty were increased beyond the rate recommended by the Tariff Board, the protection given would be greater than that which the board has demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt is sufficient. The industry employs a considerable volume of labour, more than 200 persons being engaged in it. It uses a lot of Australian products, and absorbs a good deal of electric power. A greater measure of protection would result in monopolization, of which there could be no corrective, and which would exercise a disturbing influence on the Canadian Trade Agreement, while less protection would expose the. industry to the chill winds of Canadian imports, and ultimately crush it. Senator Grant said that the company had never declared a dividend. It is for, the company itself to decide whether it should carry on in those circumstances. The recommendation of the Tariff Board was made after the most searching investigation, and the object of the board was to give the industry a fair deal. That also is what the Government stands for; no more, and no less.
– My colleague (Senator Grant) has stated the case so fully and clearly that there is not much left for me to say; but there arc one or two points that I should like to make. I do not believe that Senator Cox is serious in his request, and I hope that he will withdraw it. This industry has been in a struggling condition ever since it commenced to operate during the war years. The carbide that it produces is made to a standard, is of excellent quality, and is cheap. When it was initiated, the price of carbide was £80 a ton, but it dropped immediately to £40 a ton. I remember distinctly that for some time while this company was supplying carbide in Australia for £27 10s. a ton, the price in South Africa was £50 a ton, and in New Zealand £45 a ton. Surely, then, it deserves some recognition! The company which inaugurated the hydroelectric scheme in Tasmania started this enterprise, but lost all the capital invested. I do not know what electric power is being used by the present company, but the first contract made with the Tasmanian Government some years ago was for 3,500 horse-power continuously. This industry is a necessary adjunct to the hydro-electric scheme, and that is the reason for its having been started in Tasmania. I recollect that the original company could not obtain the formula that would enable it to make the electrodes which are necessary in the manufacture of carbide, because the secret of their manufacture, was held in enemy countries, and the knowledge was not gained until many months had been” devoted to research and experimental work of a most exacting character. Then, as soon .as a satisfactory result was obtained the plant used for their manufacture was burnt down. Other diffi- culties have been encountered year after year, and no dividends have yet been paid. The present company cannot carry on without this small duty. Owing to the exchange position making it easier for Canada to export, I am sure that a duty of 2d. per lb. British is needed. -I cannot find in the schedule many items that have been reduced, and I do not consider that it is fair to lower by 50 per cent, the protection afforded to a key industry. This industry ought to enjoy the Australian trade. When my attention was first” drawn to the reduction of 50 per cent., I thought that it must be a mistake. I still think so, and I shall help to restore the rate to a reasonable level.
– It is worth while recording that, comparatively speaking, Tasmania has suffered to a greater extent than any other State in consequence of its having entered the federal system. That is admitted on all hands. Therefore, when an industry of this description asks to be shown some sympathy, my old friend, Senator Cox, cannot be serious when he suggests that we should abolish the duty and thus, at one stroke, wipe it out of existence. If those who are running the glass industry conducted their business on the same lines as are followed by the carbide industry, no fault could be found with them. The trouble under the operation of the tariff is that one set of people can do a lot of things which are not open to another set to do. This carbide enterprise is rendering a good service to Australia if it succeeds in attracting capital to this country. Senator MacDonald referred to the fact that the company is registered in London, and that some of the capital came from there. What is wrong with that? I regard it as a most commendable feature, if only because it serves to show that there are, in the distance, people who are willing to trust us to the extent of investing their savings in our industries in the belief that they will get a fair deal. This industry is entitled to special consideration on that ground alone. The reason that it was established in Tasmania is that it was able to obtain there cheaper power than is available in any other State of the Commonwealth. If an industry started under such favorable auspices has found it hard to continue, and has not paid a penny by way of dividend, “what would have happened had it had the same environment as the glass industry in Sydney? It would have been hopelessly bankrupt, and would not be appealing to this Parliament for assistance. Therefore, a great deal of credit is due to the company for having carried on and given the users of this commodity a fair deal.
– The same thing applies to the gold-mining industry in Western Australia.
– Because Western Australia had not a free market for its gold during the war period, it lost more than would have paid the gold bounty ten times over. This case presents a feature of our tariff legislation that is too often lost sight of. If the argument is true that the essence of protection is that we must protect ourselves against those who are on a lower plane than we are, socially, industrially and economically, no protection should be needed against Canada, because its standards are not inferior to ours. When we seek to protect ourselves against those who enjoy equal social standards, we expose the utter fallacy of a large part of our tariff policy. We protect a local industry against Massey-Harris machinery, yet it still comes in; and we cannot prevent it from doing so, because those who make these implements in Canada are standing up to their job, while the Australian workmen and manufacturers are not doing so. We cannot con-, tinue to build this high tariff wall against people who are in no respect inferior to u3, because to do so would be a confession of incompetence, and an inability to stand up to our job. Are we not the equals in every respect of the people of those countries which observe the same conditions of living and civilized life as ourselves. Then, why the necessity for our high tariff barrier, unless we are the dupes of the party that believes that high tariffs alone are needed to bring about prosperity? If this barrier is required, it must be maintained at the expense of the unfortunate section who toil on the land, and whose backs are now almost broken. We should ask ourselves why we cannot stand up to our duties, the same as countries like Canada, the United States of America and New Zealand. I support these duties in the belief that the Tasmanian carbide industry needs assistance, and if every other industry in Australia that enjoys protection had behaved in the same way as has the carbide industry, the charge against protection would be shorn of its ugliest features. Many of those who are sheltered by the tariff wall are fleecing the people to an unwarranted extent, an( the people on the land feel hurt when, they find that favours are shovelled out to one section of the community at the expense of another.
. - I have listened with a good deal of indignation to Senator Lynch’s entirely unjustified vilification of Australia and Australians. I was surprised to hear him speak of his fellow countrymen in the terms that he used. The people of this country deserve the respect of the inhabitants of every other country, and, in my opinion, have done nothing whatever to justify the reflections which Senator Lynch has cast upon them. In every field of activity, the people of Australia have proved’ themselves the equals of the citizens of any other country. In the present unfortunate circumstances in which we find ourselves, we are meeting and overcoming our difficulties in a way which has met with the approval of other nations. To hear Senator Lynch, one might imagine that Australia was the only part of the world where action had been taken to protect local industries against outside competition; but the duties imposed under our tariff are by no means as high as some of those levied elsewhere.
– The- honorable senator must- confine his remarks to the item under consideration.
– Without digressing, I think I may point out that, in the French Parliament, a couple of days ago, by 480. votes to about a dozen, a new tariff schedule was passed, without discussion, for the further protection of French industries. I intend to support the carbide duties as they stand, because
I consider it desirable to assist the Tasmanian industry, which, we *are told, has not returned a dividend on the money invested in it.
– If it cannot pay a dividend, I should say that it requires new directors.
– Failure to pay dividends does not always connote faulty management. I am surprised that Tasmanian newspapers, such as the Hobart Mercury, which are always denouncing the policy of protection, should charge 100 per cent, more for their product than the price ruling before the war. There are certain sheltered industries in Australia which are supplying what may be described as necessary commodities, and, although they are not protected under the tariff, they are exploiting the people, while industries which are protected have not increased their prices.
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives he requested to make the duties, per lb., British, 3d.; general, Gd.
There is a limited world output of calcium carbide, the only British dominion, apart from Australia, which manufactures it being Canada. It is also made in the United States of America,’ Scandinavia and Germany. There has been a general depreciation of the currencies of Scandinavian countries. In Denmark, the krone has depreciated a great deal, and a remarkable feature of the economic reviews received from London is that they show that Scandinavia is using Denmark as a buttress for the purpose of dumping products on the British markets. When the ex-member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) visited Canada on behalf of the last Labour Government - I admit that he did good work in connexion with the trade mission which he conducted - it was desired that Australia should increase its trade with Canada in dried fruits, canned pineapples, other canned fruits, rabbit skins, butter and citrus fruits; but our trade agreement with Canada has been nullified by the Ottawa agreement. As Canada is now entitled to export carbide to Australia under the British preferen tial rate, I feel that that rate should be increased to 3d. per lb. Directly and indirectly, the manufacture of carbide of calcium at the company’s works at Electrona, about 27 miles from Hobart, gives employment to over 200 men. With the exception of about 4,000 tons of Welsh coal, an essential requirement which has to be imported, all the raw materials are obtainable in Tasmania. A higher British preferential tariff would give added protection to this Australian industry. At this juncture we have little need to fear competition from Germany, because that nation is fully occupied in dealing with’ its interna] troubles. The French Chamber of Deputies, of about 500 members, recently raised the tariff against goods from the United States of America by about 100 per cent., in retaliation against that country’s manipulation of the dollar. Just as the Scandinavian producers of carbide operate through Denmark, so the producers of this material in the United States of America work through the British dominion of Canada. By establishing their factories in Canadian territory they get the benefit of the British preferential rates in our tariff. In the matter of Empire preference, Canadian manufac:turers are on the same footing as those in Tasmania; and, since there is no natural boundary separating the United States of America from Canada, and because the industrial conditions in the two countries differ greatly, a British preferential duty of 3d. per lb., and a general duty of 6d. per lb., is only reasonable. If Senator Lynch had his way, the money in circulation in Australia would be reduced by £40,392. Statistics show that a worker in receipt of £4 153. or £5 a week receives sufficient only to meet his needs from pay-day on Friday or Saturday of one week until Tuesday or Wednes– day of the following week.
Carbide of calcium manufactured in the United States of America was quoted ‘ at £25 13s. 4’d. a ton when that country was on the gold standard; but its value to-day, with a goods standard in operation, is difficult to determine. Canada and the United States of America, like Australia, are now off the gold standard, so that national frontiers are ineffective as a moans of preventing dumping. In view of the happenings at the World Economic Conference in London, Australia will have to follow the example of other countries, which have met the situation confronting them by depreciating their currency. According to the Tariff Board’s report -
The base factory selling price of Australian carbide of calcium is £25 10s. per ton, c.i.f.e. main Australiain ports. Quantity discounts up to 7i per cent, are allowed, in addition to 1 per cent, for prompt settlement.
The Tariff Board also informs us that the capital employed by Tasmanian manufacturers of carbide exceeds £200,000, of which about £80,000 is represented by plant and machinery. That plant and machinery did not come from the United States of America, Great Britain, or from Scandinavia. Senator J. B. Hayes told us that the electrodes were manufactured in Tasmania, on the spot. That gives quite a lot of employment to wood-cutters and those engaged in the charcoal industry in Tasmania. Since this company has been in operation
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I oppose the request. Senator Dunn appears to be under some misapprehension, for the Ottawa agreement provides that if Canadian manufacturers engage in anything in the nature of dumping, we are empowered, under the Canadian agreement, to place the commodity concerned under the general tariff. The protection which the honorable senator desires to give the industry is prohibitive. The Tariff Board considered the matter from every aspect and made the following recommendation: -
The board considers that it is to the advantage of both consumers and producers of carbide of calcium to safeguard the local industry.
So that the board was not unmindful of the local manufacturers.
The high duties now in operation are more than are necessary to enable the local manufacturers to retain the local market, and the board considers that they could be substantially reduced without exposing the industry to the unfair competition of overseas manufacturers. Duties of Id. per lb. British preferential tariff, and 14d. per lb. general tariff, would, in the opinion of the board, give the-local product a definite price advantage over imported carbide of calcium, and would secure the whole Australian market to the local manufacturers, provided the quality of the product be maintained and general trading conditions be satisfactory.
Honorable senators discussed this matter from various viewpoints when the previous request was moved, and I suggest that the proper course would be to stand by the Tariff Board, which took cognizance of the interests of the industry as well as those of the public, and is fair to both consumer and manufacturer.
– I cannot support the request that has been moved by Senator Dunn, because the rates suggested are absurdly high. However, I intend later on to submit a request, because the Minister has not enlightened me satisfactorily as to the effect of the conversion rate of the Canadian dollar. I admit that the report of the Tariff Board is eminently fair, and one about which there can be no quibble, but the exchange position has changed entirely since that report was made. At that time the conversion rate was 4 dollars 15 cents Canadian to the £1 sterling, and 3 dollars 27 cents to the Australian £1. I am using the term cents instead of decimal points for the sake of clarity. At the 30th January last, the rates were, respectively, 3 dollars 99 cents, and 3 dollars 17 cents, while at present the conversion rate is nearly 4 dollars to the Australian £1, which would be taken into consideration by any Canadian company when quoting on a sterling basis.
– How does that affect the position?
– Suppose, as an illustration, that in January four Canadian dollars were equal to the Australian £1, while a few days ago it took five to make an Australian £1; naturally, at the later date, the purchaser would be able to buy more carbide for the same amount of sterling or Australian pounds because of the alteration of the exchange basis. That was not considered by the Tariff Board, but it would have to be considered now. I am quite satisfied that -we are amply protected against carbide coming from any other country than Canada, but, because of the extraordinary circumstance that has arisen in regard to the exchange rate, I shall move a request when that of Senator Dunn has been dealt with.
.- When the Tariff Board considered this matter in March last, it altogether ignored the matter of exchange, which is to be dealt with in another way, as has previously been indicated; but even ifthe Australian £1 were at par, it would not be possible to-day to land carbide of calcium from Canada under £28 a ton, which surely is adequate protection for the local industry.
– Senator Grant knows as well as I do that Canada, the United States of America, and Australia are off the gold standard. Scandinavia, which manufactures carbide of calcium, is on the gold standard, and, according to the latest market quotations, fine gold is quoted at £7 12s. 9d. an ounce. In view of the depreciation of the krone in Scandinavia, there is nothing to prevent that country, even if the general tariff rate were increased to 6d. per lb., from exporting calcium carbide in ships’ holds as ballast and dumping it in Australia.
– It would not matter if Scandinavia gave its carbide away.
– In the fight for overseas markets, and in view of the failure of the World Economic Conference, the departure of other countries from the gold standard and the increase in the price of gold to £7 12s. 9d. per oz., it would pay Scandinavia almost to give its carbide away. Let me say, with all due respect to Senator Grant, that the Tariff Board’s report was in the hands of the printer long before the depreciation of the Danish krone and the failure of ‘ the World Economic Conference took place. In order to safeguard ‘the Australian industry, we should increase the general rate to 6d. per lb. and the British preferential rate to 3d. per lb., as provided for in ‘.-my request.
Question - That the request (Senator Dunn’s) be agreed to - put. The. committee divided. (Ch airman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Ayes . . … . . 6
Noes . . . . . . 15
Majority. . . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Request (by Senator Grant) proposed -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties, per lb., British 2d., general 3d.
– I have no wish to debate the request other than to point out to the honorable senator that the proposed rate is 400 per. cent, higher than the duty under which this industry was established. I cannot accept the request for the reason that it proposes a duty not in conformity with the recommendation of the Tariff Board.
Question put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
– The “Ayes” and “ Noes “ being equal, I declare the question resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Item 2S1 (a .”) agreed to.
Division 10. - “Wood, “Wicker, and Cane.
Items 298 (b), 299 (b), and 306 (a) (b) agreed to.
Division 11. - Jewellery and Fancy Goods.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to -
That Item 319, sub-item (a), paragraphs (5) and (6) be postponed.
Division 12. - Hides, Leather, and Rubber.
Item 330 (Gum and wading boots).
– I should like the Minister to make a statement regarding the action taken by the Government to prevent the continuance of Japanese dumping. The North Australian Rubber Company is a highly efficient enterprise that is capable of supplying “the demand in Australia for rubber boots and shoes. But the industry was menaced by the large stocks of Japanese gum and wading boots that were being dumped at prices with which the Australian manufacturer could not compete. Even India, despite its coolie labour and low standards of living, has found it. necessary to increase its tariff wall in order to protect itself against the dumping of Japanese goods. Other manufacturers of gum and rubber boots and shoes are the Hardie Rubber Company Limited, Perdriau Rubber Company Limited, and the Ryan Rubber Company in New South Wales, and the Barnet Glass Rubber Company Limited, and the Dunlop Rubber Shoe Company Proprietary Limited in Victoria. The committee should have an assurance from the Minister that the local industry is a’dequately protected.
.- While this schedule was under consideration in the House of Representatives, the local rubber boot industry was suffering a severe disturbance on account of the competition of Japanese gum and wading boots. The Trade and Customs Department closely observed developments with a view to the application of the Industries Preservation Act, but finally the Minister submitted an amendment by which from the 29th April, 1933, gum and wading boots became subject to, not only ad valorem duties of 20 and 374 per cent., but also specific duties of ls. and 3s. 6d. a pair. I am glad to inform the committee that as a result of this action dumping has ceased, and the whole of the trade is again in the hands of Australian manufacturers.
.- I confirm what the Minister has just said. Prior to the imposition of the fixed duties, the sales manager of one of the large rubber firms, a personal friend of mine, told me that importation of J apanese gum boots was seriously affecting the Australian industry. A few day3 ago, when I saw him again, he informed me that the fixed duty in the general tariff amply protected Australian manufacturers.
Item agreed to. “
Item 331, sub-item (b 2 a b) -
Rubber and rubber manufactures, viz.: -
(2) (a,) Rubber thread; apparel elastic, less than one inch in width, ad valorem, British, 35 per cent.; general, 55 per cent.
Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) [10.42’J. - I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-paragraph a, British, 15 per cent.
I am submitting this request to give the British manufacturers a better chance of continuing their trade with Australia. There is a difference of only 20 per cent. - between the British and general rates, and under existing conditions Japanese manufacturers are seriously injuring British trade with Australia in this commodity. I have before me two samples of elastic, one made in Japan, and the other in Great Britain. The landed cost of the
Japanese article, based on the former duty of 15 per cent., is 5s. 8d. per gross yards, while the landed cost of the British elastic,, duty free, is 10s. 9d. per gross yards. From this it is clear that an ad valorem rate of 35 per cent, is too great a handicap for the British manufacturer. The Tariff Board, in its report on this industry, draws attention to the following statement made by Mr. B. W. Caldwell on behalf of British manufacturers : -
Artificial silk knicker clastic known aa “Ovalastic” which costs, per gross of yards, f.o.b., United Kingdom, 12s. under present conditions of importing with no duty, costa landed 10s. Id. per gross yards. Elastic manufactured by Elastic Webbing Australia Proprietary Limited, Melbourne, approximately -similar in quality and used for the same purpose, is sold by the Australian factory at leS. fid. per gross yards.
I fail to find in the board’s report any justification whatever for this heavy duty against British manufacturers. If my request is carried, they will have an opportunity to trade with Australia, and perhaps meet Japanese competition.
– Honorable senators will doubtless recall some of the charges that were hurled against the Government during the second-reading debate, in respect of some statements made, I think, by Mr. Perkins in the British House of Commons. The Tariff Board states that the manufacture of elastic in Australia commenced in September, 1931. At that time it was free of ordinary customs duty from all countries. The manufacturers hoped to be able to manufacture under the protection of the exchange, and did not apply for a duty. After the industry had been established some little time, the selling prices of both British and Japanese imported elastic were substantially reduced. An application was then submitted by a local manufacturer for the imposition of a duty. The board recommended rates of duty of 35 per cent. British and 55 per cent, general. It stated that the rates recommended would not enable Australian manufacturers to secure the market in all lines, but that they should provide adequate protection for the lines for which there was a reasonably heavy demand. In making its recommendation, the board applied the principle embodied in the Ottawa agreement.
No one will deny that this industry has been of some benefit to the users. of this commodity in Australia. The capital invested in the enterprise is £66,000, and it gives employment to about 150 persons. Iti evidence before the board, the applicants claimed to be able to supply the whole of Australian requirements in narrow elastic, which are estimated to be in the vicinity of 250,000 gross yards, of an approximate value of £130,000. This firm commenced business without assistance from the tariff; but, shortly afterwards, it met with the keenest opposition from importing interests,, with the result that it was obliged to apply to the board for protection. The rates proposed are those recommended by the board. The prices charged for the local article are reasonable, compared with prices charged prior to the imposition of this duty.
– The Minister has entirely lost sight of the reasons which I gave in support of my request. According to the evidence given by a gentleman who ought to know, the importations were not from Britain. That is a point I wish to emphasize. Mr: W. J. Wallis, Managing Director, Elastic Webbing (Australia) Proprietary Limited, Melbourne, stated -
When manufacture was commenced, the price of the cheapest imported elastic which was being sold in Australia was approximately 7s. to 9s. per gross yards.
In the meantime foreign elastic was being offered, and was continually reduced in price, even as low as 4s. per gross yards, in the attempt to capture the trade.
The importations came from Japan, not from Britain, and that is why I have moved this request.
– Importations came from both countries.
– Yes, but they were not both sold at that price. This Japanese elastic was imported by a certain Flinders-lane warehouse, and cost 5s. 8d. a gross under the old tariff of 15 per cent., while the British article cost 10s. 9d. a gross duty free. I desire to make the difference between the British and the general duties so great that the British manufacturers will have a chance to compete with those of Japan.
– And the Australian manufacturers will be undersold.
– That is not so. In the course of the Tariff Board inquiry, it was stated by witnesses on both sides that the Australian manufacturers could produce an article to sell at less than 10s. 9d. a gross, the landed cost duty free of the British elastic. It is stated that one possible advantage of British elastic is that it stands washing better than does the local article.
Sub-item agreed to.
Items 332 (a) (b3) (c) (f) (g), and 333 (a1) agreed to.
Division 13. - Paper and Stationery.
Item 341 agreed to.
Item 342 -
Black; printing ink, the current domestic value of which in the country of export does not exceed (id. per lb., in packages containing not less than 1 cwt., per lb., British,1d.; general, 2d., or ad valorem, British, 40 per cent.; general,60 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to leave out the fixed duty, British, and make the duty, ad valorem, British, 30 per cent.
This is the ink used chiefly in the printing of newspapers. It has been found that a mixture of local and imported ink is the most satisfactory for illustrations. The most popular imported inks are purchased in England at from 4½d. perlb. to 5¾d. per lb., f.o.b., without the addition of primage, exchange, freight, landing and delivery charges. The price of imported ink delivered into store in Australia is slightly under1s. per lb. as against 5d. per lb. for local ink landed into store. Therefore, the local ink enjoys a protection of 130 per cent, of its own value. It is clear that the imported ink is not competitive so far as price is concerned, and is only imported for purposes for which local ink is not suitable, or for mixing with local ink. Therefore, the duty of 40 per cent., or1d. per lb., British, is excessive and unnecessary. If the duty were reduced to the former rate of 30 per cent., ad valorem, as it was during the regime of ^ the Bruce-Page Government, printing costs would be reduced, and the local industry would not suffer, in view of the additional protection afforded by exchange and primage duties.
– I draw the attention of honorable senators to the fact that the Tariff Board reported on this item as late as the 2nd December, 1932. In 1928-29, only 153,000 lb. of ink was imported from the United Kingdom, as against 2,148,334 lb. from the United States of America. The value of the British importations was £4,017, as against £24,898 from the United States of America. The proposed rates are substantially lower than those imposed by theprevious Government, but agree with the recommendation of the Tariff Board in its report of the 2nd December, 1932. Australian manufacturers did not enter into bulk production, of black printing ink until 1930, but they are now supplying 98 per cent, of the local demand, and have been able to reduce their prices by 20 per cent. In fact, the present prices are the lowest which have been quoted in Australia for some years, and compare favorably with those previously paid for imported ink. The value of the industry, however, is not great. Seventy-five per cent, of the raw materials are imported, and only a small amount of labour is employed. The board is satisfied that the high rates of duty proposed by the previous Government are not required to protect the industry, and there is a danger that, if maintained, they may result in injury to the consumers at a later date. If the newspapers have been experiencing difficulty, as suggested by Senator Johnston, I cannot understand that honorable senators have not heard from them, either through their own columns, or from the pens of the management.
Item agreed to.
Item 343 agreed to.
Division 14. - Vehicles.
Item 359, sub-items (b2) (f2, 4, 8) (g8) - Vehicle parts, viz. : - (f2) Windscreens, whether imported sepa rately or with motor vehicles, or parts thereof, except when parts of the types of bodies enumerated in paragraph (3) of sub-item (D) of this item, each, British, 10s.; general, 15s., or ad valorem, British, 40 per cent.; general, 60 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty. (f8) Windscreen wipers, each British, 3s., general,6s., or ad valorem, British, 274 per cent., general, 45 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-item (f) (2) by leaving out the fixed duty, British.
I desire that the fixed rates of duty should be omitted in respect of all the sub-items of this item, but in order to test the matter, I confine my request to subitem f2.For purposes of replacement, all these parts are most expensive. The automotive industry association in two or three of the States has complained in regard to the matter. Motor cars are not made in Australia, and many of these parts cannot be manufactured here. The motor car is an economic necessity to-day, and if we are to foster the industry, and lower the cost of transport, it is absolutely necessary to keep down the prices of parts of cars, trucks, and. omnibuses.
– These duties were increased by the previous Government, and the matter was referred to the Tariff Board to ascertain whether the increases were necessary. It is only in respect of the fixed duties that the reduction has been’ made. The fixed rates of the previous Government were imposed without full investigation. After reviewing local and overseas prices, the board was satisfied that they were altogether out of proportion to costs, and that the fixed rates now proposed were adequate to provide ample protection to the industry. Windscreens are extensively manufactured in Australia, those of the better class almost wholly from Australian raw material. Most of the cars now sold in Australia are fitted with windscreens of local manufacture. Owing to the shifting of the demand from the open to the closed type of motor-car body, the demand for windscreens of the type covered by this paragraph is diminishing. A large proportion of the raw materials used in the cheaper windscreens is imported, ‘and pays duties averaging 40 per cent.; con-, sequently, the actual protection afforded is not as high as the rates would indicate,
The board was satisfied that the alternative ad valorem rates were necessary, hut that the fixed rates could be reduced without detriment to the local manufacturers, as they ranged up to as high as 400 per cent.
.- The report of the Tariff Board, and the evidence tendered to it, disclose an extraordinary state of affairs, that should be minimized as far as possible, in regard to the price that has to be paid by the purchaser of a windscreen wiper, compared with that which the manufacturer obtains. On the first page of the board’s report, honorable senators will find striking evidence that was given by Mr. Powell, representing Die Casters Proprietary Limited, Collingwood, Victoria. It reads -
The company manufactures two brands of windscreen wiper, the “ Dykon “ and the “ Dyafram “, both of the vacuum type.
Manufacture of the “ Dykon “ type, which is similar to the vacuum type produced overseas, commenced in May, 1928. This wiper, complete with motor, wire arm, blade, rubber tube, clips, vacuum tank connexion, template for drilling, and instructions for attachment, is supplied packed in a carton for 21s. retail.
Wholesale selling is done through the usual wholesale channels, and not by the company itself. The price to the wholesaler is8s.6d.
It appears to me that what is wanted is, not a higher duty, but some action that will enable the purchaser to obtain this article at a reasonable price. The margin between 8s. 6d. and 21s. is altogether too great. Mr. Powell’s evidence continues -
Garage-keepers purchase from the wholesaler at the following prices: -
Lots of 1 to 5 - 21s., less 25 per cent. = 15s. 9d.
Lots of 6 to 35 - 21s. loss 33 per cent. = 14s.
Lots of 30 or more - 21s. less 33 per cent, and 10 per cent. = 12s. 7d.
The wide margin between the factory selling prices and the retail price is required to retain the . support of the wholesaler.
I am not disposed to vote for an increased duty in any case where it means the perpetuation of such enormous profits as are here disclosed, and the charging of such a high price to those for whom these wipers are manufactured - the user, not the wholesaler.
– Was not the position exactly the same when wipers were not made in Australia?
– No ; if an importer landed an article for 8s. 6d., he charged the retailer probably from 10s. 6d. to 12s. I contend that the imposition. of a higher duty will aggravate the position that now obtains.
– If the honorable senator will hear what I have to say, he will find that it will not.
– I hope that the Minister will make some comment on the extraordinary custom that I have disclosed.
.- The Tariff Board reported on this matter quite recently. The board was satisfied as to the quality of the local article, and believed that the proposed duties were sufficient to protect the Australian manufacturer. Electric wind-screen wipers are not manufactured locally, but these represent only about 10 per cent, of the requirements, and, as they are competitive with the vacuum wiper, a moderate duty against them is needed. Wipers of foreign origin have been quoted at very low prices, and the board considered that the fixed rate of 6s. each was necessary to protect the local manufacturer against the competition arising from such low-priced wipers. The trade speaks very favorably of the Australian wiper, which is supplied by the manufacturer at a moderate price. It has been exported to New Zealand, where it has competed successfully against the products of the’ United Kingdom and the United States of America. The Tariff Board drew attention to the marked disparity that existed between the local manufacturer’s price and that which the user has to pay, and suggested that an endeavour should be made to reduce the retail price. Action on these lines has been taken, but the matter has not yet been finalized. It is the responsibility of the Trade and Customs Department to police the tariff in matters such as this. The necessary inspection is now being made with a view to remedying some of the defects to which the honorable senator has referred.
– Owing to the speed at which motor cars travel, and the danger of accidents to the occupants of motor vehicles and to others, windscreen wipers should be obtainable at as low a price as possible. Nobody can convince me that a great deal depends upon the local manufacture of this article. It is an insignificant and negligible- item, and the motoring public should not be penalized to such an extent that they will be disinclined to purchase windscreen wipers. Although it is but a small accessory of a motor car, it is of the utmost importance that it should be in general use. It is better that half a dozen persons ‘ should have their lives saved than that 60 should be provided with employment which would make this article expensive.
– I draw the attention of the committee to the following evidence by Mr. F. I. Ely, representing the Ford Motor Company of Australia Proprietary Limited: -
There we have direct evidence that even an American wiper of the same type cannot be landed at the price at which the Australian factory is turning out this article. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-item (f8) by leaving out the fixed duty, British.
Question - put. The committee divided. (Chairman- - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Request negatived. -Sub-items (b2) and (f2, 4, 8) agreed to.
– I move - .
That the consideration of sub-item (g8) be postponed.
The Tariff Board has submitted a recommendation in connexion with paragraph 7 of sub-itemG, which, if accepted, would necessitate an alteration of paragraph 8.
Motion agreed to.
Sub-item (G8) postponed.
Division 16. - MISCELLANEOUS.
Items 374 (D2, 3), 376 (b) (e) (f), 392 (c), and 394 (d1, 2) agreed to.
Item 424, sub-item (b2). “ Vessels, including all fittings, imported’ therewith, viz.: -
Vessels, n.e.i., trading intra-state or interstate ‘for any continuous period of three months or otherwise employed in Australian waters for any continuous period of three months -
.-I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties, sub-item (b2) on all vessels of 100 tons and over, ad val. British, 65 per cent.; general, 85 percent.
The hour is late, and I hope that the Minister will agree to report progress, in which case I shall explain to-morrow my reason- for moving this request.
Charges Against Customs OFFICIALDuty on Films - Speech of Leader of the Senate.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
SenatorREID (Queensland) [11.25]. - Honorable senators will remember -that last week, when discussing items on which the duties are prescribed by departmental by-laws, I cited, in good faith, a case which occurred in Sydney. The position now is that, while I believed what was said to me, and only repeated what was told to me, I am unable to produce evidence of any particulars concerning it. In the circumstances, I greatly regret that I referred to the’ matter at all, and now wish to withdraw what I then said.
– I have examined the Hansard report of the speech made by the -Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) earlier in the debate, in which he criticized honorable senators who proposed to vote against the Government on the duty on films, and I find that certain deletions have been made from it. Since the right honorable gentleman is not now in the chamber, I shall avail myself of another opportunity to refer to this matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 July 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1933/19330711_senate_13_140/>.