13th Parliament · 1st Session
ThePresident (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the attention of the Minister in Charge of Development been drawn to the following statement, which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 11th instant : -
Both the Air Ministry and the Admiralty have recently placed contracts for large supplies of British fuel derived from coal. The Admiralty contract is for coalite fuel oil, and the Air Ministry contract for a twelve months’ supply of a new grade of aviation petrol. It is claimed that this aviation petrol has the highest anti-knock value of any petrol now in use, and does not require the addition of any chemicals or “ dope “. Both the fuel oil and the petrol are being produced by Low Temperature Carbonisation
Limited, and it is interesting to note that the coal petrol is refined by the firm of Carless, Capel and Leonard, who were supplying petrol in the very early days of the motor industry. It was this firm who coinedthe word “ petrol “, and enriched the dictionary with a word which has since come to mean so much in modern transport.
Will the Minister instruct the Commonwealth Government Research Officer in London, Mr. Rogers, to make inquiries into this matter? Further, will the honorable gentleman instruct an officer of his department to proceed to Newcastle with a view to investigating the research operations of the Lyon brothers in connexion with the extraction of fuel from coal ? .
– The attention of the department has been directed to the statements to which the honorable senator has referred, and investigations have been made into them. I have already promised the honorable senator that Mr. Rogers will examine the results obtained by the Lyon brothers upon his return to Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
Production, Imports, and Exports
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Senator Sir WALTER MASSY
GREENE. - The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
Final figures will not be available until the middle of August, but the totals for the full year are estimated provisionally at 767,680 fine ounces, valued in English sterling at £4,600,000. 2 and 3. The information will not be available until the end of the month.
Inquiries will be made, and a reply will be furnished to Senator Dunn as early as possible, concerning previous and present stocks of oilskin coats in the Royal Australian Naval Stores, Pyrmont, Sydney.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. I am not aware of any such meeting.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The honorable senator’s questions relate to matters of policy, which, as he is aware, it is not the practice to disclose in answer to questions.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 11th July (vide page 3003).
Group 5. - Amendments made by the present Governmentwhich are supported by Tariff Board reports.
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 -
Exceeding 500 tons gross register excepting such vessels in respect of winch firm orders were placed with oversea suppliers before the 14th October, 1932, and which are entered at an Australian port before the 14th January, 1934, ad valorem - British, free; general, 15 per cent.
Upon which Senator Dunn had moved -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties, sub-item (b2), on all vessels of 100 tons and over - British, 65 per cent.; general, 85 per cent.
– I feel that I am on safe ground in making this request, in view of the strong arguments that may be advanced in favour of the protection and the preservation of the Australian ship-building industry. It is not necessary for me to inform honorable senators that a large portion of the trade of an island nation like Australia must be carried by sea. From time to time, writers in the Australian press have drawn attention to the loss of the craft of ship-building in Australia. In the early days of Australia’s history, trade was carried on largely by means of sea-going vessels, and that led to the development in this country of one of the most scientific branches of industry, namely, that of the shipwright. We are greatly indebted to our pioneers for their contribution to that development. To-day, however, the industry is threatened bythe action of some employers, in securing from our industrial courts permission to dispense with apprentices. This action must have the effect of depleting the ranks of skilled artisans, and thus we shall eventually find ourselves dependent upon other countries for the supply of what we ought to be able to manufacture ourselves. According to the reports of the directors of education in the different States, boys who are now leaving school are finding it practically impossible to engage in a skilled occupation, or, in many cases to obtain employment of any kind. No opportunity is afforded to them by the Government to become proficient in one of the finest crafts in the industrial world - that of ship-building. As a matter of fact, even when times were good, the Australian shipping companies, while making large profits out of the primary and secondary production of our people, placed orders in Great Britain for vessels of both small and large tonnage.. The Sydney ferry companies adopted this practice extensively. In the dark days of the world war, when Australia, in common with other allied nations, was “ right up against it,” the government of the day appealed to Australian engineers and workmen to render what assistance they could in the furnishing of the munitions of war that - were needed by our troops at the front. One would think that a State like Queensland, which has such large primary-producing interests, would be among the last in the Commonwealth to embark on ship-building; yet Walker’s Limited, of Maryborough, in that State, responded most nobly to the appeal of the Government, and turned out from its yards some of the finest deep-sea and coastal vessels .that have engaged in the Australian trade. New South Wales also responded splendidly to the call, and vessels were constructed at Newcastle and at Morts Dock and Cockatoo Island Dockyards. Lloyds closely examined the Fordsdale and Ferndale, which were designed and built at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and pronounced them equal to anything built in any other part of the world. They were speedy craft, and so designed that they could be used as armed cruisers if the need should arise for their use in the defence of Australia. The dockyard at Williamstown, in Victoria, answered the appeal that was made by the Government by building some first-rate vessels of from 5, 000 to 6,000 tons. One would not expect great efficiency in ship-building in
South Australia, that being a primaryproducing State, but, to its credit, that State proved that, given the opportunity, it could construct a most seaworthy vessel. Even Tasmania did its part by building an admirable type of sailing vessel, an endeavour requiring great skill and a nice judgment. I do not know what contribution Western Australia has made to the Australian shipbuilding industry. It may be- that when that State secedes, it will construct its own battleships, designed to wage war on the eastern States, and appoint Senator Johnston as its “monarch of the sea, the ruler of the West’s navee “. Honorable senators should not be surprised if, some day, they see Australian vessel of war steaming towards eastern capitals, flying not the familiar white ensign, but a composite flag which prominently displays the black swan.
If the shipbuilding industry were further developed, our young men could be trained in a worthwhile national activity, instead of remaining idle at home, or lounging at street corners. We have the necessary facilities and materials available, and something should be done to revive this valuable craft. I appeal to honorable senators to take a broad, national view of the matter. Let them go to the works of Chapman and Sinclair Limited, to Morts Dock, Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Newcastle, or to Walkers Limited, of Maryborough, see the empty slipways and plant that are lying idle. and then make up their minds again to set the wheels of this industry in motion.
Some critics of Australian shipbuilding might claim that Australia cannot guarantee to supply a unit capable of propelling a modern ship. 1 remind honorable senators that Walkers Limited are the pioneers of diesel oil engine manufacture in Australia, and have proved that they can turn out those units in competition with the world. For a !ong while diesel oil engines could be started only with the aid of a pre-heating apparatus, but Wafers Limited have evolved a high compression cold-starting diesel engine, which has made this class of propulsion, much more attractive. We have demonstrated that we have available the necessary technical knowledge, the plant and the material.
– Order ! The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– Senator Dunn has apparently overlooked the fact that, in group 4, we passed item 424 dealing with vessels not exceeding 500 tons gross register, for which duties of ad valorem British, 50 per cent., and general, 70 per cent., were approved. Thehonorable senator has now moved a request that all vessels of 100 tons and over gross register, should be subjected to duties of ad valorem 65 per cent. British, and 75 per cent. general. To be consistent, it would be advisable to adhere to the verbiage of this item, and simply propose to alter the rates ofduty.
This matter has been exhaustively investigated by the Tariff Board, the bait that has been dangled so alluringly before Tasmanian senators as to the possibilities of extending shipbuilding in Australia having been given a great deal of consideration. Every honorable senator knows the difficulties which beset the distant States, particularly Western Australia, Tasmania, and, to a lesser extent, South Australia, in regard to shipping facilities. In its report of the 7th February last, the Tariff Board succinctly summed up the position as follows : -
Even if local manufacture resulted, it is obvious that a duty of even 50 per cent. would be a serious addition to the cost of Australian coastal services. The board has examined the trading results of typical vessels, and is convinced that if replacement had to be made under the duty mentioned, reasonable profits could be secured only by increasing the freight rates. Such action would undoubtedly lead to a falling off in trade and an imposition on other industries, and would thus retard development; in localities depending on coastal shipping.
Furthermore, it is far from certain that the imposition of the duty would lead toships being ordered locally. Local prices would need to include the whole of the duty, and it is certain that the added cost would cause a diminution in demand for vessels whether locally built or imported. The possibility of purchase of second-hand vessels would further reduce the likelihood of Australian builders getting orders.
During the nine years ended 1930, with no duty operating, only 27 vessels between 500 and 1,000 tons were added to the coastal fleet, clearly indicating that the Australian demand is so limited that economical production is not likely.
It then summarizes its conclusions in these words -
The only variation that has been made from the recommendation of the Tariff Board has been to add 15 per cent., in compliance with the terms of the Ottawa agreement. The lucid explanation of the Tariff Board should induce honorable senators to reject the request that has been moved by Senator Dunn.
– In view of the Minister’s explanation, I ask leave to withdraw my request with a view to substituting another for it.
Request - by leave - withdrawn.
– As suggested by the Minister, I now move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties, sub-item (b2), ad valorem - British,65 per cent.; general, 85 per cent.
– In my opinion, it would be well if all the sub-items were brought together; separated, as they now are, it is difficult to understand the position. We should affirm the principle that it is desirable that Australia should build its own vessels. Surely honorable senators do not want the Australian ship-building industry to become, like the Swiss navy or the Greek kalends, unexistent! Australia, a nation of nearly 7,000,000 people, controls this island continent and certain mandated territories, and it is only reasonable that it should build vessels up to, say, 3,000 tons register. Perhaps I should make it clear to the freetraders in the chamber that I have no desire that Australia should attempt to compete with Britain, the United States of America, or other countries, in the construction of monster sea-going liners. Those countries which have ship-building yards capable of building such vessels are in an advantageous position, compared with Australia. Australia should, however, be able to build vessels up to 3,000 tons register.
– Each vessel would cost 75 percent. more if made here.
– A similar argument is used whenever it is suggested that Australia should embark on new manufactures or develop further existing industries. During the war Australia was glad to avail itself of the shipbuilding yards of Walker Brothers Limited., at Maryborough. The Echunga and the Echuca are evidence of the ability of Australian ship-builders to construct vessels to the size of 3,000 tons and over, and they should not be denied the opportunity to construct others. In every possible way the ship-building industry in this country should be fostered. The position would be different had Australia never engaged in ship-building. Unless progress is made in this direction, we shall slip back from a position reached some years ago. Within 50 years Australia should have a population of 20,000,000 people. We should look hopefully to the future, and not rely on other countries to supply us with the vessels we require. I am prepared to vote for a prohibitory duty on vessels of up to 3,000 tons register. Norway and other countries with small populations build their own vessels, and glory in the fact; and surely Australia can do the same. If some honorable senators opposite had their way, the time would not be far distant when we should have to import fishing smacks and other small craft, and even rowing boats. We should then be even worse off than those native races which build their own canoes or catamarans. Surely honorable senators opposite do not want to get us down to the level of the blackfellows and the use of hollowed logs! During the war, Walker Brothers Limited employed about 1,000 men, but to-day their employees probably do not total 200.. It is sad to contemplate the destruction of the Australian ship-building industry by those who are opposed to the development of Australian enterprise.
– Whatever the result of this discussion, those who believe in fostering the ship-building industry in Australia should record their views by pressing this matter to a division. All the talk of the necessity for defending this island continent is hypocritical unless we ourselves establish the means of communication with the rest of the world. Many years ago Australia demonstrated its ability to build ships, so that we are not now considering an infant industry. Rather are we trying to prevent the dry-rot which threatens a long-established industry. In considering this matter, we should regard the various ship-building establishments, not as rivals, but as units of a great Australian enterprise. Although statements regarding the possibilities of Cockatoo Island Dockyard have been made from time to time, it appears desirable to emphasize the great potentialities of that establishment by stating that it is not a mere docking and repairing yard, but a large, well-equipped, modern ship-building and engineering organization, which, while mainly adapted for all kinds of ship-building and reconditioning, is also capable of handling huge contracts of a general engineering character. When whaling in Australian waters was engaged in, sailing vessels capable of carrying out whaling operations were built at Bateman’s Bay, Shoalhaven, and Eden. At that time the shipbuilding industry assumed considerable dimensions, but it was ultimately ruined by the short-sighted policy of past governments. It is interesting to note that, since 1912, no fewer than 23 vessels have been built at Cockatoo Island, including cruisers, torpedo boat destroyers, colliers, lighthouse-tenders, refrigerated cargo vessels, and a seaplane carrier. In 1920, approximately 3,500 men were employed at the dockyard. The total cost to the Commonwealth of this establishment, with its machinery and plant, has been slightly over £2,000,000. A period of twenty years has been occupied in building up this organization, and the employment of” 1,500 men at that yard would mean that 6,000 persons would be directly supported and upwards of 20,000 would benefit indirectly. A nucleus of specially skilled men is still retained at the dockyard, but if it were closed even that nucleus would be lost. An opportunity should be afforded to the youth of the country to learn the skilled trades employed in ship-building. marine engineering, and allied industries. Honorable senators are aware that facilities still exist at Cockatoo Island for carrying out such work as lias already been undertaken there. To destroy such an industry by neglect - that is what actually may happen - would be a suicidal policy. I am certain that if the people had an opportunity to express their opinion, they would favour maintaining the Cockatoo Island Dockyard for ship-building, instead of allowing it to fall into disuse, and ultimately to become of no value to Australia. I trust that general support will be accorded to the request moved by my colleague, Senator Dunn.
– I should like to draw attention to the apparent lack of interest in this important subject as is disclosed by the meagre attendance in the chamber at the moment. Last night honorable senators were aware that the discussion on this sub-item would be resumed this morning, yet we have the spectacle of many empty seats. This proposal is of unusual importance, affecting, as it does, the Commonwealth’s defence, which honorable senators, other than those of the Labour party profess to be interested in but, obviously, care very little about. It should not be forgotten that it is the class that we on this side of the chamber represent which makes the greatest sacrifice when defence becomes of immediate importance to the country. Senator Dunn stressed the point that if ship-building becomes a lost art in Australia there will be no opportunity for Australian youths to acquire proper training in ship-building and allied industries. Wonderful ship-building facilities are available at the yards of Walker Brothers Limited, Maryborough, but only a few months ago the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which derives most of its profits in Australia, purchased abroad a vessel of small tonnage for carrying the product of an Australian industry. That vessel should have been built in Australia. I intend to support the request for a substantial increase in the duties, because I believe that, if agreed to, the advantage to Australia would more than offset any increase in cost arising from the imposition of the duties sought.
– This matter has been carefully considered by the Tariff Board, which has recommended that the duties shall be British free, and general 15 per cent. Senator Dunn, the mouthpiece of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, wishes to increase these duties on all ships of 500 tons and over to British 65 per cent, and general 85 per cent. v Apparently honorable senators opposite overlook the fact that the primary producers and others in Western Australia - particularly in- the northern portion of the State - in South Australia, Tasmania, and in Queensland, have to depend to a large extent upon sea carriage. In the northern portion of Western Australia the settlers depend entirely upon shipping services. Their only alternative for the carriage of mails and passengers is by aeroplane. As a representative of Western Australia, I am strongly opposed to higher duties, which, regardless of exchange and other factors, would at least double the cost of all ships over 500 tons. If capitalization costs were doubled, freights and passenger fares would also be doubled, and the people, including the migratory population that follows seasonal occupations, such as shearing, would, if this request were agreed to, be compelled to pay higher fares and freights. The Navigation Act already imposes a heavy burden on primary producers in the States I have mentioned, and I do not wish to see them further penalized by heavy duties on vessels as proposed by Senator Dunn. I oppose the request.
– I may inform Senator E. B. Johnston, whom I term the leader of the political rebels in Western Australia, that do not take my instructions from the editor of the Perth Sunday Times, but consider this subject’ in the interests of the whole of the Australian people. Senator Johnston, who has visited Tasmania, knows that the whole of the coastal trade from Bruni Island, Port Arthur, Swansea, and other ports, is carried on by ketches and other small craft’, which are built in Tasmania. Those in control of the Holyman Line are not so much concerned about the cargo that their vessels get from individual settlers; they are more concerned in making profits out of the organized trade of the larger shippers. Years ago, the settlers in the north-western portion of Australia depended upon a mosquito fleet of brigs and ketches for the transport of their goods, but an efficient steamship service to Geraldton, Broome, and Wyndham could be conducted by vessels constructed m the modern dockyards in the eastern States. If an Australian-built vessel were used to transport goods and passengers from Fremantle to the north-west ports, I believe that Senator Johnston, Jonah-like, would rather be swallowed by a whale than travel by it. He always shows bitterness towards the eastern States. Vessels like the Christina Fraser, which is thought to have been lost off Gabo Island, could be built in Australian dockyards. The Changte and Taiping, two vessels of the Australian-Oriental Line, which trade between Hongkong, Shanghai, and eastern Australian ports, were- built in Hongkong by Chinese labour. They were built by the Hong Kong Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Company, and are a monument to the skill of the Chinese shipbuilders. They are between 4,000 and 5,000 tons each, and are of the type which could quite well be built in this country at any of the dockyards on the Balmain Peninsula, in Sydney, or at Maryborough, in Queensland. The Minister is fortified by Tariff Board reports on this subject. It may be that it is necessary to have a Tariff Board to act in an advisory capacity to the Government of the day, but we must remember that, when the board calls for evidence, it is fed with information by the commercial go-getters and market riggers of the country, whose one desire seems to be to import everything from overseas. The Tariff Board, by the way, has never been asked to inquire into the operations of the Matson line, that Yankee subsidized shipping company that is skimming off the cream of the trade between San Francisco, New Zealand, and Australia.
Senator Johnston referred to the Navigation Act, which has been a bone of contention in this Parliament for many years. There is no reason, so far as I can see, why ships should not be built in Tasmania to cater for the Tasmanian trade; but my rebellious friend from Western Australia prefers that the trade should be done by overseas liners, so that holiday-makers from the mainland may go on coupon-trips to Tasmania. They get a few backsheesh labels stuck on their bags, and travel over to Tasmania on the Strathnaver, or some other Peninsular and Oriental liner, and enjoy the sensation of being world travellers. The honorable senator also spoke about the dear old primary producers, the men on tho land-
– The men who keep us all.
– They keep a great many parasites too, including the banking institutions. The Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was inaugurated by a previous government at a cost to the taxpayers of £7,000,000. Its main purpose was to enable people to travel overseas at a reasonable cost, and to carry the produce of the primary producers. Later the line was sold, or rather given away, for £500,000. Senator Johnston spoke of the primary producers having been left in the lurch, and there is no doubt that they were left in the lurch when the Government sold the Commonwealth line. Of course, we know that Senator Johnston wishes to make it appear that he is fighting a battle for the primary producers; he hopes to have his speech on this subject printed in the columns of the Sunday Times in Perth, so that he may be able to tell his supporters “ See how I fought for the primary producers “. We on this side of the chamber also desire to ‘ give the primary producers a fair deal, as is clearly set forth in our platform. In my opinion, vessels should be built in Australia to carry on the Australian trade. I desire to encourage the tourist trade between the mainland and Tasmania, because I realize that in that island there is scenery which cannot be rivalled by any of the famous beauty spots of England, Ireland, or Scotland.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Question - That the request (Senator Dunn’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - 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 duties, sub-item (b2) - British,50 per cent.; general, 70 per cent.
This refers to vessels from 500 tons to 1,000 tons. It is essential, I believe, to establish and develop our own shipbuilding industry in Australia. At Maryborough; in Queensland, hundreds of men are out of work, and the least we can do to help them is to take steps to have what ships we need built in our own shipyards. We are living in a fool’s paradise. We should look to the future, realizing that, in perhaps a very few years, Australia will have to depend on her own resources. If Australia is to become a nation we must encourage our local shipbuilding industry. In other parts of the world, ship-building is subsidized, and there is no reason why we should not follow that example, particularly as the Commonwealth has a surplus of £3,500,000. Even senators of the Country party, although they are anxious to reduce costs, must admit that we should do everything in our power to develop the shipbuilding industry, which is of vital importance to Australia.
Question - That the request (Senator Brown’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . …. 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sub-item agreed to.
Item 433 (Wool tops).
: - Wool tops were free under the 1921-30 tariff, and I should like the Minister to explain the necessity for the enormous duties now proposed.
– These duties are in conformity with the Tariff Board’s report of the 26th August, 1930. The duties imposed by the previous Government in December, 1929, formed the subject of inquiry by the Tariff Board in March and April, 1930, and that body recommended the adoption of the rates then in operation for the following reasons : -
Subsequently the British Government sought a reduction in the British preferential rate, which was the same as the general rate. The question was again referred to the board with a suggestion that, in view of the short period which had elapsed since the previous inquiry, it might examine the request of the British Government for preferential treatment in the light of the evidence submitted at the public inquiry. The board then recommended the imposition of the rates now proposed. Its inquiries in 1930 showed that production of wool tops in Australia had been well established. Formerly, Australia had an extensive export trade in tops, but duties imposed by Japan and the United States of America in 1927-28 affected the exports to those countries. Australia, however, was importing large quantities of wool tops, particularly of the merino types, of which ample supplies were available in Australia. It was found that, with the lower cost of production in Bradford, it was profitable to import tops into Australia if they were admitted free of duty. In the opinion of theboard, the duties would partly compensate Australian wooltop makers for the reduced output resulting from the lost export trade, and internal competition was sufficiently keen to safeguard consumers against increased prices.
– From where do we import wool tops?
– From Great Britain.
Item agreed to.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to -
That the consideration of the remaining items other than those in Group 6 of the Customs Tariff Groups Memorandum, be postponed until after the consideration of the items specified in Group 6.
Group 6. - Items amended by the Scullin Government which are not supported by Tariff Board reports.
– This group contains 85 items, in respect of which the duties were imposed by the Scullin Government. In accordance with the present Government’s policy, they are being embodied in the tariff schedule without alteration until such time as the Tariff Board has been able to investigate them. The board is proceeding with its investigations, and the reports that have been received will be made available to honorable senators as we deal with the various items in this group. I intend to submit some request’s for the consideration of the committee. Otherwise the Government is adhering to the policy laid down by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in his policy speech to the effect that duties imposed by the Scullin Government would not be interfered with until they had been examined by the Tariff Board.
-Will the Minister circulate the proposed alterations so that honorable senators can study them in advance?
– I shall endeavour to do so.
– I move -
That the consideration of the items in Group6 be postponed till after the Tariff Board’s reports on the various items contained therein are received.
I am moving this motion as a protest against the Government’s action in asking this committee to ratify Group 6, which is entitled “ Items amended by the Scullin Government which are not supported by Tariff Board reports “.
– The honorable senator is not in order in moving a motion the object of which is to postpone indefinitely the consideration of this group. The proper time to move such a motion is at the second reading, and not at the committee stage. The honorable senator would be quite in order in moving for the postponement of one item until after the consideration of another.
– Would I be in order in moving that the consideration of Group 6 be postponed ?
-The honorable senator can move for the postponement of Group 6 until some future time during the committee stage.
– I should like to move that Group 6 be. postponed for 100 years, but as” I cannot do that, I move -
That the consideration of the items in Group <I be postponed until after the consideration of the items in Group 7.
If that motion is carried, I hope that it will be taken by the Government as an instruction from this committee to postpone this group until the Tariff Board reports on the various items contained in it have been received. I protest against the Government’s action in asking honorable senators to ratify items amended by the Scullin Government without the support of recommendations from the Tariff Board. The Government’s attempt to ratify the items contained in this group is opposed, not only to the announced policy of the Government as set out in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), but also to the following opinion, which was expressed by the majority of honorable senators on the 15th October, 1931, and forwarded to Great Britain on the eve of an election there: -
This meeting of the majority of the Senate affirms its intention to endeavour to obtain amendments to the tariff schedule by a reduction of. excessive duties and by such a further reduction of the duties against British imports ns will foster Empire trade, and lead to the adoption by Great Britain, Australia, and the other dominions of reciprocal trade agreements benefiting every unit of the Empire-.
– The opinion was unofficial and impudent.
– It expressed the wish of the majority of honorable senators at that time. The Government’s action in submitting this group to honorable senators for ratification is opposed to the whole spirit and letter of the Ottawa agreement, particularly articles 10, 11 and 1’2. The board has reported regarding the incidence of primage and exchange with regard to the tariff as a whole, and yet, in defiance of article 11 of the Ottawa agreement, the Government asks the committee to ratify group 6, as though that report did not exist. Article 11 of the agreement states -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that a review shall he made as soon as practicable by the Australian Tariff Board of existing protective duties in accordance with the principles laid down in article 10 hereof, and that after the receipt of the report and recommendation of the Tariff Board the Commonwealth Parliament shall be invited to vary, wherever necessary, the tariff on goods of United Kingdom origin in such manner as to give effect to such principles.
If the Government ignores the report to which I have referred, it will certainly violate the agreement. It is true that the Senate, at the request of the Government, has closed its eyes to the present economic and monetary position, as is evident from the exchange rate and its effect upon the Ottawa agreement. If the Standing Orders permit it, I suggest that a majority of the members of this committee, in closing their eyes to the existence of an important report on primage and exchange, which we have not been permitted to see, are acting as political ostriches. But we cannot blind the other party to the agreement to the effect of our action. “We cannot hood-_ wink the people of Australia, and the importers and traders of the Old Country, who are anxious to continue their business relations with Australia, and would be permitted to do so to-day, if the Government had observed article 11 of the agreement, particularly in regard to primage and exchange. I have before me a copy of a cablegram received by the Sydney Chamber of Commerce from the London .Chamber of Commerce, which, I venture to say, is the most powerful and influential body, of the kind in the world. It is interested in the implementing of the Ottawa agreement, and on the 22nd J une last it cabled to the Sydney chamber as follows: -
Reference your letter of 5th April, Australian and New Zealand section London Chamber deplores action Commonwealth Government in seeking legalize duties in excess those permitted existing tariff law without prior reference Tariff Board. In view Ottawa agreement such step most discouraging to British traders.
A copy of that message was sent to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), as soon as he returned from Queensland; it is now in his hands, and it speaks for itself. It shows that the London chamber, in courteous terms, draws attention to the fact that we are legalizing certain duties, particularly those in group 6, contrary to the terms of the Ottawa agreement.
– Will the honorable senator point a little more definitely to the way in whichhe thinks that the agreement is being contravened?
– I have already drawn attention to the departure from the terms of article 11, and I also refer the Minister to articles 9, 10, and 12, which I have not time to read now. The Government’s action in this matter is statedby the London Chamber of Commerce to be a definite and deplorable breach of the agreement. I say that it is a breach of article 11, particularly in view of the facts that the Tariff Board has already reported on the important subject of primage and exchange, and that the Leader of the Government in this chamber (Senator Pearce) has told us that, it the report were made public now it would lead to certain persons getting to know a good deal about the duties that might be lowered when the House of Representatives met again. It is perfectly clear that a breach of the agreement has occurred. That report should have been made available to senators before one item of the tariff was considered.
I urge the Government not to proceed with the consideration of group 6 until the hoard’s reports on each of the items in that group have been received, and until this committee has had an opportunity to peruse the report on primage and exchange, which has been in the hands of the Government for about three months. If the Government accedes to this request no harm will be done, and its action will be in accord with the spirit of the policy speech of the Prime Minister. In the Melbourne Herald, of the 11th July, its Canberra political correspondent stated that the Prime Minister is to make an appeal to-night by radio to the Country party. The writer added -
Mr. Lyons will show that the pledge given by him in his policy speech at the Sydney Town Hall in December, 1931, that there would be no more arbitrary tariff-making, and that, in general, the Government would follow the recommendations of its expert advisers, has been faithfully kept.
Up to now the Government has acted mainly on Tariff Board reports, and if my proposal is agreed to, involving postponementof the ratification of duties imposed by the Scullin Government without reports from the Tariff Board, there will be a better chance of the Prime Minister being successful in his appeal to the Country party for unity. It should be very easy to obtain this happy consummation, which I should heartily welcome, if the Government would postpone the consideration of this group of items, and adopt its pre-election policy of tariff reduction. According to inside information, the Prime Minister will claim to-night that the pledge given by him in his policy speech that there would be no more arbitrary tariff-making, and that, in general, the Government would follow the recommendations of its expert advisers, has been faithfully kept.
– The honorable senator wishes to make him speak the truth against his will.
– I wish him to keep faith with his policy of tariff reduction supported by a majority of the senators of the United Australia party. If the Government accepts this motion it will show that there is justification for the claim to be made to-night by the Prime Minister. This committee will have to re-assemble in Canberra a couple of months hence, if not within a shorter period. The TariffBoard is at work on its inquiries on many of these items, and no harm would be done if we did not ratify any of the duties imposed arbitrarily by the last Government, whose policy practically amounted to the prohibition of imports. Honorable senators who belong to the Country party do not want that policy ratified, because we know how difficult it would be, subsequently, to get reductions made quickly. When the House of Representatives is sitting, reductions can be promptly made to the level of the 1921-30 tariff merely by tabling resolutions to that effect; but, once this tariff has been ratified, reductions will not come into effect, so far as the collection of revenue is concerned, until they have been approved by both branches of the legislature. This Government was not elected to confirm the Scullin tariff policy, as it now desires to do.
The Prime Minister has told us that he intends to try to revert to the old practice under which the parliamentary sessions lasted for six months. That would mean that during a six months’ recess, no reduction whatever could be made, if we were so foolish as to ratify these duties now. I urge the Minister to take into consideration, the text of the cablegram that has been received from the London Chamber of Commerce, and also to have some regard for public opinion about the Ottawa agreement and the action of this Government in refusing to carry its provisions into effect. In last Monday’s Melbourne Argus appeared an article entitled, “ Ottawa Overlooked “, which refers to this group of duties as follows-
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
. -We have listened practically to a repetition of the arguments which Senator Johnston advanced, and which were fully debated, on the second reading of the bill. The honorable senator has indicated that he would like to move for the postponement of the consideration of this group of items for a hundred years. I venture to say that that would not suit his purpose, because then the rates to which I understand that he takes some exception would continue in force. Notwithstanding the cablegram received from such a distinguished body as the London Chamber of Commerce, so far from the Government having broken the Ottawa agreement, I claim that it has observed it in every respect. If the British authorities had stated the first hundred of the more important items on which they wished the reports of the Tariff Board to be expedited, effect would have been given to their request by now. It is not competent for the honorable senator to move for the postponement of this group for any longer period than after the consideration of group 7. Between now and when we are ready to deal with group 7, no further reports from the Tariff Board will be available on which the Government can act. I shall endeavour this afternoon to circulate amongst honorable senators the amendments that we propose to request in group 6. When this group was before the other chamber, a number of items, on which reports by the Tariff Board had been received, were examined, and effect was given to the board’s recommendations. Similarly the reports of the board are to be applied to the items that will bo submitted to the committee as this group is considered.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– On a few of the 85 items in this group, I shall propose requests. The others are more or less unimportant, because the Tariff Board endeavoured to segregate and deal with urgently the more important items which were affected by the Ottawa agreement. The statement from London that the Commonwealth Government’ is seeking to legalize duties in excess of those permitted by tariff law without reference to the Tariff Board is untrue. The duties in this group were part of the tariff law of Australia when the Ottawa Conference took place. The Commonwealth undertook that the whole tariff would be reviewed by the board. It has been impossible for that body to deal with all the items that should be revised, but the board has reported upon the more important, and is investigating others. Had complaint come from the British Government, it would deserve serious consideration, but the complaint which has been voiced in the committee to-day is from an outside body which apparently desires the prior consideration of certain items which so far have not been dealt with by the Tariff Board.
– The Australian and New Zealand section of the London Chamber of Commerce is a most important body.
– So far asI can learn, the Government has not seen a copy of the cablegram quoted by Senator Johnston. The honorable gentleman seems to be under a misapprehension regarding what was promised by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in relation to tariff revision. The right honorable gentleman said definitely that duties which had been raised to what might be considered excessive heights without reference to the Tariff Board would be referred to that body as soon as practicable, and, as a general principle, the Government would be guided by the recommendations of the board. The items in Group 6 will be reviewed in accordance with that promise, and effect will be given to those of the board’s recommendations of which the Government approves. The Government is not committed to the duties now shown in the schedule. Inquiries by the Tariff Board are proceeding, and after this tariff has been dealt with by Parliament, amending schedules embodying the recommendations of the board will be introduced from time to time.
.- Last year, we were asked to validate a tariff schedule that had never been considered by Parliament. To meet the wishes of the Ministry, and because of the existence of a situation without parallel in the history of the Commonwealth, we agreed to the validating measure, believing that during this session Parliament would have an opportunity to deal with the tariff in a normal and proper way. The Government is pledged not to increase duties without supporting reports from the Tariff Board. That body has not reported on the items included in Group 6, and if we agree to them we shall be merely validating again the illegal imposts of the Scullin Government.
– If the consideration of these duties be postponed, they will continue to operate. What would be the position if the Senate reduced all the duties to the 1921-30 level?
– I think the duties should be restored to the 1921-30 level. If the House of Representatives agreed to that, the Minister could introduce amending schedules when the reports from the Tariff Board were received. In the meantime, the people would not suffer injustice by being required to pay duties that had never been approved by Parliament. I would prefer that we should deal with the items now; therefore I cannot support Senator Johnston’s motion.
Question - That the motion (Senator E. B. Johnston’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolvedin the negative.
Glucose, per lb., British, 2d.; general, 2d.
Request (by Senator Payne) proposed -
That the House of Representatives be re quested to make the duty, British, 12s. per cwt.
.- This is a typical instance of a duty increased without reference to the Tariff Board. In accordance with the Prime Minister’s promise, the Government is not proposing any alteration of the duty until a report from the board has been received. Early last year the item was referred to the Tariff Board, and as soon as a recommendation is received by the Government, an amending schedule will be introduced in the House of Representatives.
Item agreed to.
Biscuits, per lb., British, 3d.; general, 4d.
.- If honorable senators have read the report of the Tariff Board on biscuits and the debate in the House of Representatives on this item, they will recognize the enormity of this impost. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested tomake theduty, per lb. -British, 1½d.
Our only importations of this commodity are from Great Britain.
– Most of our biscuits are made from Tasmanian flour.
– That is so. We have biscuit manufacturers in Tasmania ; but the Government’s proposals will be of no assistance to them. There will always be a percentage of importations of particular varieties.
– Peek Frean are operating in Australia now.
– I know they are; but other British firms do a small export trade to Australia, and it is not fair that they should be met with this prohibitive duty.
– In June last these duties were referred to the Tariff Board ; but consideration has been delayed because the inquiry was not regarded as so urgent as other references which had been made to the board. The Australian production of biscuits is astounding, amounted in value in 1927-28 to £4,300,000, in 1928-29 to £2,700,000, and in 1929-30 to £2,600,000. Importations from Great Britain are in the vicinity of £30,000 annually.
– We are also doing a little export trade in biscuits.
– I understand that the firm of Mills and Ware, in Western Australia, is building up a nice business in Eastern countries.
– This is another instance in which those concerned in an Australian industry have over-reached themselves. Although they had the local market to themselves, they were not content with the protection given to them, with the result that, when the tariff was raised, the firm of Peek Frean, which has a world-wide reputation, commenced manufacturing in this country; so it may be said that Australian manufacturers have been hoist with their own petard. Apparently the Tariff Board or the Government took the view that,as importations from Great Britain were negligible, the measure of protection imposed was of no consequence. To me that seems to be an utterly wrong principle to apply, especially when it relates to the manufacture of foodstuffs. I fail to understand why the Government adopted the Scullin tariff rates in preference to those contained in the 1921-30 tariff.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) gave an undertaking that no alterations would be made without reference to the Tariff Board.
– Then I cannot understand why the promise was made, though I readily admit that, when speaking on the hustings and giving pledges to electors, no one could be expected to remember all the details of a complicated tariff. All I can now say is that the proposed duty against British manufacturers is abnormally heavy, and I feel that I must support the request.
Question - That the request (Senator Payne’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Item 51 (c 2) agreed to.
Item 53, sub-items (a) (b) (d) -
Fruits, dried, viz. : -
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties, sub-item (b), per lb., British,1d.; general,1d.
I am particularly interested in this subitem, because on the 25th November, 1931, about a day prior to the decision to appeal to the electors, I submitted a request for a reduction of the duty which had been imposed by the Scullin Government. The Tariff Board had reported on the item on the 27th November, 1929, a week after the Scullin Government had increased the duty from1d. to 3d. per lb. Those who supported its action claimed that persons who had been accustomed to use dates would give their attention to Australian dried fruits. Experience has not borne out that contention ; the higher rates merely compel housewives to pay higher prices for this very necessary commodity. In November, 1931,I had an assurance that my requested amendment would be agreed to by an overwhelming majority. I hope to have the same support now.
– This duty also can be defended only on the basis of the Prime Minister’s promise. It is not sought to justify it. The matter was referred to the Tariff Board on the 25th November last, and the report of that body is awaited.
– The promise of the Prime Minister does not, and cannot, apply to this item. The majority of the items in this group were not submitted by the Scullin Government to the Tariff Board, but this one was, and the report of the board upon it reached that Government on the 27th September, 1929, just prior to the imposition of these duties. The board said -
Dates are, in the main, eaten in their natural state or as confection, for which purposes the lexia or sultana is not suitable. The statement of the applicants that the hulk of the dates imported is disposed of for manufacturing and cooking purposes, is not borne out by experience of those in the distributing trade. Only about 5 per cent. of the dates imported goes to manufacturers. Dates have a wide and general demand, particularly in the poorer districts, and a duty as sought must limit consumption, and place beyond the reach of many present users, an article of diet recognized as a food of the highest value. . . .
It would appear that the use of dates is fairly general throughout the community, but evidence is to the effect that the greater proportion of sales are made in industrial localities and districts populated by those on the smaller incomes. This being so, the effect of the duty would also fall more heavily on the class of consumer who, by reason of their lower incomes, could least afford to bear the increased cost. . . .
After carefully reviewing all the evidence, and taking into consideration the circumstances of the dried fruits industry, the Tariff Board recommends that no alteration be made in the existing rates of duty provided by item 53 (b) of the customs tariff in respect of dates.
In making the foregoing recommendation, theboard has been influenced chiefly by the conclusion it has arrived at that dates cannot be regarded as competing with Australian sultanas or lexias in the sense that would justify the imposition of increased duty on dates. The following conclusions already expressed herein also have a bearing on the matter: -
The imposition of the additional duty on dates would restrict the choice of users by making it more difficult to obtain an article of diet which they purchase mainly on account of its own particular nature and flavour.
As the bulk of the sales of dates are apparently made in localities where those with the smaller incomes dwell, the effect of any additional duty would fall more heavily upon those least able to bear the extra cost.
The increased duty, if granted, would not assist the Australian dried fruits industry to any appreciable extent.
That clear and definite statement was made by the board after it had carefully reviewed the evidence. I appeal to my honorable friends opposite, who represent the interests of the labouring classes. I daresay that 90 per cent. of the dates consumed in Australia are used in the households of the industrial population. It is the cheapest luxury food that they can purchase. The suggestion that the workers, and their wives and children, should be penalized by having to pay an extra 2d.or 3d. per lb. f or dates, si mply to gratify the whim of a politician, and contrary to the recommendation of the Tariff Board, is more than I can stand. I hope that when the division is taken a large majority of honorable senators will in this case safeguard the interests of the working class of Australia.
– I put it that this is a duty that is absolutely without justification, and that it cannot be justified according to any of the principles usually employed for that purpose in the legislature generally. When Senator Payne commenced to speak, Senator Crawford interjected sotto voce, referring to any request that might be made, “ It does not make any difference ; we will negative it “. I should regret it if the spirit actuating either an individual senator or a body of honorable senators, in the consideration of these items was that they should be bludgeoned through. There are two grounds upon which a duty may be justified - as a revenue duty or as a protective duty. No attempt is made to justify this as a revenue duty; and it seems to me that no attempt could be made to justify it as a protective duty. A protective duty is imposed in the interest of some local industry. There is no pretence that the growing of dates is, or could with any amount of nurturing be made, an industry in Australia. I understand, however, that it has been urged that if it is made difficult for people to buy dates, they will eat currants, lexias, or sultanas.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable senator, who in this chamber represents Democracy inexcelsis, says “ Hear, hear!” Have we a moral right to say to the poor people of our community, the people whom the honorable senator professes to represent - professes the most loudly, if Senator Collings happens to be absent from the chamber - “ We cannot grow dates, therefore, you shall eat lexias and sultanas, which are quite as good for you, and which we do grow “. I can imagine no more tyrannous exercise of power. I agree with Senator Payne that this is an exception to the general rule that was laid down by the Prime Minister, because the latest report of the Tariff Board, issued just before these duties were imposed, recommended against them. One of the expressions used in that report, is that the dried fruits-growers of Australia would not be assisted to any extent. If it is sought to assist them in the way that I have indicated, I repeat that it is not a right exercise of the Commonwealth’s taxing power. This is a case in which we should express our views upon, and protest by our vote against, the proposal that has been made.
– I do not agreewith Senator Brennan that it is impossible to grow dates in Australia. It is quite possible to do so, and not have to charge an impossible price for them. I congratulate Senator Brennan upon the stand that he has taken in defence of the liberty of the individual to eat dates in preference to currants, raisins, figs, or any other dried fruits. It is remarkable, however, that the honorable senator, like a number of his colleagues, will strain at a gnat while swallowing a camel.
– The honorable senator has never seen me strain at a gnat on the subject of the right of the individual to liberty.
– The honorable and learned senator displays enthusiasm in his advocacy of the right of the individual to choose what sort of fruit he shall eat; yet the system that he supports prevents many individuals from having anything whatever to eat, except what is given tothem on sufferance. There are tens of thousands of persons in Australia to-day who have not any think like a sufficiency of the necessaries of life. Why does not the honorable senator, and those who think with him in regard to the value of individual liberty, attempt to further some method that would make it possible for these persons to obtain regularly a good, square feed ? At the best, their arguments are only pettifogging. There are undoubtedly many dried fruits which, to the average person, are as palatable and nutritious as dates. I personally like dates, and consider that steps should be taken to foster their growth in Australia, in which many localities are eminently suited to their production.
– Tons of dates are grown near Bourke.
SenatorRAE. - I believe that they would flourish in parts of this country, and that eventually the consumption would be confined to what was locally grown.
SenatorREID (Queensland) [2.58].- From the point of view of the working class, or of any one who is in the habit of using dates, this is one of the most unjust items in the tariff schedule. It is also the only item in respect of which I am opposed to the recommendation of the Tariff Board. Dates and other dried fruits are my principal articles of diet, consequently, I can speak with more authority on the subject than can those who do notcustomarily eat Australian dried fruits. Sultanas, muscatels, and other dried fruits are not a substitute for dates. Growing children will eat dates when no other food will tempt them. I do not see why people should be victimized by being compelled to pay an exorbitant price for what they cannot do without.When the present tariff was imposed, the price of dates was almost doubled. The fruit-grower is not benefited, while the children of the working class especially suffer an injustice from this duty. If dates were grown in Australia, I should not mind the imposition of a duty; but they are not.
– They are.
– They are not grown commercially. I have tried all the substitutes for dates, and have found that none is satisfactory. I hope that the committee will accept the request, which has my support.
– I am surprised that Senator Reid should have made the statement that dates cannot be grown in Australia, because I know that at Bourke, on the Darling River, they are grown in considerable quantity and of a quality equal to the world’s best.
– They cannot be grown commercially in Australia.
– I have not said that. It has been claimed that the excessive cost of transportation and labour prevents the collection and marketing of those dates. As a result, they are left on the ground for the emus to eat.
Request agreed to.
Sub-items agreed to subject to a request.
Item 54 (b1 to 4) agreed to.
Item 58, sub-item (c) -
Grain and pulse, prepared or manufactured, viz.: -
. - I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the sub-item to read - “(c) Cornflour: starch flour derived from maize -
1 ) When not packed for household use, per lb. - British,1¾d.; general, 2¾d.
When packed for household use, per lb. - British, 2d.; general, 3d.”
The rates introduced by the Scullin Government’s tariff were, per lb., British 3d., intermediate 3d., and general 3d., while those in operation under the BrucePage tariff were British 2d., intermediate 2d., and general 2d. The Tariff Board conducted an inquiry into the duties on cornflour in February and March of this year, and submitted its report in June last. The board points out that, in the case of bulk cornflour, which represents half of the sales, and is disposed of largely to manufacturers of custard powders, the lowest Australian price, delivered into store, is £39 6s. 3d. a ton, whereas the landed-into-store price of the cheapest Scottish cornflour, free of duty and primage, but under present exchange, is £17 5s.1d. Thus, the duties have resulted in Australian consumers having to pay £221s. 2d. more a ton than if imported cornflour were available duty free. Even if wages and the cost of maize were deducted from the selling price of Australian cornflour, local manufacturers would still be unable to compete against imported cornflour landed duty free under present exchange. This suggests that the margin for other costs, delivery charges and profits is far too great to indicate that manufacture in. Australia is economic. The manufacture of cornflour is carried on in conjunction with that of glucose and starch, which resulted in the local manufacturers experiencing considerable difficulty in submitting to the
Tariff Board costs of production in relation to cornflour alone.
The Tariff Board came to the following conclusions : -
No matter which conclusion is accepted, the fact remains that the prices charged by the Australian manufacturers are far too high when compared with those which obtain overseas, even after allowing for the difference in the cost of maize. The board pointed out, also, that the additional1d. duty imposed by the Scullin Government could have increased the market for Australian maize to the extent of only700 tons, which is onethird of one per cent. of the average Australian crop of 200,000 tons.
After allowing for all local disabilities, the Tariff Board considers that a higher duty than l¾d. per lb., or £16 6s. 8d. a ton, is not warranted on British cornflour. The duty recommended is equivalent to 90 per cent. ad valorem on the highest, and 145 per cent. on the lowest price quoted at the inquiry for Scottish cornflour. Evidence tendered at the inquiry showed that good quality cornflour is obtainable in the United Kingdom at reasonable prices, and the hoard saw no reason why, if importations are necessary, they should not be met by British manufacturers. Therefore, a preferential rate of1d. per lb. has been recommended, which makes the general tariff 2¾d. per lb. on bulk cornflour.
As regards cornflour in packets, which forms half of the sales, the board is of the opinion that adequate protection will be provided by rates of 2d. per lb. British, and 3d. per lb. general. The rate of 2d. per lb. under the British preferential tariff represents an ad valorem duty of 60 per cent. on a well known and expensive brand of cornflour which is packed in England.
The addition of the words “starch flour containing maize “ is designed to overcome an administrative difficulty which was experienced with regard to the classification of certain commercial grades of cornflour, which were used in the textile trade as a size for dusting confectionery, also as a food. To the layman, these commercial grades and cornflour, as we know it, appear the same, but analysis showed that there is a difference. As the two grades were derived from the same source, and were used, in some respects, for the same purposes, there was no warrant for differentiating for duty purposes. The amendment of the item along these lines confirms the departmental practice with regard to duty.
The Government is of opinion that the duties on cornflour should be sufficient to enable the local manufacturers to hold the market, provided they overhaul their production costs with a view to making cornflour available at prices which, after allowing for the disparity in raw materia] costs are more in keeping with those which obtain overseas. The report of the Tariff Board on the subject is convincing, and I. commend the request to honorable senators.
– I hope that the committee will reject the request that has been submitted by the Minister. Honorable senators, who have consistently ignored the opinions of the Tariff Board in connexion with other items, are under no obligation to follow the recommendations of that body now. Whenever the Tariff Board has been favorably disposed to higher duties, some honorable senators have consistently supported requests that the duties should be reduced. Now, acting in accordance with the declared policy of the Government, the Minister has moved to reduce these duties in conformity with the suggestions of the Tariff Board.
This matter may not be a very important one when regarded from an allAustralian point of view, because maizegrowing is restricted to districts which are suited to the purpose; but it is most important to the districts and growers concerned. One result of the imposition of the higher rate of duty by the Scullin Government was to ensure to Australian maize-growers the whole of the local market. Prior to 1929, a substantial quantity of cornflour was imported.
– Yes, from the United States of America, whence we cannot now obtain it. During the last year in which imports were normal we purchased £64 worth of cornflour from Great Britain,and over £10,000 worth from the United States of America.
– I have not had time to study the OverseasTrade Bulletin on the subject. The Minister proposes to reduce the rate of duty on cornflour used for general as well as for household purposes. Some years ago, this Parliament imposed a prohibitive duty on maize, to protect Australian growers from the importation of maize, particularly from South Africa, where it is cultivated by coloured labour, and whence we were importing considerable quantities of the grain. The price of maize in Australia has been determined largely by the prohibitive duty which obtains, and those who manufacture cornflour and other maize products have to pay a higher price than that which operates overseas. I am credibly informed that in January last, Australian manufacturers of maize products were paying approximately 5s. a bushel for maize, while in the United States of America, and in South Africa, it was bringing only3½d. a bushel, and those are the sources from which the Scottish manufacturers to whom the Minister referred are obtaining their grain. If we were to accept the request that has been moved by the Minister, we should expose our manufacturers of maize products to the competition of those who buy their grain at ridiculously low prices. I believe in protection all along the line. It would not do to force up prices by imposing a prohibition against the importation of maize, and then reduce the price of the manufactured imported article. Obviously, our manufacturers could not compete withthe products of those who bought black-grown maize at the prices that I have indicated.
The Minister has claimed that our imports of cornflour are infinitesimal, but the position of those engaged in our primary industries generally, particularly those who grow maize, is such that they cannot afford to lose even £100, a possibility which has been forecast by the Minister, if supplies of cornflour are imported. I hope that honorable senators, and particularly those who during the last six weeks have been defending our primary producers, will support the duties which appear on the schedule, and give support to the manufacturing section of an important industry, the primary section of which is already well protected.
Question - That the request (Senator McLachlan’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority ……. 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Request agreed to.
Sub-item agreed to, subject to a request.
Item 80 agreed to.
Item 98, sub-item (b) -
Custard powders, per lb. - British, 3d.; general, 4d.
Request (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties, per lb. - British, 2d.; general, 3d.
Sub-item agreed to, subject to a request.
Division 5. - Textiles, Felts and Furs, and Manufactures Thereof, and Attire.
Item 106, sub-items (d2) (e2) (f2)-
Badges, emblems, and the like (other than those of woven or embroidered material) -
.- There has been a considerable increase of the duties on these sub-items. Until the Scullin Government’s tariff resolution was tabled, the duties on sub-item d2, which covers badges and emblems, were British free, and general 25 per cent. It is now proposed to make the duties 30 per cent. and 50 per cent. respectively. On sub-item e2, which covers buckles, clasps, and slides for hats and shoes and other attire, the proposed rates are, British 45 per cent. and general 65 per cent., compared with 35 per cent. and 45 per cent. respectively under the 1921-30 tariff. Under the 1921-30 tariff, buttons, covered by sub-item f2, were free and 15 per cent. British and general tariff respectively; the Government’s proposals are - British, 40 per cent. and general 60 per cent. These duties appear to be extraordinarily high, particularly since sub-items e and f cover articles which are essential to certain manufacturing industries in this country. Trouser buttons covered by sub-item f are an exception.
– All these articles are now made in Australia.
– That is not so. This industry will never be successfully established in this country, because of the large variety of buttons needed to meet requirements. I, therefore, move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (d2), ad valorem, British, 20 per cent.
– The same arguments apply to this sub-item as to others which have been dealt with. The matter was referred to the Tariff Board in May, 1932.
Sub-items agreed to.
Item 107, sub-items (a) (b) -
Request (by Senator McLachlan) proposed -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the sub-items to read -
Woven and embroidered materials in the piece or otherwise: -
Badges, hat and cap fronts (badged), medal ribbons, looping for boots and shoes; labels and hangers for all purposes including plain hanger material; tubular tie material in the piece; galoons bands or bandings tapes and the like having printed woven or embroidered lettering badge trade name or mark or design thereon; ribbons and galoons having not more than 43 ribs to the lineal inch and being not more than three and a half inches in width ; slipper, shoe, and blazer bindings, ad valorem, British, 35 per cent. ; general, 60 per cent.
.- I was pleased to hear the Minister move his request, for I had intended to move for the same duties. I intend, however, to move a further amendment to the description of the articles covered by these sub-items. Sub-item b covers “Ribbons and galoons having not more than 48 ribs to the lineal inch “. When the tariff was being revised some years ago, this sub-item was fully discussed. The original proposal at that time was that the sub-item should provide for galoons having not more than 48 ribs to the lineal inch, but after consulting with a number of Australian manufacturers of ribbon, I was able to get the Senate to agree to a request that the item should cover ribbons and galoons having not more than 40 ribs to the lineal inch. Why is it proposed to revert to 48 ribs after the industry has become accustomed to 40 ribs? This is a matter of considerable importance to the manufacturers of millinery.
– It would help honorable senators to understand the position better if they knew what the term “ galoons “ covers.
– It includes hat bands. As I have said, I have discussed this matter fully with Australian manufacturers of ribbons.
– It does not affect the manufacturers.
– It does. I move -
That the request be amended by leaving out the figures “ 48 “ with a view to insert in lieu thereof, the figures “ 40 “.
Amendment of request negatived.
.- The Minister (Senator McLachlan) has not given any reason why the committee should support the lower duties proposed underthis subitem. As many of the commodities covered by these rates are manufactured in Japan, where cheap labour is available, the Government has apparently found a new love for Japan and other foreign countries. I do not propose to assist in reducing these duties.
Question - That the request (Senator McLachlan’ s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority …… . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Request agreed to.
Sub-items agreed to, subject to a request.
Items 109 and 118 (b) agreed to.
Item 123, sub-item (a1, 2) -
Waddings and cotton wool -
-Under the 1921-80 tariff, absorbent cotton wool was admitted from Great Britain free of duty. As there does not appear to.be any reason why this necessary commodity when imported from Britain should be dutiable at 4d. per lb., I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, paragraph 2, British, free.
Non-medicated absorbent cotton wool is used in large quantities in public and private hospitals. No reasons have been given why the duty has been made 4d. per lb. No report has been received from the Tariff Board, and until some definite recommendation is before us, importations from Great Britain should be admitted free of duty.
– I understand that the Scullin Government imposed this duty to assist cotton-growing and allied industries. The Tariff Board recommended that provision be made for deferred duties on wadding and cotton wool. The Government has not interfered with these duties, having regard to their probable effect upon the cotton industry. The duties on wadding and absorbent cotton wool were referred to the Tariff Board in April, 1932, and, up to the present, no further report has been received. When the report comes to hand, the matter will be further considered by the Government. During the debate on the Scullin Government’s tariff in another place in October, 1931, the Minister for Trade and Customs brought into operation the deferred duties on absorbent cotton wool, but included a proviso for the admission at the old rate of duty of goods on order prior to the 9th October, 1931, and entered before the1st December, 1931. The Minister claimed that Australian manufacturers were in the position to cater for Australian requirements of this commodity. In framing its tariff schedule, the present Government has observed the practice of following in broad principle the recommendations tendered by the Tariff Board only from December, 1929, onwards, and of not altering existing duties except upon the board’s report. In this instance, the board’s report is dated the 6th March, 1929. The duties on the goods covered by item 123 a have been referred to the board for further inquiry. The local manufacturers are extending their scope to cover surgical dressings, which should result in the use of additional quantities of Queensland cotton. Recent departmental inquiries with respect to this industry, show that at present 65 employees are engaged in the manufacture of absorbent cotton wool. The capacity of the plant, working two shifts, is five tons a week, or three shifts, seven tons a week, while further plant is available if required. The estimated Australian requirements are seven tons weekly. The price of the local product, in the quality and size of package in popular demand, is 1s, 2½d. per lb. to wholesalers, and1s. 1½d. per lb. to hospitals, while the price of a comparable quantity of imported cotton wool, prior to the duties being imposed, was1s.d. per lb. There is1d. per lb. difference between the old landed duty free price of imported wool and that at present being charged to hospitals by the Australian manufacturer. Various hospital authorities have expressed satisfaction with the quality of the Australian product, which should not be below that produced overseas, as the local manufacturer’s are producing to the formula of a well-known overseas manufacturer. The Government is awaiting a further report from the Tariff Board, but, meanwhile, it does not feel that the users of this commodity are suffering any hardship.
– Senator Johnston had an opportunity of moving his request either to subitem 125 a1 or a2, and he chose the Latter because it provided him with the opportunity of getting in a little pathetic touch about cotton wool being used in hospitals.
– A very sound reason in support of his proposal.
– Instead of seeking to give practical assistance to Australian industries, some honorable senators are content to put over sob-stuff about the hospitals. This matter is of great importance to Queensland. We in that State have developed the cotton industry at great expense. The State Government has paid a substantial bounty on cotton, and within thelast few years the industry has expanded from very small beginnings : to a flourishing primary industry. . Nevertheless, we have in this chamber champions of primary industries entirely failing to realize the importance of this one to Queensland and to Australia. Not only is it of considerable importance in itself, but cotton-growing can be undertaken as a profitable sideline by the mixed farmer. It has the advantage of not being so entirely dependent on the rainfall as are other primary industries. I do not mean that cotton does not need rain, and plenty of it; but, unlike some other crops, if it gets sufficient rain at the right time, it does not matter whether it gets much after that or not, because the crop will come to maturity in any case. It is true that cotton wool is used largely by hospitals and ambulances, and also in thousands of households where handy remedies are kept in case of accidents. That is no reason, however, why the hospitals and the medical profession should not pay the slight difference necessary to ensure protection for the local industry, especially when the Australian article is equal in quality to the imported, and is produced in sufficient quantities to supply all the normal needs of Australia.
– This industry was reported upon by the Tariff Board, and the Scullin Government acted on its recommendation, though not quite in terms of the report. Theboard’s report is dated March, 1929, and recommended the duties imposed by the Scullin Government, not for immediate operation, but as deferred duties. The Scullin Government, however, instead of deferring the duties, made them operative immediately. The matter is again under review by the Tariff Board.
.- The Minister has given us one good reason for supporting Senator Johnston’s request. He said that the board had recommended that the duties be deferred. He knows why that recommendation was made, and, so far as I know, the conditions necessary before the duties should become operative have not yet been fulfilled No certificate has been furnished that the local manufacturers can supply cotton wool of good quality in sufficient quantities to satisfy the local demand. Until that is done, the duties should not come into force. I have here some information as to how the duties affect hospitals. In reply to an inquiry which I addressed to the Hospitals’ Board of Supplies, Melbourne, I have received the following communication : -
Following up nay telephone conversation with you this morning, I have much pleasure in handing you herewith details of how the approximate quantity of 50 tons of cotton wool used in public hospitals is arrived at. These figures were taken out over the previous twelve months, and, consequently, they are above the quantity used at the present time, as our hospitals have to economize. The landed price of cotton wool to-day, as imported by this board, ranges from 11¾d. -per lb. to ls. id. per lb. for cotton wool for general use. Thi6 price includes the high rates of exchange now ruling. For your information, we have been in touch with the local manufacturer, who, at the moment, is quoting cotton wool at ls. 2d. per lb. to the wholesalers, but will give the hospitals a special price which, at the moment, are not able to quote. Trusting this is the information you are requiring.
The following table shows what quantities are used in various Victorian institutions : -
Approximate quantities as used in each of the under -mentioned institutions - Melbourne Hospital, 6 tons; Alfred Hospital, 6 tons; Women’s Hospital, 2J tons; Children’s Hospital, 1 ton; Queen Victoria Hospital, 1 ton; Eye and Ear Hospital, 1 ton; Homoeopathic Hospital, 1 ton; Austin Hospital, 4 tons; St. Vincent’s Hospital, 3. tons; 40 country public hospitals, 24 tons. Approximate quantity per annum, 50 tons.
If duty of 4d. per lb. were to be placed on cotton wool, this would mean approximately £2,000.
In view of these facts, we have to consider whether it would be a reasonable thing to impose such high duties at the present time. The board recommended to the Government that the duties’ should be deferred.
– The recommendation was made to the previous Government, which, however, imposed the duties immediately.
– That is what I object to. The board must have had good and sufficient reasons for recommending that the duties be deferred.
– This item deals with cotton wool, and ‘should supply the text for some useful reflections. We are asked to agree to a duty of 37^ per cent, in the general tariff column, an increase of 2-J per cent, over the Scullin tariff. If the Government and its legitimate supporters will cast their minds back, they will recall that much of their popularity at the last election was due to a declaration that the Scullin tariff represented the high-water mark of tariff insanity; yet not only on this item, but on several others as well, the Government has actually increased the duties beyond those fixed by the Scullin tariff.
– The increase was made merely to comply with the Ottawa formula.
– That is a stock argument. In effect, it means that we put half a dozen courses of bricks on top of the higher wall in order to make it easier for the British manufacturers to climb over the lower wall, which is already too high for them. I approach this matter from a different angle from that by which Senator Johnston approached it. I should say that if there is any commodity of which the country is short, it must be cotton wool, which is needed in unlimited quantities to wrap our secondary industries, so that they may be protected from the fierce blast of competition. I offer this suggestion in the most friendly spirit: If the Government feels that the supply of cotton wool is not sufficient - and it cannot be enough to meet all our needs - it should be admitted free to swathe the shivering limbs of our secondary industries, which are not able to carry on even with protection as high as 65 and 70 per cent. The hospitals, of course, make an instant appeal to our charitable natures, but there is one claim even stronger, and that is the right to live. We must protect our infant industries, even of the type of that industry producing the washer-woman’s mangle. That industry was not even an infant industry when if sought protection. It had not then been born, but claimed protection from competition from the first moment’ of its conception. Cotton wool is produced from cotton grown in Queensland, and protection is claimed for it though it is the product of an industry which itself has been established only by special government assistance. Wheat, on the other hand, is grown without government favour, and the industry is in receipt of no adventitious aid. Whenever a Commissioner for Railways in one of the wheat-growing States is making up his forecast for the year, the first thing he looks to is whether the harvest has been a good one. If the wheat farmers are getting a fair return for their labour, then only does he expect to have a profitable year.
– This sub-item relates to cotton wool, and not to wheat.
– At times we could, with profit, Use cotton wool in this chamber for the purpose of stuffing our ears. Why should we protect this industry when our great primary industries, upon which the very existence of this country depends, have to compete in the markets of the world - and they are doing it successfully - without any assistance from this Government at all. I shall support the request of Senator Johnston, because I am in favour of cotton wool entering this country free of duty.
Question - That the request (Senator Johnston’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Senator J. B. Hayes.)
Majority ……. . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sub-item agreed to.
Item 126, sub-item (b) -
Collar check, collar cloth, saddlers’ kersey, and saddlers’ serge, per sq. yd., British,1s. 3d.; general, 2s.6d., or ad valorem, British, 30 per cent.; general, 55 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives he requested to amend the sub-item by leaving out the fixed duty, British, and making the duty ad valorem, British, 25 per cent.
The margin between the specific duty which represents an imposition of 92½ per cent. on the cheapest kinds of collar check, and the ad valorem rate of 35 per cent., is much too great. This is only one of the many instances in which it seems clear that the ad valorem duty has been imposed in order to hide an excessive specific rate. Collar check is used almost exclusively in connexion with transport work, and this heavy duty will not only definitely increase transport costs where horses are used, particularly in the cities, but will also be a heavy item in the repair of collars in rural districts, where they are used for both transport and ordinary farming operations. Collar check is made in Australia, but it is not of satisfactory quality. For a considerable time, imports of “ shoddy “, which is a component part of collar check, were prohibited. If my request is agreed to, the rates will be reduced to those which prevailed during the regime of the BrucePage Government.
– The Government, in accordance with its policy of not interfering with the rates of duty imposed by the Scullin Government until an examination has been made by the Tariff Board, is making no alteration to this item except to increase the general tariff in conformity with the Ottawa agreement. The item was referred back to the Tariff Board last April, but its report has not yet come to hand.
– I hope that honorable senators will not agree to the request of Senator Johnston. I have some knowledge of collar check, which Senator Johnston alleges is not being made in Australia.
– I said that it is being made in Australia, but its quality is unsatisfactory.
– According to the Overseas Trade Bulletin, Australia is manufacturing sufficient collar check to supply almost all its own requirements. In 1928-29, the imports of the commodities mentioned in the subitem - collar check, collar cloth, saddlers’ kersey and saddlers’ serge - were valued at £27,306, whereas, in 1931-32, the value had decreased to £1,987. During that period, the demand for collar check and all classes of saddlery cloth manufactured in this country substantially increased. In 1928-29, the mechanical transport boom was at its height in this country, but since then there has been a return to the horse as a means of transport in Australia, with a consequent enormous increase of the demand for all classes of saddlery products. On my farm in South Australia, instead of using mechanical transport, I have kept to horses, and for many years past it has been necessary for me to have horse collars lined and stuffed. Recently, I had four collars repaired at the lowest price charged me during the last twenty years. Australian collar check was used in the repairs, and that material is apparently superior in respect of both quality and wear to the imported article.
– What was the cost of the repairs?
– The cost was 7s. 6d. for each collar, lined and stuffed, and, in addition, substantial leather repairs were effected. I trust that as a result of the protection which is being given to this industry it will soon be able to supply the whole of the needs of Australia in respect of collar check and the like.
Sub-item agreed to.
Item 136, sub-items (dl, 2, 3) (e1) -
Iron and steel -
Other, per ton, British, 48s.; general, 85s.; and a deferred duty as follows: - on and after 1st July, 1933-
Other, per ton, British, 90s.; general, 145s.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-item d, paragraph 3, by leaving out “.1st July, 1933 “, and inserting “1st January, 1934”.
Paragraph 3 provides for a deferred duty to operate on and after the let July, 1933, but the Tariff Board has since recommended a further postponement of the deferred rates until on and after the 1st January, 1934. That is the only reason for this request.
Request agreed to.
Sub-items agreed to, subject to a request.
Item 154, sub-item (d) -
Railway and tramway material, viz. : -
Switches, points, crossings and inter sections, ad valorem - British, 45 per cent.; general, 60 per cent.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-item (d) by making the duty, British, 27½ per cent.
These duties apply to goods largely used by State governments; but, without any reason being disclosed to the general public, the rates have been raised, notwithstanding the fact that the Constitution debars the federal authorities from taxing the property of a State government. There is no justification for increasing railway costs in this way, because the natural result must be an increase of the freights and other charges that the State railway authorities have to impose for the services rendered by them.
– Recent importations of these goods have amounted in value to only £5,500. These duties were increased by the last Government without report from the Tariff Board, and in April, 1932, the present Government referred the matter back to the board. For the same reason that I have advanced to the committee with respect to previous items in this group, I ask honorable senators to reject the request.
. -Senator Johnston is really putting forward a plea on behalf of. the privately-owned Midland Railway Company, in Western Australia, which; we have been assured by Senator Pearce,is the only undertaking of its kind in Australiathat is showing a profit. In that case it can hardly require a reduction of the present duties. . I am not much concerned about the local manufacturers of railway material. My sympathies lie entirely with the workers in the industrial blood-houses at Newcastle and Port Kembla. While the State governments are entitled to every consideration in the matter of railway materials, the people should have a clear understanding of what this Government is prepared to do in regard to Australia’s secondary industries. I hope that the committee will reject the request.
Question - That the request (Senator E. B. Johnston’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Senator J. B. Hayes.)
Majority … . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sub-item agreed to.
Item 176, sub-items (c) (h).
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to add the following new subitem: - “ (j) Main reduction gears imported for use with steam turbo-generators or steam turbo-alternators, ad valorem - British, free; general, 15 per cent.
This request is consequent upon a recommendation of the Tariff Board of which the committee has already expressed its approval.
Request agreed to.
Sub-items agreed to, subject to a request.
Item 178, sub-items (b) (c) (Piston rings, pins and valves).
. - We were assured by the Government that spare parts of tractors, particularly those used by farmers, were to be admitted free. When that information was given, I believe that the Minister was labouring under a misapprehension, because the piston rings, pins and valves covered by sub-items b andc are really the parts of internal combustion engines which receive most wear, and need replacement from time to time. I request tha t before the committee is again assured that certain articles are free of duty, the Minister will take the trouble to verify his information in order to avoid unpleasant misunderstandings. The duties of 45 per cent. and 65 per cent., with alternative fixed duties of 2s. and 3s. per lb. on piston rings, pins and valves for internal combustion engines, is extraordinarily high. If one proceeded to assemble an engine with the various parts imported at these exorbitant rates of duty, the cost would be several times as great as that of the engine purchased as a complete unit. These charges aremanifestly a burden on an industry that is struggling to hold its own. Are spare parts of internal combustion engines, used for farming purposes, admitted free of duty? If not, is the Government prepared to admit these articles at more reasonable rates of duty? We who are seeking to place the policy of protection on a reasonable basis, arelike lambs led to the slaughter; we havenot the votes with which to enforce our views, and can only voice our protests, hoping that by continual protest we may make some impression on minds that hitherto have proved adamant. Is the Government ready to give the agricultural industry a fair opportunity to succeed, or is wheatgrowing to be allowed to languish? So far from prospering, the farmers are actually getting deeper into debt. If the present policy of indifference to rural interests continues, it will at least have the redeeming feature of ending the desperate struggle in which the farmers have been engaged for years. They cannot stand up indefinitely against unequal odds. The wheat-growers of Western Australia are £30,000,000 to the bad. Mr. Trethowan, M.L.C., of New South Wales, has testified that tractors are indispensable to the farmer, particularly for the breaking up of new country. It is imperative that the upkeep of these machines should be reduced to a minimum, but these duties of 45 per cent. and 65 per cent. are imposing an unjustifiable burden on an industry which is already unprofitable.
.- To the ad valorem duties imposed by the Bruce-Page Government, the Scullin Ministry added alternative fixed duties. The latter have been continued pending a report thereon by the Tariff Board. I trust that Senator Lynch has not been deceived by what I said regarding the duties on spare parts of machinery. What I sought to convey was that, if an engine is admitted free, the spare parts used in connexion with it also are admitted free unless there is specific provision regarding them in the schedule. Piston rings, pins and valves, are spare parts in a sense, but because they are manufactured locally to meet the requirements of all classes of engines, the Tariff Board many years ago recommended duties of 45 per cent., 55 per cent., and 60 per cent. The specific duties added by the Scullin Government were referred to the Tariff Board last year with a request that they be investigated as speedily as possible. That was done because in 1930-31 the value of the importations of piston rings was - from the United Kingdom, £11,000; from the United States of America, £14,000; and from other countries, £1,000. In the following year, the importations were substantially less.
In order to give effect to the Tariff Board’s recommendation on turbogenerators, which was approved by a vote of the committee on item 179, sub-item d1, I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to add the following new sub-item: - “(f) Turbines, steam or water, and parts thereof, imported with or for use with turbo-generators or turboalternators -
1 ) Turbines, steam or water, not exceeding 2,000 horse-power, ad valorem, British, free; general, 15 per cent.
Parts of steam turbines exceeding 2,000 horse-power imported separately or with complete or incomplete assembled or unassembled turbines, viz.: -
Boxes and blocks, nozzle; diaphragms and fixed blading together with packing and caulking strips; filters, oil ; governors including speeder gear with motors and controllers; labyrinths, spindle gland (meshing portions) ; pumps, auxiliary oil, with regulators; rotors complete with blading and couplings; strips, gland and dummy; tachometers and instruments ; wheels, worm and gear, ad valorem British, free ; general, 15 per cent.
Other, ad valorem British, 45 per cent.; general, 65 per cent.
Parts of water turbines exceeding 2,000 horse-power imported separately or with complete or incomplete assembled or unassembled turbines, viz. : -
As prescribed by Depart mental by-laws, ad valorem British, free ; general, 15 per cent.
Other, ad . valorem, British, 45 per cent.; general 65 per cent.
For the purposes of this sub-item horse-power shall be determined as prescribed by departmental by-law.”
– Knowing that the Minister has sufficient votes to approve the request, I do not intend to divide the committee, but I place on record the fact that the members of the Opposition do not support the Government’s proposals in regard to turbo-generators, and turbo-alternators.We know that Walkers Limited, of Maryborough, and the Cockatoo Island Dockyard have carried out repairs to turbines for the navy, shipping companies, and the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited. I do not desire the employees in the engineering trade to believe that Labour senators endorse the Government’s views regarding this machinery.
Request agreed to.
Sub-items agreed to, subject to a request.
Item 179 (d4, 5) (f) agreed to.
Item180, sub-items (h) (j) -
Electrical and gas Appliances, viz.: -
– Will the Minister explain the reason for such heavy duties on sparking plugs? These articles are used daily, and the proposed duties add unduly to the cost of transport. The Bruce-Page schedule imposed a duty of 45 per cent. in the British tariff, but no fixed duties .
– This item was referred to the Tariff Board about twelve months ago, and these substantially high rates were imposed to protect the Australian manufacturer of the cheaper type of plug. The sub-item has now been investigated. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amendsub-item 3 to read -
This request is to give effect to a recent recommendation of the board, and the duties proposed are midway between the 1921-30 tariff rates and those imposed by the Scullin Administration. The Tariff Board states that these rates should provide adequate protection to the industry, and, at the same time, permit importations at a reasonable cost of types of lamps not made in Australia.
Request agreed to.
Sub-items agreed to subject to a request.
Items185 (b), 191 (b), and 197 (a) agreed to.
Item 203, sub-item (a) (Fire extinguishers, hand).
– During the regime of the Bruce-Page Government, the duties on hand fire extinguishers were 25 per cent. British, and 35 per cent. general. The rates now proposed are 45 per cent. and 65 per cent., respectively, and as fire extinguishers are necessary for the protection of buildings, I consider the protection excessive, and invite the Minister to reduce it.
– This is another of the duties that were increased by the Scullin Administration without reference to the Tariff Board, and when the sub-item was under discussion in another place, an undertaking was given that it would be dealt with by the board at the earliest possible moment. The report is not yet to hand. The sub-item will be considered when the schedule is being recast.
Sub-item agreed to.
Item 208, sub-item (d) -
Kitchen ware (other than electrical heating and cooking appliances) manufactured of wire, tinned plate, plated metal or a combination of such materials, with handles of any material or without handles; metal stove toasters; dish, pot, pan or plate washers or scrapers; metal soap racks; can openers; metal soup ladles; cook’s forks; corers and peelers; egg whisks or beaters; asbestos mats; ice picks, per dozen, British, 3s.; general, 4s., or ad valorem, British, 40 per cent., general, 65 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to leave out the fixed duties and make the duty, ad valorem British, 35 per cent.
This sub-item covers a wide range of articles which are in daily use in every
Australian household. It has recently been made much more comprehensive, and the rate against British manufacturers of 35 per cent., recommended by the Tariff Board in 1927, has been increased by 10 per cent. There is also an alternative fixed rate of 3s. per dozen. To instance the extraordinarily heavy incidence of this fixed duty, I may mention English steel skewers,which are made up in sets of twelve assorted lengths, and invoiced at 2s. 4½d. a dozen sets of twelve. Notwithstanding that the customs authorities were informed that these skewers were never imported or sold singly, the duty demanded was 3s. per dozen, instead of 3s. per dozen sets of skewers, so that the protection afforded was approximately 1,300 per cent. Naturally, the importers declined to pay this excessive rate. As a consequence, the skewers were destroyed, the department lost revenue, and the Australian user had to buy another article. On many other articles in this sub-item, the duty represents about 300 per cent. For example, on patty pans, which are usually sold at 4s. 6d. a gross, the duty is 30s. per gross. Other small articles valued as low as 3d. a dozen, are chargeable under the flat rate at 3s. a dozen. The sub-item should be recast, and relief given from these heavy duties on household requisites.
– These duties were referred to the board in May of last year for report, which, we had hoped, would have been received before now. When it is to hand, the matter will have attention.
.- This sub-item is important because of its all-embracing character. I, therefore, support Senator Johnston’s request for lower duties on the large number of household requisites covered by it. Some time ago, I explained that a commodity in general use for kitchen purposes was classified by thedepartment as nine separate articles, because it contained nine depressions. Consequently, it was dutiable at 2s. 3d., although the f.o.b. price was 4d., and it had been retailed in Launceston for 5½d. A similar article is being manufactured in Australia and sold at a profit for1s. The ad valorem rate should apply to all these articles.
Question - That the request (Senator E. B. Johnston’s) be agreed to- put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sub-item agreed to.
Saws, n.e.i., ad valorem - British, 45 per cent.; general,65 per cent.
– This item includes circular saws, which are tools of trade of the bush saw-miller. The cost of a circular saw to-day is about half as much again as it was prior to the tariff resolution of 1929. The rate under the 1921-30 tariff was- British, 15 per cent. ; intermediate, 20 per cent. ; general, 25 per cent. The present rate is - British, 45 per cent. ; general, 65 per cent. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties, ad valorem - British, 15 per cent.; general, 35 per cent.
This matter may not appear important, because the importation of saws is not very large, the value last year being £2,479. But the duty is a terrific impost on the saw-milling industry which, in Tasmania, as I well know, is having a hard struggle to keep going. The higher price that he has had to pay for his saws has meant quite a lot to the hush sawmiller. I expect the Minister to reply that the Government has acted in accordance with the policy announced by the Prime Minister, but I nevertheless urge the committee to support my request, because of its reasonable nature.
Request agreed to.
Item agreed to, subject to a request.
Item 216 (b) agreed to.
Items 229 (h1), 230 (a) to (re), and 231 (h) agreed to.
Item 255, sub-item (c) -
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the fixed rate of duty, British, 2d.
The rates which the Government considers should he applied are the same as the existing rates under the general tariff, but are lower by 2d. per lb. in the fixed rate under the British tariff. Compared with the 1921-30 tariff, the proposed rates are lower by1d. per lb. in the fixed rate under the British tariff, and higher by 10 per cent. in the alternative ad valorem rate under the British rate, and by 2d. per lb., or 15 per cent. ad valorem, under the general tariff.
The Tariff Board inquired into the question of the duties on gelatine in March last, and furnished its report on the 28th April, 1933.
The gelatine manufacturing industry is of very great importance to Australia, both because it gives employment and by reason of the fact that it provides an economic means of effectively disposing of waste products which otherwise would have to be detroyed in the interests of public health. Direct employment is given to over 300 hands, and on account of the whole of the raw material coming from Australian sources, the indirect employment involved is also extensive. The Tariff Board points out that the local manufacturer is practically safe from overseas competition in the higher grades, but would be vulnerable without tariff protection in the medium or lower grades. After excluding certain gelatines which are required for particular purposes, and not manufactured locally, the local manufacturer has supplied over 90 per cent. of the Australian requirements. This business, the board points out, was built up under the protection accordedby the 1921-30 tariff, and in the board’s opinion, there is no occasion to increase that protection. However, I wish to state for the information of honorable senators, that a united application from the glue and gelatine manufacturers of the British Empire was submitted to the Ottawa Conference, for Empire preference on glues and gelatine. Certain differential rates of duty were agreed upon bymanufacturers in each of the countries concerned, with respect to gelatines and glues produced in the Empire and in foreign countries. The Australian manufacturers agreed to rates under the Australian tariff of 2d. per lb., or 40 per cent. British, and 8d. per lb., or 65 per cent. general, which meant a reduction in the British preferential tariff rate of 2d. per lb., or 10 per cent. ad valorem. The Canadian Parliament has given effect to the tariff rates agreed upon by the trade interests at the Ottawa Conference, and, up to date, is the only Empire unit to do so. As a result, Australian gelatine is now dutiable at the rate of 5 per cent. upon importation into Canada, instead of 12½ per cent. as was previously the case. The United Kingdom manufacturers agreed to the free admission of Empire gelatine, with a rate of l½d. per lb., or 25 per cent., against the foreign product, but the United Kingdom Government has not given effect to the foreign rate, which is still 10 per cent. The importance of the Australian industry can be gauged from the fact that the output is greater than the combined output of the fourteen gelatine manufacturers in the United Kingdom. Our dependence, on the Empire for the disposal of the surplus production of the Australian gelatine industry is apparent from the fact that out of our total exports for 1931-32, valued at £47,495, approximately 95 per cent., was exported to Empire countries, as follows: - United Kingdom, £14,000; Canada, £15,000; and South Africa, £16,000.
The reduced rates which the Government now proposes under the British preferential tariff should strengthen the hands of the manuf acturers of the United Kingdom in their effort to induce the British Government to impose the foreign rates contemplated at Ottawa. Two of the dominions would then have complied with the terms of this industrial agreement, and the industry in the United Kingdom, in its negotiations with the British Government, could then rely on the fact that two dominions had implemented it. The local industry is quite efficient, and has developed new and more economical processes of manufacture. The result has been an upward tendency in exports, and these exports would be further increased if the greater preferences agreed upon at Ottawa by the Empire countries were granted.
– Does the Minister propose that the ad valorem rate shall remain unaltered?
– Then it appears to me that the proposed alteration does not make the slightest difference. The rate under the 1921-30 tariff was British, 3d.; intermediate, 5d.; general, 6d. per lb., or ad valorem, 30 per cent., 40 per cent., and 45 per cent. respectively. That rate was increased to British, 4d. ; general, 8d., per lb., or ad valorem, 40 per cent. and 60 per cent. respectively. Nothing is gained by altering the former of those rates as regards the British preferential tariff, if the other is not altered, so long as the stipulation remains that whichever rate returns the higher duty will be charged.
. - The arrangement made at Ottawa by the whole of the trade interests represented there was that the British tariff should be 2d. per lb., or 40 per cent., ad valorem, whichever rate returned the higher duty. I do not profess to an understanding of the intricacies of the trade, which are tremendous; but I believe that quite a lot of gelatinous matter has been imported, some of it extraordinarily cheap, and other of it extraordinarily dear. The specific rate is included because of that position. The figure 40 per cent. is accepted by the Australian manufacturers, the British manufacturers, and every other body concerned in the Ottawa agreement. So long as the specific rate is reduced to 2d. per lb., all interests will be satisfied. I ask the committee to give effect to that reduction. It may seem extraordinary that we should maintain the ad valorem rate at 40 per cent., but that is what the trade desires, and it believes that such a rate will be in the best interests of the Empire.
– That is as I thought. The Minister has said that, though this is an alteration that has been agreed upon, in effect it means nothing, as it neither increases nor decreases the rate.
– That is not so ; it all depends on the value of the commodity. The trade was alive to the situation when it asked for the substitution of 2d. for 4d. per lb. I conceive the reason to be that 2d. is a 50 per cent. drop in the specific duty, and that 40 per cent. might have no bearing, the specificrate being inserted to guard against the intrusion of a cheaper article. I can assure Senator Duncan-Hughes that the position will not be as it was before.
Request agreed to.
Sub-item agreed to, subject to a request.
Item 279, sub-item (b) -
Tartaric acid, cream of tartar and cream of tartar substitutes, and phosphates of soda, per lb. - British, 5d. ; general, 8d.
.- I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties, per lb. - British, 2d.; general, 3d.
I went over the factory which manufactures this commodity, and was informed by the general manager that his company had captured the whole of the trade in Australia, and had asked the Customs Department to reduce the duty by 3d. per lb., as the rates that had been granted by the Scullin Government were of no use to the industry.
– I object to any alteration being made in this happy-go-lucky fashion, merely on the assurance of a private member. This is an important industry, and any recommendation for an alteration of the duty should come through the Tariff Board or the Minister in charge of the bill.
– I understand that this duty is not required by the industry, but if the Government neglects to apply a principle for which it stands, it will get into tremendous confusion. The Prime Minister(Mr. Lyons) has given an assurance that no duties will be altered unless a report has been received on the subject from the Tariff Board. The industry has broadcast the information that it does not require the rates of duty which appear in the schedule; but that is a matter for honorable senators to determine. I understand that the intimation that has been given by Senator Foll is in keeping with the facts.
.- I should like to support the remarks that were made by Senator Foll. The duties which appear in the schedule are absurdly high, the British rate being 150 per cent. in excess of that which obtained in 1930. Any person who knows anything about the costs of manufacturing cream of tartar is aware that the rates mentioned in the schedule are altogether too high, and far greater than is needed by the industry.
Request agreed to.
Sub-item agreed to, subject to a request.
Item 281, sub-item (c) -
Drugs and chemicals, viz.: -
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties, per ton, ad valorem, British, 50 per cent.; general, 70 per cent.
That involves the substitution of ad valorem for specific duties, and is in accordance with the recommendation of the Tariff Board; also, it represents a lower rate of protection than that at present accorded to local manufacturers. The Tariff Board reports that there is only one manufacturer in Australia of the goods covered by the sub-item now before the committee, and that employment is given to a minimum of 23 hands. It is of opinion that if the cost to the consumer is not excessive, there is a definite advantage in the establishment of the local industry, as the demand is spasmodic, and overseas supplies may not always be available.
Sulphate of alumina is used principally in the manufacture of paper, and for water purification. All the raw materials used in the manufacture of this commodity are Australian. Although the cost of sulphuric acid, the principal raw material, is much in excess of the price paid in Great Britain, this does not wholly bring about the high price of Australian sulphate of alumina. The board is of opinion that administration, distribution, and other expenses and profits are far too high, and should be reduced.
In the board’s opinion, the industry can operate successfully under the rates of British, 50 per cent., and general, 70 per cent., if conducted on economic lines: Imported raw materials form the major portion of the cost of alum, and even under a duty of £5 per ton the local manufacturers could not compete if it were not for the incidence of primage and exchange. As the manufacture of alum and sulphate of alumina is closely associated, the Tariff Board considers that the duties recommended on the latter should be applied also to the former. It is also of the opinion that if alum cannot be produced in Australia under this protection, it should be admitted under bylaw until such time as the tariff can be amended to remove the duty. Honorable senators may be assured that this position will be closely watched, and that if the local manufacture of alum becomes a burden on users, suitable action will be taken to lighten the load on dependent industries.
It is obvious that there is room for considerable reduction in the costs of production in Australia of alum and sulphate of alumina. The rates proposed are designed to permit the economic manufacture of these lines in Australia, and it will be incumbent on the local manufacturers to review their production costs if they are ultimately to hold the local market.
– What is the cost of alum per ton?
– It is as follows : -
The Tariff Board was impressed with the need of establishing this industry in Australia, and accordingly suggested the protection that I have moved for.
– I should like the Minister to say how the proposed ad valorem duty compares with the fixed duties of British, £5, and general, £6 10s. a ton. I should also like to know whether this matter has been referred back to the Tariff Board. This is an extremely technical subject, and I understand that the Minister for Trade and Custom’s (Mr. White) was convinced that mistakes had been made in the calculations, and that, consequently, the matter was again submitted to the board. The Government and the Tariff Board realize that an important potential Australian industry is involved, and they desire to give it every opportunity to establish itself on a sound footing. If it is a fact that this matter has been referred back to the Tariff Board, either officially or unofficially, would’ it not be better to allow the duties set out in the schedule to remain until the board’s further report has been received? I should like to know whether or not the matter has been referred back to the Tariff Board for further investigation.
.- The Tariff Board’s report is dated the 22nd May, 1933, and has been considered by Cabinet only within the last fourteen days. Cabinet has approved of the request which I have moved. I shall give one or two quotations from the board’s report. That body deals with the general position in the following terms: -
The board believes that the industry can function under the rates recommended if conducted on economic lines, and considers that this protection is as much as the industry warrants.
In that expression of opinion the board was at least definite. The report also states that the Tariff Board, having made a comparison of the rates of duty, considered that the ad valorem duties were more equitable. It points out that, including exchange, customs, and primage, the present protection afforded to the local industry is 118 per cent. in the case of sulphate of ammonia, 100 per cent.on powdered alum, and 108.3 per cent. on lump alum. The hoard did not feel justified in. accepting the costs of production submitted to it, and therefore it proceeded to deal with the cost of manufacture - a matter to which I have already referred. Comparing prices, the board reported -
At Melbourne, the Australian product is procurable direct from the works, and as the freight and landing charges are thus eliminated, the local manufacturer is in a better position to meet competition.From the above figures, the economic production of alum is doubtful, but the board, having in mind that the industry was only started since the increased duties came into operation and that the two manufactures - sulphate of alumina and alum - are closely associated, recommends that the same duty apply in both cases, viz.: - 50 per cent. (British preferential tariff), and 70 per cent. (general tariff). If alum cannot be produced in Australia under this protection, the board recommends it to be admitted under by-law until such time as the tariff can be amended to remove the duty.
The board evidently realized the difficult position of the industry, but, in the interests of the community generally, it could not stand for higher duties than those which it recommended. I, do not know what further representations, if any, the industry may make ; but Cabinet has approved of the board’s report, and the request which I have moved is the result of its consideration.
SenatorO’HALLORAN (South Aus tralia) [5.37]. - I am disappointed with the lack of information supplied by the Minister in relation to this important item. I realize that the Minister cannot have an intimate knowledge of every item in a tariff schedule containing nearly 1,200 items; but, surely, this committee is entitled to more detailed information than he has presented to it.
– The Tariff Board’s report was circulated about three weeks ago.
– The Minister just said that the board’s report had been considered by Cabinet within the last fourteen days. I did not receive a CODY of the report until about ten minutes ago.
– The report was laid on the table some weeks ago.
– If the Minister, with the assistance of highlyskilled departmental officers, is unable to make the position clear to the committee, it ill becomes him to criticize honorable senators who are without” such skilled assistance for their lack of knowledge. I understood the Minister to say that no request had been submitted to the Government for the reconsideration of this item by the Tariff Board. I have here a copy of the Melbourne Herald of the 5th July, in which appears a statement by Mr. M. J. Martin, the manager of Sulphates Proprietary Limited. Mr. Martin referred to many important aspects of this subject. Referring to the importance of the industry, he mentioned a statement by the Minister in charge of Development - the Minister who is now in charge of the tariff-i-in which he emphasized the importance to Australia of developing the bauxite and alunite and other deposits in Australia. The Minister, in a statement which was given considerable publicity in the press, suggested that, as a result of the Government’s activity, Australia was about to enter’ on a new era of prosperity. Mr. Martin stated that his company had been -engaged in the development of these deposits in different parts of Australia for ten years, and had obtained a fair- measure of success. The report continues -
The company’s activities were most extensively investigated by tlie former Tariff Board in 1920, and the board -Chen recommended the duty which is now in force. The report stated that the industry, as carried on by Sulphates Proprietary Limited, was conducted efficiently and with due regard to economical production. Tn view of the fact that raw materials required were available in the country, the board expressed the view that the industry was one which, should be encouraged. The board also pointed out the possibility of further development arising out of the company’s investigations.
Notwithstanding that report, no action was taken by the government of the day. Indeed, nothing was done to give effect to the board’s recommendation until the Scullin Administration, acted on it in 1929. That is clearly set out by Mr. Martin in the following paragraph: -
This recommendation was not acted on until the Scullin tariff was introduced. When the new protection was granted, this company extended its works at Yarraville, and began its investigation of the alunite deposit. It has already spent several thousand pounds on this development. But no sooner had it begun to produce alum and other products from these deposits than the present Tariff Board’s report is tabled threatening seriously to hamper the development of the industry. The present Tariff Board appears to have .overlooked entirely the possibilities of development, and its action in recommending reduction of duty, if acted on ‘ by the Government, will undoubtedly delay the utilization of these Australian raw materials, which the Minister in charge of Development is seeking to encourage.
The Bruce-Page Government ignored the Tariff Board’s report; but the present Government, which is of the same political faith, is quick to act on the later report submitted by the board, notwithstanding that that report is not so comprehensive as the Minister would have us believe. The latest report of the board, which is dated the 22nd May, 1933, was printed on the 22nd June. Less than a month after its contents became public property, the Government, with what I regard as unseemly haste, sets out to upset the state of affairs created by a previous administration on the recommendation, of the same tariff tribunal. What is the reason for this unseemly haste on the part of the Government? Why is the Tariff Board’s recent recommendation .given effect, almost immediately, whereas its former report was ignored ? I understood the Minister to say that no representations have been made to the Government, but, according to a paragraph which appeared in the Melbourne Herald on the 5th July, Mr. Martin, the manager of the company, has said -
Representations have already been made to the Government in the matter. The Minister said it was very desirable to develop any industry connected with mining, and that raw materials such as bauxite and alunite are obtained by mining.
I do not know Mr. Martin, but it would appear from that paragraph that representations were made to the Government on the 5th July; but, to-day, the Minister said that no such representations had been made. The Minister should either postpone consideration of this sub-item until group 7 has been disposed of, to give honorable senators a further opportunity to study the report of the Tariff Board on this subject, which he admits is highly technical, or, as an alternative, to accept the suggestion of Senator Brennan, which to me is a sounder proposition. The Minister should see whether these duties were fixed by the Scullin Government on the recommendation of the Tariff Board, and allow them to remain operative until the whole question has been referred back to the board for a more comprehensive inquiry. The Minister proposes to reduce the flat rate duties of British, £5, and general £6 10s., per ton, to ad valorem rates of British, 50 per cent., and general, 70 per cent. I do not know what are the principal countries producing these drugs and chemicals, but I know that there must be intensive competition from countries outside the British Empire, because, according to the Chemical Trade Journal and Engineering, published in Great Britain, I findthat in December, 1931, the British Government imposed a duty of 50 per cent. on these products in order to protect its own industries. If to protect the British alunite industry, which is older and more firmly established than the Australian industry, it is necessary to impose a protective duty of 50 per cent., it is obvious that a higher rate of duty is necessary to enable the industry to become firmly established in Australia. For these reasons, I oppose the request moved by the Minister.
– I regret that the honorable senator has not had an opportunity to peruse the Tariff Board’s report, which was circulated immediately Cabinet had approved of it, three weeks ago. I now find that I was in error in saying that the Government has not been approached on this matter. Since my attention has been devoted almost entirely to tariff matters in this chamber, I have not had an opportunity to attend Cabinet meetings, and, consequently, do not know all that has transpired there. The departmental officer who is in close touch with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), informs me that since the tariff has been under discussion in this chamber, the Minister has informed Cabinet that the representative of this company notified the Minister that he wishes a further complete review of the whole industry. Although the Tariff Board has inquired into the operations of this industry on two occasions, the company’s representative now asks for a further inquiry. The request was submitted to the Minister, and then to Cabinet, which decided that this request should be proceeded with. But what has this to do with the bauxite industry mentioned by Senator O’Halloran? I know that the best bauxite procurable can be obtained for about £2 10s. a ton at the factory door in Melbourne.
– Would that come from India?
– No, it is cheaper than the Indian product. I should like to do what I can to encourage the bauxite industry, but the duties proposed under this sub-item will not assist it. That industry will be developed for a much more important purpose.
– The company engaged in this form of production is also interested in bauxite.
– What protection would this company expect on that product? If honorable senators will refer to the first page of the Tariff Board’s report, they will see that it estimates the normal Australian requirement of the products covered by this sub-item as follow: -
The board has expressed sound views with respect to this industry, and is trying to; let it down as lightly as possible. Doubtless, Mr. Martin, the representative of the company is a worthy citizen, and endeavoured to establish the industry in:
Australia under the duties recommended in the previous report of the Tariff Board. In view of the latest report of the board, it will be seen that the Government was wise in refraining from acting upon the previous report.
– Does the Minister suggest that the previous report was wrong ?
– The BrucePage Government did not act upon it, but the Scullin Government did, and its action was largely responsible for the establishment of an uneconomic industry. In recommending duties of 60 per cent. and 70 per cent., the board considered that it was treating the industry generously. Senator O’Halloran asked why the British Government should impose a duty of 50 per cent. on importations into Great Britain. The records show that all our importations come from Great Britain, where the manufacture of these commodities is undertaken on a large scale. The possibility of establishing an extensive chemical industry in Australia was once considered, but it was found that the demand for its products was likely to be too small for it to be of any economic value. That is probably the trouble in this case. I have given the committee all the information at my disposal. Further details will be found in the Tariff Board’s report, from which I quote the following paragraphs : -
In 1925, a request was made by Sulphates Proprietary Limited for an increased duty on aluminium sulphate, sulphate of alumina, alumina ferric and alum. An inquiry into this industry was held by the Tariff Board early in 1926. The board recommended certain increases, and suggested that the item be amended to read -
No action, giving effect to the Tariff Board’s recommendation, was taken by the Government until the 26th March, 1931, when, by tariff resolution of that date, the rates recommended by the board for sulphate of alumina were applied to alum, alum cake, and sulphate of alumina (including alumina ferric). The subitems were deleted, and all the products were grouped under item 281 (c). Provided the cost to the consumer is not excessive, there is a definite advantage, apart from the employment provided, in the establishment of the local industry, as the demand for these products is somewhat spasmodic, and overseas supplies may not always be available. As sulphate of alumina and alum cake are used principally in the treatment of water, and the manufacture of paper, the demand for these products should steadily increase. . . .
Reliable comparative data are not available to the board, but a summary of British f.o.b. prices on the 1st January for each year since 1925 was compiled from the Chemical Trade Journal, and submitted at the inquiry -
Except for a short-lived attempt by the Australian Alum Company Limited (now established in England), about ten years ago, alum was not manufactured locally until 1931, and the assumption that non-production in Australia is reflected in increased f.o.b. prices in the United Kingdom is not supported by evidence, and would, in this case, appear to be without foundation. . . . Nevertheless, the high price of the Australian product cannot be wholly attributed to the cost of sulphuric acid. The board has examined the local manufacturer’s detailed costs of production, and these show that, even if the cost of all the materials, direct labour, packing, plant, repairs and depreciation, and factory overhead, were deducted from the Australian selling price, the resultant figure would still exceed the f.o.b. price of sulphate of alumina from the United Kingdom. In other words, profits, administration, distribution, interest, technical and selling expenses represent more than the total cost in the United Kingdom.
Those are the facts upon which the Tariff Board reached its decisions.
– On one year’s operation.
– What would be the ultimate results of an industry with such a small output ? The figured I have quoted show the absurdity of imposing prohibitive duties on materials of this description. To do so would place certain persons in a false position, and would also be detrimental to the community generally. Such industries could succeed only by deceiving the people, and if higher duties were imposed, that is what would happen in this instance. The costs of production are set out, and the board states that, in its belief, an ad valorem duty would be the more equitable. It then goes on-
The board believes that the industry can function under the rates recommended if conducted on economic lines, and considers that this protection is as much as the industry warrants.
I have never read a stronger expression of opinion from the board. I have been urged in one place to defer consideration of this item until after we have finished group 7 of the schedule, and by another section to remit the item to the Tariff Board for further consideration. The Government has given consideration to this matter, and believes that no person whose opinions are not coloured by prejudice would seek to justify a higher duty. The truth is that the duty should never have been imposed.
SenatorO’Halloran. - Then why did the Tariff Board recommend it?
– The recommendation was made some time ago, but the Government holds the view that it was not justified. When we realize the conditions under which this commodity is produced on the other side of the world, it becomes clear that the industry must be carried on on a considerable scale, or overhead costs willkill it. There is no justification for high protection of the industry here, unless on the ground of national emergency. I regret that, in one respect, I may have misled the committee. I did not know that Mr. Martin had interviewed the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White). His proposals have been considered by Cabinet, which decided not to accept them.
– While this matter is under consideration, all the information available should be placed before honorable senators. If honorable senators will look at page 4 of the Tariff Board’s report, they will see that, in paragraphs 3, 4 and 5, statements are made which should induce them to think very carefully before agree ing to reduce the protection of this industry. The report states -
The manufacture of alum and similar products was originally commenced in Australia in 1919. An up-to-date plant was erected at Yarraville, Victoria, in 1922, having a capacity output of 3,000 tons per annum. Production has been continuously’ carried on despite many difficulties due to varying trade conditions, and to date shareholders have received little recompense for their capital investments.
Why were we not told these things by the Minister?
– Those are merely the main points of the evidence tendered by the board; they are not the statements of the board itself.
– I know that; but the evidence is worth a good deal more than we might be led to believe by the airy way in which the Minister sought to dispose of the matter. The Minister asked what bauxite had to do with the industry. It is made clear in paragraph 4 of the board’s report, which states -
The industry is one that claims a degreeof national importance, as the products are essential to the paper industry and water supply of the Commonwealth. The basic material bauxite is quarried at Narracan, Victoria, and, with the exception of imported foreign potash (at present used in the manufacture of alum), all other materials used in production are of Australian origin.
To me, this is a matter of national importance, and I am not prepared to vote for a reduction of duty at the present time. Paragraph 5 is as follows: -
Sulphate of alumina (including alum cake and alumina ferric). The use of sulphate of alumina is in two main fields -
Paper Making. - From 400 to 500 tons of sulphate of alumina are used annually in the various paper mills in Australia, and, since 1923, all requirements used have been of local manufacture. Prior to the establishment of this industry in Australia, as much as £40 per ton had been charged for imported material. As the local manufacturer has always charged a fair price, the paper mills have reciprocated by dealing locally, despite the fact that at times they could have bought cheaper overseas.
The paper manufacturers are prepared to reciprocate in the Australian way, but the Minister has asked us to take up an anti-Australian attitude. A further paragraph in the report deals with the use of alum for purifying water, and I know how important this is to Queens- land. The paragraph states -
It will be realized both from a domestic and commercial stand-point how necessary it is that the industry supplying the chemicals to these plants should be existent in Australia, particularly when the basic materials are obtainable in this country. In this sphere of the industry a constant supply and facilities for prompt delivery are essential.
It is worthy of note that even the Yan Yean water supply has to he treated by certain woollen manufacturers to make the water suitable for their requirements.
A prima facie case is made out for the encouragement of the industry, and it is unfair to suggest that, atthis stage of the company’s development, the duties should be reduced. The Minister made a strong point of the fact that the company would be unable to compete with overseas manufacturers even if it had no overhead costs to meet, but much the same might have been said of most Australian enterprises during their early stages. This industry is only now beginning to find its feet; it has just got over its initial difficulties, and we are being invited by the Government to deliver it this crushing blow! Probably no good would be achieved by postponing the item, or by sending it back to the board for further consideration. We realize that the numbers are against us in the committee ; but I suggest to the Minister that he at least might have let the matter stand where it was, as he has done in the case of other items. I appeal to honorable senators, though without much expectation of success, not to agree to the request.
– The Minister has spoken on one matter to which I wished to refer, namely, that representations have been made to the Minister for Trade and Customs on this subject by the company itself, and by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. On this occasion I am on a different side of the fence from that on which I am usually found, and am somewhat hampered in consequence. The point which I desire to make is that the Tariff Board undoubtedly went astray on certain matters of fact, particularly when, at the beginning of its report, it discussed Australia’s requirements of this commodity. Australia’s consumption is demonstrably greater than the board states, and that is admitted by both sides. I also understand that other industries are affected, notably the potash industry. Like Senator Collings, I realize that the Government has apparently made up its mind, but I thought that, in view of the facts which must have been placed before it, action might have been deferred until the board had been given an opportunity to furnish another report.
– I confess that I am at a loss to understand the reason for the attack made by the Government on this industry, unless it be that Ministers wish to be able to tell the public that, in this respect at least, the Government has reduced the tariff in accordance with its promises.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The following letter was sent by Mr. M. J. Martin, the director of Sulphate Proprietary Limited, to the Minister: -
We are particularly interested in statements from you which appeared in the Herald of 3rd instant, and the Argus and Age of even date. For your information we wish to inform you that this company, for the past ten years, has been engaged in developing the aluminium products industry from a chemical point of view, and we have used, and are using, bauxite and alunite at the present time. We are particularly interested in your reference to the possibility of using Australian alunite deposits for the production of potash fertilizers. This matter is at present being investigated by this company. We would, however, direct your attention to a Tariff Board report on our industry which recommends a considerable decrease in duty which must hamper our developments. The present board, when recently investigating the industry, indicated that they did not want further technical evidence, though we were prepared to put many important facts regarding our efforts for the utilization of alunite before them. We feel that the Tariff Board has failed to appreciate the developmental work carried on by our industry, and we have made representations to the Minister for Customs to have the Tariff Board report withdrawn from the Senate pending further investigation. We feel that in this we shall have your support, and may we suggest that you discuss the matter with the Minister for Customs, to whom we have already made certain representations. As you are probably aware, Australia is importing from 5,000 to 7,000 tons of potash salts per annum for fertilizer purposes, and, owing to the exchange and abnormal economic conditions, potash fertilizers are now costing from £18 to £20 per ton to land in Australia. We are sure that you will appreciate the necessity for making efforts to develop our own resources for potash to replace these imports, and render the primary-producing industries independent of foreign sources for this material.
That letter was forwarded to the Minister, who informs me that he has not seen it. I can quite appreciate that fact, because, undoubtedly, he must receive a thousand and one communications to which it would be impossible for him to give his personal attention.
– The honorable senator’s doubts are well founded.
– This industry is admittedly, not large, and is not employing a vast army of workers; but as it is rendering a service to Australia by making us independent of other countries for our potash supplies, we should encourage its development. The following is an extract taken from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 5th of this month: -
Alunite is the only ore in Australia which appears to offer any possibilities for the extraction of potash for fertilizer purposes. The possibilities of utilization of the Australian deposits were investigated by the Bureau of Science and Industry in 1917, when this country was cut off from the supply of German potash. Since that time there has been considerable advance and development in chemical processes, and it appears likely that it may be economic to establish an industry to use Australian alunite to supply this important fertilizer to our primary industries.
The fanners should certainly be interested in this industry, because up to the present most of their requirements of potash fertilizer have been supplied by other countries. Senator McLachlan himself, in a report in the Age of the 4th July, regarding the development of alunite deposits, stated that this industry waa one of the most attractive of our mining industries for the absorption of large numbers of unemployed, and that he was using every endeavour to stimulate its development. Now he has informed, us that it is necessary to give effect to the recommendation of the Tariff Board, which is to reduce the duty in such a way as practically to destroy this industry. The Minister’s method of showing that he is anxious to stimulate its development is certainly peculiar.
– A protection of from 50 per cent, to 70 per cent, should surely give some stimulus to the industry.
– I wish now to deal with figures supplied to the Tariff Board by the representatives of the British manufacturers without any documentary evidence to support them, and yet accepted by the board as being correct. I do not blame the British representatives for acting in their own interests, because they are here to assist their own particular industry. On the other hand, the Australian company furnished to the Tariff. Board documentary evidence which showed that the figures supplied by the British representatives were wrong. It is stated in the board’s report that the landed cost in Australia of sulphate of alumina, placed in the store, would be £18 Ss. a ton, whereas the figures supplied by the manager of the local company show that the cost would be £16 9s. 3d. a ton. There is a big disparity between those figures. Then in regard to alumina ferric, the figures given to the board by the British representatives showed that the landed cost would be £16 ls., whereas the correct figure was £14 2s. If the duty were reduced as is now proposed, the landed cost of alumina ferric placed in the store would be £11 a ton, thus making it impossible for the local companies to compete with the British manufacturers. We shall, therefore, jeopardize this industry if we accept the recommendation of the board. This company was assured that this matter would be re-opened ; yet it is now told that its request for further investigation has been refused. The following statement has been made by the Sulphate Proprietary Limited in reply to the Tariff Board’s report : -
Our perusal of the report tabled in the Senate on the 22nd June, 1933, makes us draw a very definite conclusion that the board made this report -
Without taking this industry in its proper perspective;
Without giving sufficient weight to the evidence in support of the duty;
Without taking into consideration the obvious satisfaction of the users of the products in Australia.
Without taking into consideration the incidence of their report, if adopted, on the users in Australia.
Without taking into consideration the pioneering activities associated with the establishment of such an industry and its various ramifications.
The Tariff Board, simply because of the Ottawa agreement, gave more weight to the evidence of the representatives of the British manufacturers than it did to that of the local manufacturers.
There has been no complaint from customers respecting the operation of the local company. It has satisfactorily fulfilled all requirements, and it has not increased its prices under cover of the tariff. I have with me a letter from the Brisbane City Council, signed by Mr. W. E. Bush, the Chief Engineer, to the effect that this company has not increased its prices, although it could have taken advantage of the tariff, and increased its charges by 33 per cent. The letter reads -
In 1929,the price quoted by your company for sulphate of alumina in ingot form was £14 10s. At that time, after making inquiries, I informed the Mayor of Brisbane that there was a duty of £4 per ton on this material imported into Australia, and I now understand the duty is £5 per ton, hut no higher rate has been charged since that date, the prices paid having been firm at £14 10s. for ingot and £.13 10s. for pulverized.
This company, since it has refused to take advantage of the tariff, should receive every encouragement at our hands. As Senator O’Halloran has pointed out, the board, as constituted in 1926, was composed of four business men who, after inquiry, came to the conclusion that it was essential that these products should always be available in Australia. Notwithstanding that, the board, in its second report, when only two of its members sat, recommended a reduction of duty. I think that the Minister would be well advised, after receiving the evidence, to leave the duties as they appear in the schedule, and thus give the Australian company an opportunity to develop its operations.
Question - That the request (Senator McLachlan ‘s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Request agreed to.
Sub-item agreed to, subject to a request.
Items 291 (m1, 2, 3 (n) and 301 (d) agreed to.
Item 302, sub-items (a) (b) -
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the item to read: - Tool handles, unattached, viz. : -
Axe, adze, hammer over 24 inches, mattock and pick, per dozen - British, 3s.; general, 4s.6d. ; or ad valorem - British, 30 per cent.; general, 45 per cent. (whichever rate returns this higher duty ).
N.E.I., ad valorem - British, 30 per cent.; general, 45 per cent.
This request is made in order to give effect to a recent Tariff Board recommendation. Under this proposal, the ad valorem duties are reduced by 20 per cent. The fixed rates of duty are abolished with the exception of those applying to axe, adze, hammer - over 24 inches - mattock and pick handles, on which they are reduced from 4s. 6d. per dozen British and 7s. 6d. per dozen general to 3s. per dozen British and 4s. 6d. per dozen general. The last Government increased the duties by 25 per cent. British and 30 per cent. general, and also provided alternative fixed rates of1s. 3d. per dozen British and1s. 6d. per dozen general on file and chisel handles, and 4s. 6d. per dozen British and 7s. 6d. per dozen general on other handles. The ad valorem rates contained in the request are 5 per cent. British and 10 per cent. general higher than the 1921-30 duties. No fixed rates operated until the 1921-30 tariff.
A review of the importations over the last seven years shows that the local manufacturers have been gradually capturing the market. Australian axe handles, and the larger handles such as mattock and pick handles, which are made from local timber, are selling at from onehalf to one-third of the landed duty-paid cost of imported handles under present exchange and duties. Despite this, importations to theextent of £19,000 per annum were made during the last two years. The board considered that Australian timber is suitable for the ordinary household axe handles, but is not entirely suitable for axes used by timber-getters and bushmen. These duties are between the level of the 1921-30 tariff and the previous Government’s proposals. The hoard stated that a reduction of the duties to the former rates would have a disruptive effect on the industry, and probably deprive local manufacturers of the trade in the kinds and qualities of handles which are satisfactory for all ordinary purposes. The duties are slightly higher than is necessary to bring overseas costs in line with Australian costs, but this is necessary in order to overcome the prejudice against the local product. Australian manufacturers are supplying the bulk of the smaller handles. There is, however, a small proportion not supplied locally. No case was established for the imposition of high duties on small tool handles, and the board has recommended the rates of 30 per cent. British and 45 per cent. general, which, while being sufficient to hold the trade in the lines being manufactured locally, will not place too great a burden on the few kinds not produced locally.
– These duties are of considerable importance to a young industry in Queensland. I have taken the trouble to fortify myself with facts which enable me to rebut the derogatory statements made in the other branch of the legislature regarding the quality of Australian tool handles. We have frequently heard references to the alleged incapacity of Australians to do anything for themselves, and it is necessary to bring forward definite proof as to the efficiency of local industries.. A lengthy debate took place on these duties in the other chamber. One honorable member said that the champion axeman of Australia, who was one of his constituents, used Australian handles. I have before me an axe handle made of Australian hickory by the Perfection Handle Works, , of Cairns, of which Mr. T. W. Winkworth is the proprietor. I also have a pick handle made from the same class of timber, and two other handles also made of Queensland wood. If honorable senators can see anything wrong with these handles, I shall be glad to have the defects pointed out to me. I shall probably be told that it is impossible to judge the quality of a tool handle, particularly , an axe handle, merely by inspecting it. That is true; hut one firm whose factory is situated at Ballina, in New South Wales, guarantees the quality of the handles manufactured by it, and invites the users to - report as to their experience - of them in actual practice. Out of 50,000 handles supplied, only 30 have been reported to the firm as being unsatisfactory. - -
A representative of a federal electorate in Queensland, referring to these duties, said that this was one of the industries that claimed the attention, of the Scullin Administration. Australia was at that time importing over 50,000 tool handles annually; principally from America, with which this country had an adverse trade balance. Ample evidence was furnished that these handles could be .manufactured in Australia. Every vote that honorable senators cast with respect to the tariff should be influenced by a knowledge of what can be done by Australian industries. I was astonished to hear Senator Lynch say that those of us who advocate increased duties know that, if Australia were unable to export its surplus products, its people could not live. Surely it is not seriously contended that,’ in such circumstances, our people would starve, ‘because there is nothing necessary for the support of human life that cannot be made or grown in ‘ this country. Queensland grows timbers from which tool handles of good quality can be made. The railway departments of New South Wales and Victoria, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, and Vickers Commonwealth Steel Products, have found that locally-made handles are quite .satisfactory in quality.
This industry has been developed considerably as a result of the adequate protection given by the Scullin schedule. The production of tool handles entails the use of large quantities of local timbers, chiefly mountain ash, spotted gum, ironbark, red box. woolly butt, white beech, and Australian hickory. In the getting and preparing of this timber a large number of men are engaged.
There are now thirteen factories engaged in the production of tool handles, and employing approximately 300 hands. Prior to the operation of the 1930 tariff proposals, the Australian market was being more or less flooded with thirdgrade hickory handles from the United States of America. They were landed here cheaply, and sold at low rates. Being of hickory, they had a’ distinct selling advantage over the less-appreciated Australian timbers, especially as advertising propaganda was freely employed.’ In regard to’ file and chisel handles”, new plant has been installed, and an increased demand is - expected as stocks now held by merchants are reduced. New factories have been .established in all eastern States, including Tasmania, for the express purpose of making the various types of handles in demand. The Minister will be doing a great disservice to the Australian timber’ industry, to those who have invested largely ‘in factories for the production of tool handles, -and to the workers so engaged, if he whittles down the protection which has been operating for the last three years. Australia has some of the finest timbers in the” world, which are quite suitable for the manufacture of handles for axes and other tools, and there is’ no .justification for importing these- goods extensively from a country that does not buy from us half as much as we buy from it.
Mr. T. W. Winkworth, proprietor of the Perfection Handle Works, wrote to me from. Cairns on the 28th June last as follows:-
Cairns hickory is a timber comparable to the American hickory for this work, and cannot be compared with any other Australian timber that has been used in attempts to make handles. Our silver ash also is a very serviceable timber for certain classes of handles.
-: - Why does the Forestry Department say that no hickory is grown in Australia?
– If the honorable senator will refer to Mr. E. H.. F. Swain’s book, Timbers and Forest Products of - Queensland, published in 1928, he will find there a full description of hickory ash and silver ash.
– Is it not strange that the manufacturers themselves are importing American hickory
– They have only recently discovered the quality and uses of Queensland hickory.
– I am referring to -importations during this year.
– Hickory, even American hickory, is of varying grades. Mr. Winkworth writes -
I would like you to realize that hickory is a timber which will really stand up to this class of work, and, is comparable only with the American product. It is not quite as flexible as .the American, but is stronger, and in some handles, this strength makes it superior to the American; for example, car penters adze eye hammer handles. I have been, for the last twelve months, making handles and experimenting with the various timbers, and just as I reach a decision to launch nut on a large scale, we get the setback of a likely change in the tariff, which will kill the industry entirely. No axe handle of this quality has yet been put on the market made in Australia, and these have as yet only been tried locally, and a trial consignment was Bent lust March to Harris Scarfe Limited, Adelaide, South Australia. The following is an extract from their letter ordering the parcel: -
On. receipt of these lines, we will forward to Broken Hill Mines, &c, and if reports are satisfactory, you can be sure a large volume of business will be coming forward.
Von will understand that there has not been sufficient time for the report to be available. The remarks quoted from their letter were inspired by a similar set of samples to those sent you. I might mention also that Harris Scarfe Limited are the only firm outside Cairns who have taken the best articles regardless of price, and 1 greatly appreciate their efforts to jil ace a quality line on the market.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I have samples of axe and hammer handles produced by the Brisbane Handle Factory Limited. Having been a pattern maker for twenty years, I have had some knowledge of timbers, and these handles appear to me to be of excellent quality. I am convinced that if they are tested, they will be proved to be equal to the best imported hickory handles. The manufacture of tool handles in Queensland was in a precarious state, when, on the recommendation of the Tariff Board, reasonable protection was given to the industry. With this assistance, it has made satisfactory headway, but if the Government should, in its lack of wisdom, reduce the duty, the Brisbane Handle Factory Limited, and other manufacturers, will be put out of business, and their employees will be out of work. The efficacy of the duty previously operating is indicated by the fact that the value of the imports of axe handles dropped from £8,245 in 1929-30, to £4,953 in 1930-31, .and to £1,682 in 1931-32. The number, of employees in 1930 was 25; in 1931, 32; and in 1932, 46 ; at present the number is 56. If axe users are encouraged to buy American handles, many of these workers will be thrown on the labour market. Senator Hardy has indicated by interjection that experiments conducted by Australian universities show that Australian axe handles are not equal to’ those made of American hickory. The samples sent to mo by the Brisbane Handles Factory Limited are made from timber supplied by the Queensland Forestry Department. That department is doing a wonderful work for Australia ;. by its enthusiasm and intelligent research, it has proved the suitability of Queensland timbers for many of the purposes for which imported timbers are now used. Describing the timber used by the Brisbane Handle Factory Limited, Mr. E. H. F. Swain, author of The Timbers and Forest Products of Queensland, says -
The botanical name’ of this timber is Pseudomorus brunoniana, known locally uswaddy wood, supple jack, and whalebone, but is commercially known as handle wood. Test pieces, when subjected to a rupture test, bent more than American hickory before breaking. The modulus of rupture in pounds per square inch was as follows: - Handle wood. 15,000 lb. to 11,000 lb. The modulus of elasticity was .from 1,900,000 to 1,600,000 lb. per squareinch.
Handle wood is tough and stringy, does not jar the hand, is pleasant to the touch, and gives long service. It makes very satisfactory baseball clubs, polo and croquet mallet heads, mauls, and carpenters’, plumbers’, and tinsmiths’ mallets. According to the Queensland firm much of the destructive criticism of Australian axe handles emanates from certain professional show axemen. Apparently, this is due to a psychological kink in the make-up of certain people in this country, who affect to believe that the product of some other country must necessarily be superior to anything that is made or produced in Australia. The Queensland Forestry Department is so confident of the quality of axe handles made from Queensland handlewood, that it is prepared to test any imported hickory axe handle against the durability, make, and finish of axe handles made from Queensland handlewood
– When did the Queensland Forestry Department issue that challenge?
– If Senator Hardy doubts my veracity I can refer him to a personal friend of mine who is in charge of that department. The Brisbane firm States that no manufacturer of axe handles could possibly carry on financially on the sales only of axe handles to professional wood-choppers. The item under discussion gives honorable senators an opportunity to prove their patriotism to an Australian industry. Unless it receives adequate protection there will be grave danger of American handles being dumped in the Australian market to the injury of the local industry. In evidence before the Tariff Board it was stated that -
The various American hickory handle factories have been selling their handles so ridiculously cheap, being all over-stocked, and we believe, all in very bad financial condition, so that the English handle-makers have not been able to compete. The handles are being sold for about the price of the raw material only.
I fail to understand why the Minister should have moved a request to reduce the general tariff. Are we to understand that the Government is pandering to American interests? If the duty is to be reduced against British manufacturers, the general rate should be allowed to stand.
– Apparently it is laid down by the Government, and also by the Tariff Board, that if an Australian industry can show that it can produce an article of good. quality, and in sufficient quantities to meet’ the Australian demand at a satisfactory price, that is to be regarded as the basis for its encouragement through the tariff. When the Cairns firm sent these samples to me I realized that, while I might he able to convince honorable senators of the quality of the articles, I should also be in a position to say something about prices. Accordingly, I telegraphed to the firm in question asking to be furnished with the wholesale and retail selling rates, and I received the following reply -
Gross lots c.i.f.e. Sydney, wholesale prices, axe15s., pick 12s., hammer 4s. per dozen, plus sales tax. Retail rates approximately 50 per cent. to 100 per cent. on.
On that basis, the retail price of axe handles should be not 4s. 6d., as was alleged by one honorable senator this evening, but from 2s. to 2s. 3d. each, pick handles about1s. 9d., and hammer handles not more than 7d. Very little more need be said about the quality of the Queensland product. The champion axeman of Australia prefers to use Australianmade handles. From letters received from firms with which we have been in communication, or which have been in communication with us, we gather that the industry is just getting on its feet, and that if there is any interference with the protection hitherto enjoyed, it will be seriously endangered. I hope that the Minister’s request for a reduction of the tariff will not be accepted.
– Certain of the statements made by Senators Brown and Collings should not be allowed to pass unchallenged. The honorable senators have quoted authorities in support of their statement as to the quality of the Australian axe handles, and Senator Collings has produced a number of samples which, with his usual assurance, he claims to be the very finest axe handles ever manufactured in this country. It is a pity that he did not show this axe handle to the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator McLachlan), who, I know, has had some experience of Australian timbers, because 3 inches from the end there appears in it a check or fault in the grain, and I feel sure that, if it were tested for compression and tensile strength by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, it would be rated as equal only to thirdquality hickory handles imported from the United States of America. In my commercial dealings, I have given considerable attention to the manufacture of axe handles. In order to get complete data as to compression and tensile strength of Australian timbers, I have sought advice from the research laboratories of the Queensland, Sydney, and Melbourne universities, and in every case the reports have been unanimous in stating that no Australian timber is equal in quality to American hickory for the making of axe handles.
– ^Queensland hickory has not been tested, because this is the first time it has been used for axe handles.
– If that is so, can Senator- Collings tell the committee why the grade is not marked on the handle, because I understand it is a regulation of the Queensland forestry service’ that every axe handle turned out by a .Queensland firm must bear on it a stamp showing the grade to which it belongs. A great deal has been said about the preference of champion axemen for Australian axe handles. The fact is that a champion axeman rarely . uses a ready-made handle. His invariable practice is to go into the bush, carefully select his timber, and shape his own handle. The following petition, signed by 168 axemen of the Victorian Axemen’s Association, was submitted to the Tariff Board in support of their protest against the high rates of duty then in force : -
We the undersigned axemen and bushmen consider that tho present duty on hickory axe handles should be considerably reduced, as in our opinion there is no timber in Australia available in commercial quantities suitable for making axe handles. It is dangerous for us to use Australian handles in our work, because they are not reliable.
As honorable senators know, I have had considerable’ experience in the timber business. On at least half a dozen occasions I have seen axemen, seriously injured because the axe handles used by them were not. 100 per cent, efficient. Frequently it is necessary for axemen, when about to fell a tree, to affix a platform or springboard about 6 inches wide at a height of from 30 to 40 feet from the ground. “Working from this platform, their safety, and possibly their lives, depend upon the reliability of the axe handle. If in the course of a stroke it should develop a fault and break, the axeman may be thrown to the ground and seriously injured,’ In this matter I support the Government. Axe handles under 24 inches in length, which do not require structural strength, can be manufactured in Australia, and for ordinary work there is a wide field for the local industry, but, when scientists tell us that we have not a timber equal to hickory, it is a suicidal policy to impose a penalty on our people by putting a high, duty on axe handles.
.- Senator Collings evidently believes that he has made out a good case against the proposal of the Government. In the first place, however,.1 he was in error in describing as a hickory handle that which he has displayed. The best-informed authorities describe it as hickory ash, which is totally different. I speak with some knowledge of this subject, because, for very many years, I have lived in a community in which there is a large number of bushmen and axemen. I know of no reputable bushman, let alone a champion axeman, who would think of using in the bush the handle that Senator Collings has introduced to our notice Let any honorable senator test it for himself. It has absolutely no spring, and would jar the hand of a bushman in any heavy work. The American hickory handle, however, has a great deal of elasticity, which is absolutely essential if bush work is to be performed satisfactorily. I say nothing against the handle that we have here to-night, on the score of its suitability for the splitting of boxwood in the backyards of our people. But I know from practical experience that no bushman worthy of the name would use any but an American hickory handle, not because he prefers it to the Australian or. the British handle, but because it is the only handle that so far has given him satisfaction; and upon which he can rely. There is no need for the honorable senator to protest against the reduction of the duty on American handles, because they are not in the same price class as Australian handles. The price of the American article, under the duty which has operated during the last two years, has ranged from 3s. 6d. to 4s. 9d. The honorable senator has admitted that the handle, whose cause he has championed, can be retailed for 2s. 3d. ; consequently, it would be bought by the householder in preference to the American, because it has not to stand the strain that is applied by .a bushman. Therefore, if the American handle is admitted at a lower rate of duty, the only result will be to cheapen the cost to the man who follows bush work for a livelihood, and who> n’ow buys only American hickory handles, although he has to pay an enormous price for them. The statement that axe handles are being dumped from the United States of America cannot bo substantiated. Any observant person must have noticed in the last few years the very high price of American handles on the local market. Evidently the f.o.b. price in the United States of America is at least double what it was before the war, and possibly two and a half times as great. Because of the high duty, the third quality handle has to be retailed at about 3s. 6d., and the No. 1 quality at 4s. 9d., which is beyond all reason. The reduction proposed by the Minister is a very slight one, amounting to only 3s. 6d. a dozen, but it will cheapen the cost of the American handle to the user by at least 6d. I hope that the request will bc endorsed by a majority of the committee.
– lt has been stated in the press recently that axemen are accustomed to use imported handles, and thus are prejudiced in their favour. That is only natural. I do not say that American hickory is equalled by the Australian timber used in axe handles, but I do claim that for all practical purposes the Australian article is a satisfactory substitute. Glancing through the report of the Tariff Board, I notice that the following evidence, in regard to the quality of the Australian article was given by Mr. M. B. Foley, professional axeman, of Limeburner’s Creek, New South Wales: -
As a bushman since boyhood, he has been getting his living through the axe. For the past eight or nine months he has been cutting sleepers for the Forestry Commission, and has been using three axes - two squaring axes and an American axe, all fitted, with Australian spotted gum handles. He has been using spotted gum handles for the last couple of years, and one, now in use, for three months. One of the axes in use was for grooving, and a handle that will stand up to that will stand up to anything. All kinds of handles have “been used by him, and he had as good results from- the spotted .gum handle as from, any other. He had made ‘handles himself out of the water gum, and. found them very good. He has used American hickory handles, but did not find them better than the spotted gum handles. He found that the American hickory handle wil) not stand the weather like the Australian, and, if left out, will be all mildewed and sun-cracked. An Australian spotted gum handle waa used by him in wood-chopping contests, and he had been very successful by winning several of them
I do not- scorn Senator Hardy’s remarks concerning timber, because I realize that he has special knowledge of the subject, but I consider that Mr. Foley’s opinion is entitled to greater respect. In ordinary work, the likelihood of injury resulting from the breaking of any kind of tool handle, is very slight. There is a practical point which ought to appeal to those honorable senators who are deeply concerned about the British preferential tariff; it’ was stated by Mr. J. Perry, director of John Perry .Proprietary Limited, South Melbourne, and chairman of the Wood Handles Section of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. In his evidence, he said -
Two United States of America firms have established branch factories in Canada, and although the handles they produce are entirely of American timber, they are admitted into Australia at the British preferential duty. It is suggested that axe handles from all countries be made dutiable at the present general tariff rates of duty.
Thus, if we reduce the British preferential rate to 35-per cent., axe handles made of American timber may be imported at that rate from Canada. I am particularly interested in the Queensland article. I have had a good deal to do with the compilation of literature on the subject, and I know that it is claimed that that State can supply suitable woods for tool handles of all kinds, which will withstand the severest strain likely to be imposed. Evidence in support of Queensland timbers was given to the Tariff Board by Mr. G. A. Duffy, as chairman of the Timber Advisory Committee, Queensland, and also as the representative of the Brisbane Handle Factory Limited, as well as by the representative of C. A. Kruger and Son, Bundamba, tool handle manufacturers. Mr, Duffy was1 a Country party member in the last Moore Government in Queensland, and was appointed by that Government to the Queensland Forestry Board; consequently, it cannot be said that he is politically prejudiced in this matter. His evidence reads -
The rates of duty requested ‘by the New South Wales manufacturers are supported by the Queensland manufacturers of tool handles. In the early days (about 1015), those who ventured to enter the implement handle industry in Queensland were -subjected to competition from the United States of America. With the assistance, of .tariff protection, the industry has made steady progress, and prejudice against Australian” handles has been gradually worn down, though not entirely eliminated. If the present tariff protection is not altered, it will not he long before the standard of manufactured handles in Queensland will leave nothing to be desired by users of various tools, both in quality and price. Following Ull complaints from users and government departments, that unsatisfactory handles were being supplied by local manufacturers, the Queensland Forest Service decided to investigate the position, and later decided to draw up a specification, for ase handles and later on for other handles. The specification definitely sets out what are first, second, and third grade handles, and provides that the maker’s name or brand and the grade must be stamped on each handle.
He went on to say -
The Queensland manufacturers also request that handles from Canada be made dutiable at the general tariff rate, a<s suitable hickory for high grade handles is not produced in Canada, but is procured from the United States of America.
The Tariff Board, in its report, admitted the correctness of that statement. The manufacture of tool handles is an Australian question, because there is practically no State in which they are not produced. On the evidence before the committee, it should at least ensure that handles made from American timber are not admitted from Canada at the British preferential rate of 35 per cent. ‘One firm in New South “Wales employs over 100 men in handle manufacture and timber-getting. The timber-getters employed by it use only Australian-made handles, which disposes of the argument advanced by Senators Hardy and Payne regarding the danger of using them. Probably no case has come within the experience of any honorable senator of a person having been injured by the breaking of an axe handle. Considering the immense quantity of timber grown in this country, and its wide variety, it is a great pity that we have to send to other countries for axe handles, even for those used in competitions. No great skill is required in the manufacture of these handles, and I shall oppose their importation, because, from practical experience, I know that the Australian product is good enough for all general purposes.
– I should have thought that it would be admitted that a duty of 45 per cent. under the general tariff, which the Government proposes to impose, is heavy enough. One would imagine, from the speeches that we have heard this evening, that axe handles are made only in Queensland, a claim that both Senator Grant and Senator Payne would contest. Honorable senators Opposite representing Queensland have admitted that the competition which they most greatly fear is from the United States of America, whose product has to bear a duty burden of 45 per cent. “Why is that extraordinarily heavy impost required? The material employed is not grown by cheap labour, but by. the goodness of the Creator, without any effort on the part of man. The handles are worked into shape by some of the most skilful workmen of the world, a statement which, I am confident, honorable senators- opposite will not deny. The usual cry, “.We cannot compete against this cheap negro, yellow or brown labour “, cannot be raised in this instance, because the competition comes from the United States of America, in which country higher wages are paid than is the case anywhere else in the world. Why, then, is such a. heavy duty required ? One would think that honorable senators opposite would be on the defensive supporting and not complaining about the duty that is proposed by the Government. However, I suppose . once they see that a duty is high, they are most unwilling to relinquish any part of it.
Let us look at another aspect. Senator Brown said, “Be patriotic to an Australian industry”. What is the Australian industry in this instance? It is another defect in the arguments of the critics opposite, that they can never regard anything as an Australian industry unless it is in a city street, employing artisans. Are the axemen of Queensland and of the bush in other parts of Australia not employed in an Australian industry? Have they not any rights for honorable senators opposite to consider? Of course they have - at- election times, but never when a tariff is being opposed or proposed. According to our friends opposite, only those in the city who work from 7.30 a.m. until 5 p.m. belong to industry. Those who work from daylight to dark in the forests of Australia do not belong to Australian industry - until election time, when, judging by the utterances of honorable senators opposite, they are the very salt of
– I ask the honorable senator not to refer to elections, but to connect his remarks with the item.
– The point to which I was leading up had, I thought, every relevancy to the item. In order to prove his case, Senator MacDonald cited the witnesses that were called for the plaintiff, not those who were called for the defendant; nor did he read the judge’s finding.
– Nor would the honorable senator do so when arguing a case before the court.
– If I failed to do so, I should expect to receive a severe reproof from the presiding judge. I propose to look at what the judge, the Tariff Board, had to say on this subject, and not only what was said by those who went before the board to state their case. But before doing so, let me point out what the Tariff Board had to say regarding the extent to which the industry has already captured the Australian market. It gives the importations of tool handles of wood for the last seven years as follows : -
That indicates the extent to which our manufacturers have gradually captured the local trade. This is what the Tariff Board stated when it came to sum up -
The price charged by local manufacturers of handles from native timbers are from onehalf to one-third of the landed duty-paid cost of imported handles.
I digress to point out that it is not cheap labour against which honorable senators opposite are claiming protection. The report continues -
Despite this disparity, importations were at the rate of £19,000 per annum during 1930-31 and 1931-32. This’ is evidence of a definite demand - at almost any cost - for American hickory handles.
There can be no question as to the superiority of hickory over other timbers for axe handles, sledge hammer handles, pick handles, and the like. Its particular virtue is a combination of resiliency and toughness not found in other timbers which are available in commercial quantities. Timber experts and some of the local manufacturers admit the superiority of hickory ; in fact, one local manufacturer is making axe handles from imported hickory.
During the last two years the New South Wales Forestry Commission has tested several New South Wales timbers for handle-making. Good reports have been obtained in respect of axe handle wood(Pseudomorous brunoniana)., ironwood (Metrosideros leptopatala) and water gum (Tristania laurina) , but supplies pf these timbers are inadequate or inaccessible, except at heavy costs. Mr. N. W. Jolly, Forestry Commissioner, considers that, although the species mentioned are not the equal of hickory, they are quite suitable for the manufacture of axe handles.
The board is convinced that there is no Australian timber available in commercial quantities to substitute for hickory for axe handles.Men who make their living with the axe should have the right to choose the class of handle they use.
I should think that that also was obvious. The report proceeds -
It is unlikely that timber-getters are prejudiced in favour of hickory when they know that the use of Australian timber would enlarge the avenue for their own employment. The present high duties on hickory handles are an unnecessary and undesirable burden on the users of tools who require the best handles obtainable.
It would be impossible to obtain a stronger testimony as to the necessity for reasonable duties, at any rate, on hickory handles, nor a stronger illustration of the view put up by Senator Payne that these duties do not affect the manufacturers of Australian axe handles. The two classes of handle areon entirely different planes. The hickory handle is the one which the bushman feels he must have, even though he has to pay for it a price double that which is charged for the Australian article. Honorable senators know that if, in the law courts, experts are wanted, it is easy to get them for either side. I have no doubt that the Australian manufacturers had no difficulty in persuading Mr. Foley to come forward and say apropos of the local product, “ Since then I have used no other “. As I have said, the two handles are on quite different planes, the imported article being used by professional axemen and the other by those who, like
Senator Payne and myself, chop up the domestic requirements of stove wood in thebackyard before we set out for Canberra. I submit that the proposed protection is adequate for the local industry.
.- I should not have intruded upon the debate had I not heard so much about the excellent qualities of Queensland axe handles, to the exclusion of all others. It is but fair for me to point out that the report by the Tariff Board indicates that the manufacture of axe and other tool handles is carried on in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania. Senator Brennan has shown how, over a period of about seven years, local manufacturers have gradually eliminated the foreign product, and I submit that the figures which he quoted prove conclusively that the process of elimination has been made possible, to a great extent, by the existing duties, which were imposed by the Scullin Government. The total importations of tool handles in 1929-30 amounted to ?54,362, while in 1931 the figure was only ?13,853.
Queensland has had its case ably presented by its representatives. I shall refer to the report of the Tariff Board concerning the case for Tasmania. The story begins with the representations which were made to the board by Mr. J. L. Holt, representing the Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales, who, in giving evidence on behalf of certain manufacturers of that State, said that the rates should be 7s. 6d. a dozen British, and 7s. 6d. a dozen general. In other words, instead of reducing the rates, as the Minister proposes to do, Mr. Holt would have the British preferential rate increased to the general figure. That gentleman had in mind the danger of competition from firms belonging to the United States of America operating in Canada, and thereby securing the benefit of British preference in accordance with the terms of the Ottawa agreement, a danger which will be accentuated if the committee accepts the proposal of the Minister and sends his request to another place. This is what Mr. A. C. Macdonald, director of the Mount Field Handle Company Proprietary Limited, and of the Commonwealth Woodware Products, Hobart, had to say -
Mr. Macdonald said that the two Tas manian companies employed capital amounting to ?6,800, and had installed plant and machinery valued at ?5,000. He added that they paid annually ?6,800 in wages to 55 employees, and in 1932 used Australian timber valued at ?6,400. In that year they paid ?230 in royalties, and manufactured 26,000 handles of a value of ?15,600. Since both companies havebeen in commercial production only a little over twelve months, it is obvious that the protection afforded by the Scullin Administration had enabled them to establish this industry. Mr. Macdonald went on to say that -
Tasmanian timbers are eminently suitable for tool handle manufacture, and the progressive development of the two companies indicates the popularity Tasmanian handles are winning in competition with other Australian timbers.
Mr.Macdonald told the Tariff Board that one wholesale merchant in Sydney had exported in five months 35,000 handles made by the Tasmanian companies, and that repeat orders were being received. Mr. A. Walter, proprietor of Commonwealth Wood Products, Moondah, Tasmania, supported the statements of Mr. Macdonald and Mr. Holt, and submitted his costs of production and selling prices, together with samples of axe handles made of blue gum and leatherwood, and pick and adze handles made of blue gum. Both these Tasmanian companies, which employ Tasmanian workmen, use Tasmanian timber, and pay royalties to the Tasmanian Government, asked for the higher rate of duty sought by the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures, but agreed to fall in with the request that the duty be 7s. 6d. a dozen under both the British and the general tariff. I hope that honorable senators from Tasmania will join us on this side in protecting this Australian industry, which will be detrimentally affected if the Minister’s request is Agreed to. Under the duties which operated during the Bruce-Page Government’s regime, considerable importations of tool handles took place. Those importations continued until the Scullin Government imposed higher duties. Senator Brennan made an eloquent plea on ‘behalf of those bushmen who, he said, were compelled to use American axe handles. I do not profess to know a great deal about the timber-getting business, and therefore I accept the honorable senator’s statement that these men prefer imported handles. I am not, however, prepared to accept the Tariff Board as an authority on this or any other question, because during this debate we have had glaring examples of its inconsistency. Since the present Government came into power that body has recommended that duties, which it previously recommended, should no longer operate. If this Parliament desires that Australian industries shall be protected, it will have to consider seriously the personnel and constitution of the Tariff Board. Some years ago, when the duty on tool handles came up in this Parliament, a number of members with freetrade proclivities .declared that satisfactory tool handles could not be made from Australian timber. They were wrong, because experience has shown that Australian timbers are quite suitable for the purpose. The present duty, under the general tariff, is 7s. 6d. a dozen. That rate the Minister seeks to reduce to 4s. 6d. a dozen. The “crushing” duty on axe handles, to which Senator Brennan referred, amounts to 3d. a handle! If American axe handles are so much more valuable than the Australian, surely they are worth an additional 3d. Let us give this Australian industry adequate protection, and we shall then see whether American handles really possess those superior properties which have been claimed for them.
.- I was interested in the eloquent address of Senator O’Halloran regarding this Tasmanian industry, but I assure him and honorable senators generally that the Tasmanian companies do not need high protection, and are not asking for it.
– They have asked for a higher rate.
- Mr. Macdonald, the director of the Mount Field Handle Company Proprietary Limited, and the Commonwealth Woodwear Products, Hobart, said that the two companies had developed their tool handle business under the rates existing at the time .that he gave evidence, and would prefer that the then existing rates of British, 4s. 6d., and general, 7s. 6d. a dozen, be unaltered.
– It is now proposed to. alter those rates.
– The Minister wants the duties to be British, 3s., and general, 4s. 6d. a dozen.
– Mr. Macdonald also stated in evidence that it would be difficult to justify the present rates on a comparison of prices charged for imported, and for locally-made handles. In the last five months, 35,000 Tasmanian handles were exported from Australia and sold in the world’s markets’ in competition with good’s made in other countries without any preferential tariff. The Tasmanian companies must be satisfied with their present position. If not, Tasmanian senators would have been among the first to hear of it. In view of the statement that Australian timber is equal, or superior to, imported timber for axe handles, I desire to quote the evidence of Mr. N. W. Jolly, Forestry Commissioner, Forestry Commission, Sydney -
It is not contended that the best Australian timbers are the equal of American hickory, but the commission, acting on the district reports received, is satisfied with regard to the quality of the three special species mentioned-
He referred to Pseudomorous brunoniana, known either as axe handle wood or Australian hickory, Metrosideros leptopetala, or iron wood, and Tristania laurina, or water gum - and as the axemen employed in forestry require first class tools, their opinion should be regarded as authoritative.
I shall quote only one further extract from the Tariff Board’s report -
The duties recommended are higher than are necessary to maintain price equality be-‘ tween third grade hickory handles and the best selling lines made by local manufacturers. The third grade hickory handle is undoubtedly superior to the Australian spotted gum handle, although for any purposes the cheaper Australian handle will find a ready sale.
I agree that handles of Australian timber are most suitable for many purposes; but experienced bushmen, whose occupation is a hazardous one, and whose safety, and even lives, very often depend upon the quality of the axe handles used by them, will always demand an axe handle of American hickory. I shall support the recommendation of the Tariff Board.
.- Having read the Tariff Board’s report, I am convinced that those who are opposed to increased duties on tool handles are “ go-getters “. I should like Senator Brennan, whose low- tariff heart seems to bleed for the importers of American goods, to tell us how he reconciles his views with the parochial opinions expressed at the World Economic Conference by the representatives of the United States of America. It would appear that, in the opinion of some persons in the community, a thing is all right so long as it is of American origin. Who were the witnesses who favoured an increased duty on tool handles? First, there was Mr. John Perry, a director of John Perry Proprietary Limited, 97 Market-street, South Melbourne, who is also chairman of the Wood Handles Section of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, and gave evidence on behalf of Victorian handle manufacturers. There was also Mr. James Leonard Holt, representing the Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales, 26 O’Connell-street, Sydney, on behalf of various manufacturers of tool handles in New South Wales. Another witness was Robert Henry Piercy, who gave evidence on behalf of Bagot Brothers, fool handle manufacturers, of Ballina, New South Wales. Mr. Norman William Jolly, Forestry Commissioner, Forestry Commission, Grace Buildings, York-street, Sydney, was another witness, as was also Frederick Charles Heley, managing director of Heley Brothers Limited, tool manufacturers, 38 Hudson-street, Hamilton, New South Wales. Another who favoured a higher duty was George Alfred Duffy, chairman of the Timber Advisory Committee, Queensland, and representing the Brisbane Handle Factory Limited, Northgate, Brisbane, and C. A. Kruger and Sons, Bundamba, via Ipswich, Queensland, tool handle manufacturers. Alfred Charles Macdonald, director of Mount Field Handle Company Pro prietary Limited, and the Commonwealth Woodwear Products, tool handle manufacturers of Hobart, also favoured a higher duty. Now we come to the gogetters and commercial racketeers who opposed an increased duty. In the list I find Leslie William Tulloch, managing director of Hardware Supplies Proprietary Limited, wholesale hardware merchants, 145 Queensberry-street, North Melbourne. Another was William Fleming Gates, secretary, Tariff Reform League, Temple Court, Melbourne. Of course, everything is all right from the viewpoint of “ Comrade “ Gates. I now come to Samuel Fergus Ferguson, federal secretary, Australian Association of British Manufacturers, 84 Williamstreet, Melbourne, and Australia House, London. Apparently that gentleman is working in conjunction with those gentlemen who recently visited Canberra in connexion with the dumping of Japanese goods in Australia. One of the witnesses before the board stated that American hickory ash is imported in the log into Great Britain. Senator Grant spoke of his knowledge of timber getting, and the type of handles required by bushmen. I happen to have had some experience in this direction, and the stump of a tree which I once felled in the Dorrigo district is now used as a racecourse! How do the arguments advanced by Senator Grant “compare with the evidence tendered by the Victorian representative of ‘ the Axemen’s Association? Is there any bush in Great Britain? Can Senator Grant say who there is in that country with a knowledge of the manufacture of axe handles?
– I do not know.
– If the honorable senator has no knowledge on the subject, he should not have attempted to reply to Senator Collings, Senator O’Halloran, and Senator MacDonald. Evidence in opposition to an increased duty was also tendered by Frederick William Green, partner. in Ternes Green and Company, 20 Queen-street, .Melbourne, sole representative for St. Mary’s Wood Specialty Company, manufacturer of tool handles, St. Mary’s, Ontario, Canada. Mr. Ernest Gladstone Blanchard also opposed the duties on behalf of the Australian Association of British Manufacturers, whose office is at 18 Barrack-street, Sydney. This organization has also an office in London, so I suppose what one representative misses, the other fellow catches. Edward George Vaughan, Australian representative of Turner, Day and Woolworth Handle Company, of Louisville, United States of America, and Canadian Turner, Day Handle Company, of Strathroy, Ontario, Canada, manufacturers of tool handles, also opposed the duties. Evidence was also given by Francis Reginald Tuck, an employee in the firm of Ternes, Green and Company, but as that gentleman is an employee, I suppose he would be sacked if he did not carry out the instructions of his employer. The duty was also opposed by Richard Wallace Caldwell on behalf of the joint committee for tariff reform, which comprises the Graziers Association of New South Wales, the Farmers and Settlers of New South Wales, the Fruit-growers Federation of New South Wales, and the Sydney Chamber of Commerce. In New South Wales, the capital employed in this industry in 1932 was £32,675, the value of the plant and machinery was £37,280, the weekly wages paid amounted to £278, and the value of production was £34,468. The employees engaged numbered 133, and I suppose it would be safe to assume that there were at least 700 persons indirectly dependent upon this industry. Many of these doubtless read the posters exhibited on hoardings throughout New South Wales prior to the last general election, on which appeared the words, “Vote for the Senate three - Cox, Greene, and Hardy “. Those who did naturally expected Senator Hardy to protect their interests in tariff matters. In 1932 the capital employed in the twoTasmanian companies engaged in this business amounted to £6,800, the value of their plant and machinery was £5,000, and the wages paid amounted to £6,800, the value of Australian timber used was £6,400, and the amount of royalty paid was £234.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– It has been worth while waiting all these years to hear the declaration made by Senator Grant a few minutes ago that the tool-handle making industry established in Tasmania under the protection previously afforded is now in a position not only to supply local needs, but also to export the commodity it is producing. This seems to be a happy augury for the future, and suggests that hitherto we have been moving in the wrong direction. According to the Commonwealth Year-Book, we have been increasing tariff duties since 1913, yet, instead of manufactured articles increasing in ratio to primary production, the percentage has been on the decline. I do not wish to detain the committee, but I direct the attention of honorable senators to page 179 of the Commonwealth Year-Book, where it is shown that, for the last seventeen years, 98 per cent. of our exports comprises primary products and manufactured articles less than 2 per per cent. These facts may be somewhat irrelevant to the subject before the Chair; but it is interesting to note that Canada is exporting 42 per cent., or £90,000,000 worth of manufactured goods, whereas we are sending to the outside world a miserable £2,500,000 worth. Senator Grant has shown that there is at least reason to hope for the future; that there is a break in the clouds ; that at last one industry which has taken honest advantage of the protection afforded is now able to export the commodities it is producing. Surely it must be conceded, as Senator Grant suggests, that those engaged in timber-getting in Tasmania know more about the business than do their critics in this chamber. I have listened to half a dozen speeches by men who do not know the first thing about axe handles, yet they openly contradict those who do know.
– What was their story?
– Did not the honorable senator hear what Senator Grant said? Last year the Tasmanian industry exported 35,000 axe handles. The material point in the discussion is that, whereas twenty years ago a man could walk into a country store and buy a good axe handle for1s., he now has to pay 3s. 6d. With all our small talk, sophistry and make-believe, the evidence clearly discloses that there is something wrong with tariff-making in this country. For fifteen years there has been a duty of 35 per cent. against American axe handles, but the Tasmanian manufacturers have shown that they can carry on without exceptionally high duties. Is it not time that we removed the scales from our eyes? Is it not time we realized the truth of the ancient saying that the eternal charm of error is always with us. In the face of those who know most about the industry, honorable senators are prepared to get up and air their opinions in direct opposition. I am pleased to think that at long last there is one Australian industry which, with a little assistance from the tariff, is able, not only to produce for the local market, but to find a market overseas as well.
SenatorDUNN (New South Wales) [10.1] . - In spite of what Senator Lynch has said, I repeat that Senator Grant does not understand the subject, and I add that Senator Lynch himself does not appear to understand it, nor to have given proper consideration to the Tariff Board’s report. Mr. A. C. MacDonald, director of the Mount Field Handle Proprietary Limited, and the Commonwealth Woodware Products, Hobart, stated in evidence before theboard -
The two companies represented concur with the general statement submitted by Mr. Holt. They have developed their tool handle business under the rates at present existing, and would prefer to see them unaltered. They realize, however, that it would be difficult to justify the present rates on a comparison of prices, and agree, therefore, to support the request of the New South Wales manufacturers.
The aggregated details of the two Tasmanian companies are as follow: -
Mr. J. L. Holt, on behalf of the Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales, representing Hely Brothers, Newcastle, Bagot Brothers, Ballina, G. Phelps and Sons, Leichhardt, MacDonald and Company, Wyong, andEdgeware Handle and
Wood Turnery Company, Sydney, stated -
The statement continues -
Why have the duties been reduced? It seems as though the whole matter were cut and dried by Mr. Bruce at Ottawa. Did he get into touch with the Canadian manufacturers, or did he go down to Buffalo and have a talk with some of the American manufacturers? At any rate, he seems to have decided, after discussing the matter with the then. Minister for Customs, Sir Henry Gullett, that, when they got to Australia, they would see that something was done about it. Then there was a pow-wow round the Cabinet table, and, in due course, these recommendations were framed. Mr. Holt continues -
The British manufacturers import the logs from America as deck cargo, at the very cheapest freights, and are not greatly concerned at the protective duties we impose. Mr. Holt continues -
I have no doubt that the request submitted by the Government will be agreed to, because, when the whip is cracked, it will have the necessary numbers. Axe handles are used extensively by our primary producers, particularly for the clearing of land. This request for a reduction of duty is the result of the attendance of Sir Henry Gullett, when Minister for Trade and Customs, at the big pow-wow held in the political medicine chamber at Ottawa, where all the head-hunters met together. Of course, Sir Henry Gullett had to give his version of the political tribal laws of the federal capital city of Canberra, situated in the midst of a jungle of stunted trees; and in order to gain some prestige in the eyes of the principal political medicine man, representing the Mother Country, he agreed that the Australian tariff should be based on the recommendations of the Australian Tariff Board. I think that I have put up a good case for the local industry in which thousands of pounds have been invested. I appeal to my dear friend, Senator Brennan, to join with honorable senators on this side of the chamber in their efforts to assist this industry. He has stated that he knows the bush and all about axes. I suppose that he uses an axe once a year, and that is every Christmas morning when he chases a turkey round the backyard. Senator Collings has shown clearly that Queensland has an excellent timber for axe handles. It seems strange that in our efforts to clear land, trees are burnt down which, if manufactured into axe handles, would be of considerable value to Australia.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
Question - That the request (Senator McLachlan’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Senator Sampson.)
Majority . . . . 15
Sub-items agreed to, subject to a request.
Items 303 (a) and 305 (a) to (e) agreed to.
Item 324 (a) agreed to.
Items 352 (a4) and 357 (a) agreed to.
Item 359, sub-items (d3) (f9) (g3 to 7)-
Vehicle parts, viz.: -
Vehicle parts, whether imported separately or incorporated in or forming part of any goods covered by sub-item (d) of item 359, viz.: -
Shackle bolts, pins and assemblies; spring hangers; king pins; tie rod pins; tie rod ball pins; tie rod ball studs, per lb., British,1s.6d.; general, 2s.6d., or ad valorem, British, 45 per cent.; general, 65 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty.
U bolts for motor vehicles, each, British,1s.; general,1s. 3d.
Bonnets; instrument boards, each, British, 7s.6d. ; general, 10s.
Radiator shells -
Plated, each, British, £2; general, £3.
Other, British, free; general, free.
Steering dampers, ad valorem, British, 45 per cent.; general,65 per cent.
– I wish to move a request in respect of paragraph 3 of subitemg which, if accepted by the committee, will be an instruction to the Government to reduce all rates of duty under this sub-item. I move -
That the House of Representatives he requested to amend sub-item (g) (3) by leaving out the fixed duties and making the ad valorem duties, British, 40 per cent.; general, 55 per cent.
I am asking for a reversion to the rates ruling under the Bruce-Page tariff, when many of these motor parts were admitted British free, general tariff 12½ or 17½ per cent. The articles covered by sub-item g are parts of motor vehicles, and the various chambers of automotive industries in the States, particularly Western Australia, have been greatly concerned over the heavy duties that have been imposed without parliamentary approval, and, for many years, without report from the proper tribunal. Sub-item g3 deals with king pins and assemblies, shackle bolts, spring hangers, tie rod pins, tie rod ball pins and studs; and sub-item g4 refers to U-bolts. All these parts of the chassis are now dutiable under various headings, and at a much higher rate than that fixed by Parliament with regard to chassis. I am advised that these parts have been picked out from the chassis by ministerial decision, and, together with other items, have reduced the “British chassis “, which is supposed to be allowed free entry, to negligible proportions. I appeal for the removal of the separate duties on these articles, in so far as the original importation with the chassis is concerned, to permit their free entry, and, so far as the importation of parts for replacement is concerned, I ask for a serious reduction of the duties to permit of their sale for maintenance use at reasonable rates. I refer the committee to sub-item 359 d4, which reads -
Chassis, but not including rubber tyres and tubes, storage batteries, shock absorbers, steering dampers, bumper bars, sparking plugs, springs, spring hangers, shackle bolts pins and assemblies, U-bolts, king pins, tie rod pins, tie rod ball pins, tie rod hall studs, high tension ignition coils, bonnets, instrument boards, and radiator shells -
Unassembled, ad valorem British, free; general, 32½ per cent.
Assembled, ad valorem British, 5 per cent.; general, 45 per cent.
This leaves very little of the chassis to come under the British preferential free rate of duty. Subitem g refers to instrument boards, and I ask for the elimination of the duty on temporary instrument boards, particularly in regard to motor trucks. These boards are merely used for the purpose of facilitating the packing of the various instruments and the wiring, and are immediately scrapped on unpacking. It would appear ridiculous to impose duties on articles of this kind. It is asked that the permanent instrument boards should be admitted free as part of the chassis. Motor cars, and particularly motor trucks, are to-day absolutely economic necessities, and are too heavily taxed. Many of these parts on which the rates have been increased were formerly free. There should not be a tax on transport. We should permit cars, trucks, and replacements to be sold in Australia at a price which bears some reasonable comparison to that in the country of manufacture, having in view freight, handling charges, and a reasonable measure of protection to those Australian industries which are in a position to produce these articles economically.
– No report has been received from the Tariff Board regarding the sub-item under discussion, although reports on the three following sub-items have come to hand. Therefore, the Government must take the stand that it has adopted with regard to other items on which reports have not been received. This matter was referred to the board in August last.
Question - That the request (Senator E. B. Johnston’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-itemg by leaving out paragraph 5.
This request is made in order to give effect to a recent recommendation by the Tariff Board. Its purpose is to reduce the rates on bonnets and instrument boards from 7s. 6d. and 10s. each to those imposed on chassis, viz., if imported separately or with an unassembled chassis, British free and general 32½ per cent., or if imported with an assembled chassis, British 5 per cent. and general 45 per cent.
Request agreed to.
– I move-
That the House of Representatives be reqquested to amend sub-itemg by leaving out paragraph6.
This request also is in accordance with a recent recommendation of the Tariff Board. Radiator shells are not manufactured in Australia, and the report of the board clearly shows that the advantages of having the shells plated in Australia are hopelessly outweighed by the disadvantages which the excess costs impose on users of motor vehicles. The present duties on the plated shells are both uneconomic and irritating to the trade.
Request agreed to.
Request (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-itemg by leaving out paragraph 7.
Sub-items agreed to subject to requests.
Item 359, postponed sub-item (d 4) (Group 3) - (d)Parts of vehicles with self-contained power propelled by petrol, steam, electricity, oil, gas, or alcohol, n.e.i., whether incorporated in the complete vehicle or separate, viz. : -
Chassis, but not including rubber tyres and tubes, storage batteries, shock absorbers, steering dampers, bumper bars, sparking plugs, springs, spring hangers, shackle bolts pins and assemblies, U-bolts, king pins, tie rod pins, tie rod ball pins, tie rod ball studs, high tension ignition coils, bonnets, instrument boards, and radiator shells -
Request (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to -
That the House of Representatives he requested to amend paragraph 4 of sub-item (d) by substituting the word “excepting” for the comma appearing after the word “ absorbers “ ; by inserting the word “ and “ before the word “high”; and by leaving out “ Bonnets, instrument boards and radiator shells “.
Sub-item agreed to subject to a request.
Item 359, postponed sub-item (g 8) (Group 5) -
Vehicle parts, whether imported separatelyor incorporated in or forming part of any goods covered by sub-item (d) of Item 359, viz.: -
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend paragraph 8 of sub-item (g) by adding after the word “ absorbers “ the words, “ but not including steering dampers “.
Steering dampers are somewhat similar to shock absorbers of the friction type, and for some time prior to their specific inclusion in the tariff were Considered for tariff purposes as shock absorbers. A request has been made on item 359, subitem g7 to omit steering damper’s from the tariff, and allow their admission under the chassis item. In order to ensure that they are classified as chassis parts, and not as shock absorbers this alteration is necessary.
Request agreed to.
Sub-item agreed to subject to a request.
Item 365 (a) (b) (c), agreed to.
Items 390 (a3), 397 (f), 419 (d) agreed to.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to-
That the consideration of the remaining items other than those included in group 7 of the Customs Tariff Groups Memorandum be postponed until after the consideration of the items specified in group 7.
Group 7. - Itemsnot included in Groups 1 to 6.
Item 10 (b) agreed to.
Items 51 (cl), 78 (h1, 2, 3), 82 (i), agreed to.
Item 105, sub-items (j1, 2a b), (k1, 2)-
– I should like some information from the Minister with regard to these duties. Under the 1921-30 tariff leather cloth was subject to an ad valorem rate of 20 per cent. in the British tariff, but leather cloth binding and bookbinder’s cloth were free British. All are now included in this sub-item, and dutiable at 35 per cent. British, and 55 per cent. general. Leather cloth isused extensively in a number of manufacturing processes. The main source of our supplies come from Great Britain, but We also import from the United States of America, and it appears tome that the proposed British rate is so high as to destroy the value of the preference which we are supposed to give to Britain.
.- The Tariff Board, in its report of the 23rd September, 1931, on waterproofed piece goods, recommended duties of 35 per cent. British, and 50 per cent. general on leather cloth and leather cloth binding, and also suggested the amalgamation of items 105 .h1 and j1, in the event of the recommended duties on waterproofed piece goods of 35 per cent. British, and 50 per cent: general, being adopted, as the goods covered by both sub-items were of a similar character.
– The Minister’s explanation is not sufficiently convincing to deter me f rom submitting a request. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties sub-item (j1) ad valorem, British, 20 per cent.; general, 25 per cent.
Sub-items agreed to.
Items 106 (e3) (f3) and 114 (d) agreed to.
Item 136, sub-items (a) (b) (cl) (e2) (Iron and Steel)- (e2) Wire, other, per ton - British, 52s.; general, 172s.
.- I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the sub-item read- (b2) Fencing wire,8 to 14 gauge, per ton - British, free ; general, 120s.
The duties that I have requested were operating during the administration of the Bruce-Page Government. Fencing wire of gauges Nos. 8 to 14 was admitted duty free from Great Britain, but the Australian manufacturer was given a bounty of 52s. a ton in lieu of the duty of an equivalent amount imposed on other kinds of wire. Fencing wire, being used almost entirely by primary producers, was thus kept clown in price to the same level as under freetrade conditions. The Australian manufacturers were assisted, but instead of the primary producers as a section being compelled to pay the cost, of the protection of the industry, the whole community carried the burden, the bounty being paid out of taxpayers’ funds, to the extent of over £700,000.
When the Scullin Government’s financial position began to be really serious, it was decided that the Government could no longer afford to pay bounties on the old liberal scale for the assistance of Australian manufacturing industries, and the bounty on fencing wire was cancelled, with the result that the poor old primary producer who uses fencing wire was given the baby to carry. In order to compensate the local manufacturers for the loss of the bounty, a duty of 52s. a ton was imposed on imported fencing wire, which enabled the manufacturers to increase their prices and so make the primary producers, as the users of the material, instead of the taxpayers generally, pay for the assistance of the industry. Apparently, the present Govern ment has decided that the community as a whole is still unable to give to the industry the assistance that was represented by the bounty of £2 12s. a ton on fencing wire, and so proposes to continue placing on the shoulders of one section of the community, namely, the farmers and graziers, the burden of that assistance. .It is unfortunate that that happens to be the section which, at the present time, is the least able of any to carry additional burdens. I protest against this additional burden being placed on the primary producers. If the community wishes to assist this industry, it should do so by the continuance of the bounty that was in force for so many years.
– Can the honorable senator say that the prices have risen because of the duty?
– I shall give the honorable senator the exact figures a little later. In view of the exchange rate, there seems no reason why this item should not again be made duty free so far as Great Britain is concerned. There is no justification for such a duty on a commodity that is so essential as fencing wire to the primary producers. Senator Rae has asked for particulars concerning prices. They are as follow : -
I commend the request to honorable senators.
– This duty was raised by our predecessors, and the matter is now under the consideration of the Tariff Board. The honorable senator has correctly stated that, prior to the duty, . a bounty of 52s. a ton was paid on fencing wire. “ The previous Administration withdrew the bounty, and gave effect to the present tariff. By way of emphasizing what the honorable senator has himself said, I draw attention to the fact that, in the case of No. 8 black wire, the English landed cost into store, exclusive of duty, but taking into account insurances and exchange, would be £15 19s. 8d., while the Australian landed cost into store is £14 13s. 10d., a difference in favour of the Australian article, on the dutyfree basis, of £1 5s. lOd. In the case of No. 10 black wire, the difference in favour of the Australian article on the duty-free basis is £1 8s. 6d. In the case of No. 8 galvanized wire, it is £2 8s. 10d., anil in the case of No. 10 galvanized wire £2 16s. 9d. Those differences are equivalent to an ad valorem duty of 23 per cent. in the case of No. 8 black, 22 per cent. in the case of No. 10 black, 19 per cent. in the case of galvanized No. 8, and 18 per cent. in the case of galvanized No. 10. The position to-day is, therefore, that the Australian industry is supplying this wire at a lower cost than that at which it could be landed duty free from overseas.
– Owing to the lateness of the hour, and the fact that honorable senators have had a long day, I should not have risen had not my dear friend Senator Johnston referred to the “poor old primary producers “. Labour senators have as much sympathy with the “poor old primary producers “ as has my friend, Senator Johnston. I would point out, however, that his request constitutes an attack upon a secondary industry in which capital to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds is invested in wire works at Sydney and Newcastle, and which pays tens of thousands of pounds per annum in wages. I would also point out that the number of employees in the factories of Australia is ten times as great as in the primary industries. Much of the wire used on Australian farms has come from theRuhr Valley, in Germany. It is well known to honorable senators that tens of thousands of tons of black German wire came to Australia and New Zealand in Nord-deutscher Lloyd vessels.
– The honorable senator may make passing reference to the subject, but he must connect his remarks with the sub-item.
– Senator Johnston made more than passing reference to the subject, and was not checked. The honorable senator proceeded to deal with subsidies and the action of the Scullin Government in this respect. That Administration was prepared to grant subsidies to secondary industries just as freely as to primary industries. It is interesting to note that the farmers have benefited to the extent of £250,000,000, which involves the general community of Australia in an annual interest bill of £10,000,000. Though the farmers are having a lean time, they are not the only persons in Australia who are contributing to the Consolidated Revenue through the medium of taxation. A further £10,000,000 has been expended on irrigation and other forms of assistance to primary producers. According to figures which have been supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician, there are 48,000 fewer persons, employed in our primary production to-day than in 1911, and that includes Western Australia, the rebel State, which is represented by its admiral of the fleet, Senator Johnston. On the other hand, from 1911 to 1930, the secondary industries have provided additional employment for 120,000 persons. I do not wish honorable senators to accept my word on the subject; let them repair to the Library, and there cousult the writings of the world’s foremost economists. Yet Senator Johnston wants cheap wire from foreign sources - even from Germany. Would he ask any respectable drunk in his State to sleep under a fence made of German barbed wire?
– Order !
– If honorable senators are animated by any real spirit of Australianism, they will reject this request.
Question- That the request (Senator Johnston’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 1
Questionso resolved in the negative.
Sub-items agreed to.
Items 143, 152 (a2, 3) and 155 (a) (b) agreed to.
Item 174, sub-items (a) (b1 to 23) (c1 to 21) (d1 to 9) (e1 to 6) (f) (g1 to 5) (h1 to 19) (i) (j1 to 4) (kI, 2, 3) (l1 to 7) (m1 to 57) (n) (o1 to 24) (p1 to 5) (q1, 2, 3) (r1 to 6) (s1 to 6) (t) (u1 to 4) (v1 to 48) (w1 to 21) (x1 to 87) and (y)- 174. Machines, machine tools, and appliances for use in connexion therewith, viz. : -
Triplex continuous feed soft dough cake machines for making twocolouredembossed or wire cut work; biscuit icing and sandwiching machines, automatic, ad valorem - British, free; general, 15 per cent.
– The machines, machine tools and appliances covered by this item are only by grace admitted under by-law. Serious complaints are made by thoseengaged in industry about the operation of these by-law provisions. I shall be glad to hear what the Minister has to say on this subject.
– The marginal note explains what the position was previously. We are now specifying items previously admitted under by-law. I can add nothing to what I have previously said on this subject.
Senator DUNN (New South Wales) 11. 12]. - I move-
Thatthe House of Representatives be requested to make the duties, sub-item (a), ad valorem - British, 15 per cent.; general, 30 per cent.
Biscuit-making machinery from Britain is admitted free, notwithstanding that Australian engineering firms can make any of the machinery covered by this subitem. There are hundreds of first-class mechanics, draftsmen, pattern-makers, and other tradesmen connected with engineering establishments walking our streets to-day seeking employment. Arnott
Brothers, one of the biggest biscuitmanufacturers in Australia, whose establishment is near Ashfield, Sydney, said that they would close their doors to their employees if Mr. Lang was returned to power in New South Wales. This firm seeks the free entry of the machinery it requires, but it is not above treating its employees unfairly. Arnott Brothers, Joyce Brothers, and Peek Frean, a subsidiary company of the London firm, practically control the biscuitmanufacturing industry of New South Wales, if not of all Australia. These manufacturers cannot have it both ways. Firms which are not prepared to treat their employees fairly will receive no special consideration at my hands.
– I endorse the remarks of my colleague, Senator Dunn. There is no doubt that some Australian manufacturers are attempting to take advantage of the tariff. I do not strongly object to that, so long as they treat the general public and their employees fairly. A government which professes to deal out even-handed justice to the community is entitled to use the tariff as a means of dealing with manufacturers who exploit the public, and attempt to bring down their employees to coolie conditions. By means of the tariff, the sentiment of the people of Australia as a whole can be given effect. However complicated the machinery in use in biscuit factories may be, I am confident that Australian engineering firms are capable of manufacturing it. There is no reason why this machinery should enter Australia free. I enter my emphatic protest against this class of machinery being admitted free of duty.
– Only a few moments ago I heard the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) making an appeal over the air to the Australian people to assist the Government in the rehabilitation of industry in an endeavour to provide additional employment. If the Government is sincere in its desire to provide work, it should agree to my request. The imposition of a duty on biscuit-making machines would enable their manufacture to bo undertaken in Australia, and thus relieve, to some extent, the unemployment which at present prevails. If I had my way, I would impose prohibitive duties, and compel the Australian biscuit manufacturers to use machinery manufactured in the Commonwealth. One biscuit manufacturer in Sydney recently spent £8,000 on a yacht in which to cruise around Sydney harbour, but his employees have to be satisfied with a 6d. trip to Manly. This industry is receiving more protection than it is entitled to, and is not permitting its employees to derive any benefit from the protection it enjoys. Biscuit-making machinery is not so complicated that it cannot be manufactured in Australia. When on active service, I spent a portion of my fourteen days’ leave in visiting the Peek Frean biscuit factory inCamberwell, London, where 6,000 young, British women employees, mostly, were operating biscuit-making machines. I trust that the Minister will agree to the request I have moved.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [11.23]. - In dealing with other unimportant items, the Minister (Senator McLachlan) has given lengthy explanations; but in this instance, he has declined to say why this machinery should be admitted free of duty.
– Although these machines have been on the free list since before 1921, no engineering firm in Australia has suggested that they should be dutiable. There are, I think, only three or. four important biscuit manufacturers in Australia, and biscuit making machines, when once installed, last for some years. Their manufacture in Australia would be uneconomic, and up to the present, it has not been considered necessary to subject them to a duty.
Question - That the request (Senator Duns’s) he agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sub-items (a) to (v30) agreed to.
Senate adjourned at 11.34 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 July 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1933/19330712_senate_13_140/>.