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Wednesday, 14 October 1931
Page: 729

Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL (Warringah) . - A great, deal has been published at, home and abroad recently about, what this Government has done in the way of correcting our adverse trade balance. and it is high time that the public should be informed that the actual facts of the case do not harmonize with the statements made on behalf of the Government. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) has said that the imposition of the embargoes and surcharges was not part of the protectionist policy of the Government. I do not for a moment believe that that is so, nor do I think many people in Australia "accept that view. It is my firm conviction that these embargoes and extortionate duties were imposed by the Government in fulfilment of promises made by the Labour party to certain manufacturing interests during the last election campaign. The Government, in my opinion, adopted this policy in order to satisfy the manufacturing interests which had not been given assistance under the heavy and punitive duties provided in the tariff schedule.

Mr Forde - I assure the honorable member that that is not so.

Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL - I hope the Minister will not feel annoyed when I say that, with very great respect, I hardly feel inclined to accept his assurance. I suggest that the discussions in connexion with this matter were conducted not by the present Minister for Trade and Customs, but by the master mind of the Government - the mind which controls the destinies of the Government in these and many other matters.

Mr Lewis - Is the honorable member referring- to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) ?

Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL - Oh, no. I think the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) can easily be recognized by my description. In any case, the Minister has not put the position fairly. He has said that during the seven years in which the Bruce-Page Government was in office, our adverse trade balance amounted to £78,000,000, but he did not say that in at least one of. the closing years of that regime we had a favorable trade balance. That would be too much for the Minister to admit. It does not necessarily mean, as the Minister suggests, that a country with an adverse trade balance is running hopelessly towards a state of bankruptcy. A country with an adverse trade balance may not have the necessary funds to meet all its overseas commitments, but, it may possess goods which are of real value, and in some respects may be of more service than actual cash. Moreover, the difference in the country's trade balance is simply the difference in the amount of money we are borrowing from overseas.

When the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) was Minister for Trade and Customs, he intimated during his peregrinations abroad that these embargoes and impositions were merely temporary expedients. The right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), when in Great

Britain, made a similar pronouncement. Notwithstanding these definite assurances, there is not any sign of the embargoes being lifted or of a reduction of the duty of 60 per cent, placed on many importations. The honorable member for "West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), who for a time strongly supported the protective policy of the Government, and was apparently in favour of these embargoes, now finds that the port of Sydney has been practically denuded of shipping.


Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL - The high protectionists who temporarily represent the industrial constituencies in the vicinity of Sydney apparently do not agree with the views which I am expressing. I am justified in saying that these honorable members only temporarily represent these constituencies, because the political history of this country records that every representative of industrial constituencies who has consistently voted for harsh, extortionate and punitive customs duties, and has thereby placed an unnecessarily heavy burden upon the working class, has not survived a succeeding election.

Mr C RILEY (COOK, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is nonsense.

Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL - The political records show that such is the case.

Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That cannot be said of the honorable member for Newcastle.

Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL - It is difficult to define the fiscal policy of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins). The honorable member for West Sydney now sees that the vaunting boast of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) that unemployment would diminish, and that work on the waterfront and industry generally would be rehabilitated by the imposition of high customs duties, has not materialized. It has proved as inaccurate as many of his other statements. An extraordinary feature of the protective policy of this Government is that employment has not increased, and that although the position was serious when this Government came into office, unemployment has increased fourfold since that time.

Mr Forde - But for high protective duties it would be worse than it is to-day.

Mr. ARCHDALEPARKHILL.Notwithstanding the fact that we have the highest tariff of any country, we have also the highest percentage of unemployment ever recorded in Australia. Nothing will convince the unemployed man walking the streets with an empty stomach, and with a wife and family to support, that the protective policy of this Government has been of any benefit to him. It is of no satisfaction for him to be told that the position would have been worse had this policy not been brought into operation. Our adverse trade balance could have been rectified by the rate of exchange and the lower purchasing power of the people without the imposition of embargoes. What importer is likely to import goods when there is a 30 per cent, exchange against him? The exchange rate, which would have been sufficient to check imports, would not have had the effect of destroying businesses over night, aud the incomes of a large number of those engaged in the industry, as this policy has done. The Minister speaks in a sneering way concerning the activities of those engaged in importing.

Mr Gregory - The Government professes to be endeavouring to encourage exports, which become imports in other countries.

Mr. ARCHDALEPARKHILL.Exactly. Our export trade is largely responsible for the country's financial position. Buyers come from Japan to purchase our wool, and from Belgium to obtain commodities which we produce; but, owing to the fiscal policy of this Government,. Japan, Belgium, France, Italy and other countries have become disgruntled potential commercial enemies. Apparently, this Government considers an adjustment of our trade balance of more importance than a balanced budget. Of what benefit have these embargoes and heavy duties been to the country? The only Australian industries in operation at present are those established under the Pratten tariff introduced by the BrucePage Government. The duties imposed by this Government have not increased secondary production, but may have resulted in the introduction of some exotic industries which, under a sound, economic and scientific tariff, would never have been established in Australia.

Mr Coleman - The honorable member would have opposed the Pratten tariff had he been a member at the time it was introduced.

Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL - The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) should not make such a senseless remark. He does not know the attitude I would have adopted towards that tariff.

Mr Coleman - If the honorable member were consistent, he would have opposed it. --

Mr. ARCHDALEPARKHILL.That is the sort of argument that one expects to hear from those supporting this Government's prohibitive protective policy. Of what benefit has this tariff schedule been to the secondary industries? The value of our exports has not increased by ls. in consequence of its operation.

Mr Forde - The volume of our exports is greater.

Mr. ARCHDALEPARKHILL.The secondary industries are still unable to export their products, as was the case before these duties were imposed.

Mr Forde - That is not so.

Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL - It is. No benefit has accrued to the country as a result of the protection afforded to secondary industries. The Government should recognize that primary production is of the greatest importance to Australia. What has the Government done since it has been in office to make it easier for the primary industries to carry on their important work? Its only act, as affecting primary production, has been to impose, at the instance of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. E. C. Riley), an export duty on sheepskins, which was precipitately removed. It has imposed embargoes on importations, and sales tax on many commodities which the primary producers find essential fj production.

Mr McNeill - The honorable member said that the trade agreement entered into with Canada was one of the best that we have ever had.

Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL - I shall come to that in a. moment. The only industries that are of real benefit to Australia in a rehabilitation scheme are the primary industries, but nothing has been done by this Government to assist those industries which are so essential to Australia's prosperity. I did pay tribute to the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) for the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and Canada; but I hope that my approval of that agreement will not for ever stand to my discredit. I congratulated the Minister for having consummated a commercial treaty between the two countries. I saw so much resentment being caused by Australia's fiscal policy that I welcomed an agreement which would keep one country at least out of the disgruntled group of nations that are imposing retaliatory duties against us. Whilst the Canadian agreement is of advantage to Australia in some respects, it ' is equally advantageous to Canada in other respects, and I remind the committee that the benefits to both those countries are at the expense of Great Britain. With that consequence of the agreement I expressed dissatisfaction on a previous occasion. The statement made by the Minister for Trade and Customs was entirely unsatisfactory. It is high time that the embargoes were removed. The friends of the Government have had a fair run; they should now let up and give the general public a chance. Parliament should immediately remove the embargoes and 50 per cent, surcharges and substitute an economically sound tariff.

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