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Thursday, 14 July 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) .- I move-

That this Bill be now read a second time.

As I was under the impression that the motion for the first reading of the Bill would be regarded purely as a formal matter, I did not seize that opportunity to express the views of the Government upon it. To-day there is nothing more difficult than to give an accurate representation by means of figures of the volume of our trade and commerce. Of course, that trade to-day is - and has been for some years- abnormal, and until the position re-adjusts itself it is quite impossible for one to cover the ground as itshould be covered. But this Senate,with the exception of Senator Gardiner, was certainly elected upon the Protectionist policy, which was submitted to the people of Australia.-. We were led by a man who had pledged himself to Protection, and by a Government which was similarly pledged. We have heard some talk about a " scientific " Tariff, but that term was used by me in a jocular way in reply to an interjection by Senator Gardiner.. I had to say something when I was asked a question by him, and, naturally, I would not admit that I was associated with a Tariff which was not scientific. I repeat that this . Senate was elected upon a Protectionist policy. We were pledged to such a policy, and nothing is more harmful to politicians than to give pledges to the people and afterwards betray them. The Government and their supporters undertook a collective responsibility to the electors of this country.

Senator Duncan - Surely the Government's pledge does not commit every honorable senator to any proposal which Ministers may bring forward !

Senator RUSSELL - Certainly not. But every supporter of the Government And of the programme of the National party who does anything to reduce the Tariff duties below, a good average for Australia will be false to his pledge. Personally, I gave no pledge to anybody at the last election, nor do I intend to give one in the future. Yesterday Senator Gardiner sought to institute a comparison between Victoria and New South Wales. I defy anybody to say that I have ever registered a parochial vote in this chamber. Despite the bitter opposition of the Victorian newspapers, I voted for the survey of the transcontinental railway because I believed that the work of constructing that line was a. national one Though I have always favored the Victorian gauge of 5 ft. 3 in., in order that Australia might not be held back on account of my parochial leanings I supported the adoption of the 4-ft 8½-in.- gauge.

I do not desire to initiate a debate upon the merits of different States. I prefer to be an Australian. But Senator Gardiner has instituted a comparison between Victoria and New South Wales. All I. have to say in that connexion is that, if. Victoria possessed the. territory to which some persons say she is entitled, she. would be able to show a better record than can New South Wales over an equal area. Although New South Wales is one of the richest States, of the Commonwealth, Victoria, with her much smaller area, is to-day. the most thickly populated State of the group. New South Wales has not made anything like the progress that she ought tq have made. She should possess a population of millions in excess of the population of Victoria. When I consider its area I am proud of Victoria. It is a wonderful State. But it does not possess the coal which is necessary for its development. Senator Gardiner spoke of our cities and of the country. The honorable senator said that if the money spent on the development of secondary industries in Australia, had been expended in the country in developing primary industries, the Commonwealth wouldbe producing millions more to-day than it is doing. Where is there any contradiction in our having both primary and secondary industries? We do not want to cut the throat of one because we desire to build up the other.

Senator Gardiner - That is what Protection: does:. It makes the primary producer pay to build up the secondary industries) and gives him no protection.

Senator RUSSELL - The honorable senator and myself were members of a Government which, on one occasion, took the duty, off cornsacks for the benefit of the grower. I have watched: a gradual transition take place in this country. When I was a boy I used to see scores of men working on a harvest field; Today a whole area of land is ploughed, and you scarcely see a man working on it. I have seen- a man driving a tenfurrow plough in this State smoking; and giving his kiddies a ride on his knee while he used the other hand for driving. The thousands of men who to-day are working at McKay's are doing farming work in making implements which, iri some cases, reduce the actual work on the farm to one-tenth of what it used to be. They are as much farmers as those on the land, because if they were not making those machines ten times the labour would be needed on the farms. The manufacturers in the central districts have been benefactors to the farmers, who have been able to produce much cheaper and more effectively under modern conditions. In the old days the men were not in establishments like McKay's at Sunshine, or Martin's in Sydney, but were out farming or in some corresponding occupation.

In the early days of the war I was for two years in charge of price-fixing, and was astonished ato some of the things that came under my notice. This is a country rich in tin, but our meat-scanners -and fruit-packers lost millions of pounds during the war because they could not get tin plates under £5, £6, or £7 per box. Iu pre-war times I saw tin plates brought from Wales, practically as ballast, for from lis. to 12s. per box. These would be 20 by 14 tin plates, going about 100 to the box. Why cannot we produce tin plates here? They are not made in black-labour countries, but are turned out by Britishers like ourselves, but because we had no factories here we could not take advantage of .the markets of the world that were open to .us. Are we going to be caught that way again? There are markets waiting for us to-day, and it is idle to say that a country like this which produces some of the finest tin in the worldcannot make tin plates. . I do not believe there is anything in 'the manufacturing line which Australia cannot produce. We have the raw -material and the labour. Vickers Brothers, one of the greatest engineering firms in the world, built the electrical station which is used to run our Victorian electric railway system. They said it -was the cleanest, easiest, and best job, and the best workmanship, they had ever .had, and it paid them handsomely. That is a tribute to Australian workmen, who are as skilled, intelligent, and- efficient as the men of any other country, if not more so. So far we have not produced electrical appliances, but great strides have been made in that direction by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, which is .producing steel. I believe that in the near future that company will assist the subsidiary industries in the iron and -steel trade to

The building up of some of these industries in the war time was not a difficult matter, because of the natural protection then afforded to them by the extraordinary high rates of freights, running up to £15 per ton. I can give honorable senators a story of the voyage of one vessel, chartered by the Government, that earned a freight for the round trip averaging £100 per ton. In 1917 we chartered a vessel called the Yankadilla for 40s. per ton per month. She left hero with a cargo of wheat for England, where she got a cargo of coal for Port .Said at, £5 per ton. The coal strike was on' here at the time, and when we received a cable from our agents asking whether the vessel would load up with coal from Ceylon, we replied that it was no use bringing coal here from Ceylon, because there was a strike on and it would, be declared " black " and we could not get it unloaded. The agents of the vessel then picked up a load of jute goods at Calcutta for San Francisco. She got a load from San Francisco to Vancouver, and loaded up at Vancouver with a cargo of newsprint paper for Melbourne. For the found trip that vessel earned freight at the rate of £100 per ton. That kind of thing was common in those days, because of the extreme shortage of shipping. We are criticised sometimes because we have built ships at high prices, but everything was then at high prices. We should have looked after these things in normal times, ' and if we had had another 200 ships at our disposal during the war period in Australia we might have wiped out our war debt with their earnings.

What is wrong with the Australian engineer? He is as good as the engineer in any other part of the world. What is wrong with our timber? There is nothing wrong with it. What is wrong with the iron ore taken from the Iron Knob? It is as fine as any to be found in the world. There is nothing wrong with the work done by the Broken Hill Company in converting that ore into the finished article, nor can any fault be found with Australian tradesmen who build ships with the finished article. It has only been Australia's indifference and a foolish prejudice of Australians for imported manufactures that has prevented us undertaking the establishment of a great many industries long before we did. That prejudice against Australian goods on the part of Australians has been a curse to this country, and it is to be hoped that it has passed away for all time.

The purpose of the Tariff is the development of existing industries and the fostering of industries begun during the war. Some of these are but small, but their products are essential. We had a certain valuable experience in connexion with carbide. We used to get most of the carbide used in this country from Norway, but during the war Norway lost her ships and could not continue to export it. There was then only one place, and that was Japan, from which carbide could be obtained, and the price went up to from £75 to £80. Then a plucky Australian company set out to secure the machinery requisite for the manufacture of carbide in Tasmania, associated with the zinc works there. They imported electrodes necessary for the manufacture, but when they came here it was* found that they were composed of bad material, and were a failure. The company then: set to work to make electrodes in Tasmania. They succeeded, and are turning out carbide at £30 per ton. We have heard much talk about profiteering, and as soon as this was known the profiteers started competition with the object of crushing out of existence the Tasmanian carbide industry. That industry will be crushed out of existence, too, unless the people of Australia are prepared to assist those who came to their rescue -during the war.

After the Armistice the price of galvanized iron dropped from £65 per ton to £22 12s. 6d. per ton for sales three months ahead. Foi' some time normal industrial conditions were not revived in England. As one who was associated with the Department controlling the chartering of shipping, I was aware df occasions during the war when it was impossible for us to get a single boat for six months. If, in Australia, we had been dependent entirely upon our own energies, we should, for some time, have been practically without the service of any shipping. We could not have secured a vessel by private chartering, and our wheat, meat, jams, and fruit would have been left to rot in Australia, had it not been for the fact that the Imperial Government took control of shipping and gave us the use' of some of the tonnage they acquired. In this connexion I may say that those persons who adversely criticised the action of the British Government during the war could have ho know- - ledge of the assistance they afforded us in bur time of crisis.

Honorable senators will have observed that the principle of preference to Great Britain has been retained in this Tariff, and is widely extended. .Great Britain desires that her Dominions shall develop, and I am sure we desire that Great Britain shall regain her prestige in the northern seas. No one can question the quality of her manufactures, or the engineering skill of her people. If it is necessary for us to import articles from outside Australia, it is our desire that preference shall be extended to the Motherland. After giving fair protection to Australian manufacturers; we give preference to. the manufacturers, of Great Britain as against those of foreign, and, it may be, enemy countries. I hope that honorable senators will exhibit a generous spirit in discussing the schedule, and will preserve the preferences which the Government propose to extend to Great Britain. I hope that there will be' a further extension of trade between the various. Dominions of the Empire.

There is provision made in this Tariff for certain deferred duties. I, personally, do net like the principle of deferred duties, but men possessing great capital have said to us, " We ar-e under heavy taxation in Great Britain owing to' the war. We are thinking of opening a branch of our business in Australia. Will you help us?" There' is no suggestion of 'a corrupt bargain, but men willing to invest their capital in industries in Australia have some right to know what conditions are likely to prevail here. Most of' these offers have been inquired into by the Board of Trade, who, from time to time, have made recommendations to the Cabinet in regard to them. I am very glad to be in a position to say that since the signing of the Armistice capital to the extent of over £100,000,000 has been invested in industries and in the extension of industries in Australia. We are under an obligation to those who have invested this money to assist production, here to see that they shall not lose it. At the same time, I believe that they should not be permitted to exploit Australia.

Senator Vardon - How many industries are represented by the £100,000,000 mentioned t

Senator RUSSELL - I shall be able to give that information when we get into Committee. No country progresses which has to depend entirely upon the production of raw materials. We want to see all kinds of secondary industries established in Australia. Our people are quite as- capable of -turning our raw materials into' finished articles of manufacture as are the' people of any other country. It is' admitted that in the matter of physical development Australians can hold their own with any . people;. This has been proved in cricket, in golf, and in. every form of athletic sports, and it might, be said that, owing to the. excellence of. our climate and the. ample supply and high quality of the food available to our- children, we are developing almost a superrace in this country .-

Some people say- "Give us Free Trade." The world has tried Free Trade and has abandoned it. Even the Motherland, the. home, of Cobdenism and the Manchester School, has not only given up Free Trade, but has adopted Protective duties, with an additional 33 per .cent, to balance rates of exchange. The abandonment of Free Trade by Great Britain is an admission that the principle is wrong. All countries should be selfsustaining, particularly in regard to the production of the raw materials of essential industries. No country in the world has finer iron deposits than are to be found in Australia. Why should they be left to lie idle when we have the men here to turn them into articles of use whilst Australia is at the same time importing every year hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of machinery ? Why should we place ourselves at the mercy of the American Steel Trust ? It was said at one time that we could not make steel rails in Australia. It was said, also, that we could not make engines for ships. To-day,- at Walkers Limited, Maryborough, Queensland; at Thompson's, Castlemaine; and at Cockatoo Island, we are turning out engines for 12,000-ton boats of 23,000 tons displacement. This proves that, given the opportunity, the Australian artisan is the equal of any in the world.

We have a great variety of valuable timbers in Australia, and if Australians are not good bushmen, then there are none in the world. In spite of this, two vessels arrived here only recently, one of which carried 5,000,000 feet of ' Oregon. She dropped 1,500,000, and brought 3,500,000 to Melbourne. Another vessel brought a very big cargo, and this timber, of which there was very little coming to Australia during the war because of the absence of shipping, is now being dumped here.

Senator Gardiner - It cannot be bought for War. Service Homes to-day for £3 per 100 feet, as it was before the war.

Senator RUSSELL - The fact is that it is now being dumped here in advance of sale.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The price of Oregon in Sydney to-day is £2 per 100 feet.

Senator RUSSELL - There may be some attempt to exploit the local consumer. I remind honorable senators that because ofour constitutional limitations such exploitation cannot be prevented by this Parliament, but it can be prevented by the Parliaments of the States if they take the matter in hand. We cannot central American or Norwegian Combines, but we can exercise some supervision over the disposal of the material the moment it lands in Australia. There has been some exploitation in Australia in connexion with timber.

Senator Keating - By the importers?

Senator RUSSELL - Yes; and there has been a good deal of it done in the direction of increasing the prices of Australian timber to that of the imported.

Senator Bakhap - There has been no' exploitation by the Australian millowners.

Senator RUSSELL - Perhaps not; but there have been increases in prices in sympathy with those ruling for imported timber. Of course, there has been an increase in wages, and the workers in the timber industry during the war period were operating under very favorable conditions.

SenatorGardiner. - We have no timber in Australia equal tooregon for building purposes.

Senator RUSSELL - Perhaps not. I have a residence constructed solely of Australian timber, which is satisfactory in every way, and if other builders would use only the Australian product there would be no occasion to use imported timber.

Senator Bakhap - The first wooden houses were built of Australian timber.

Senator RUSSELL - Yes. Tasmanian hardwood floors, when polished, have an excellent surface.

Senator Crawford - Many of our Australian timbers are better than oregon.

Senator RUSSELL - Apart from the fittings, houses can be constructed of Australian timbers, because Tasmanian hardwood and Western Australian jarrah are quite as serviceable as any that can be imported. During the war period Australian manufacturers had the bene fit of a natural protection in consequenceof the absence of shipping and the high freights which were ruling. Many of those engaged in local industries have thus been able to extend their businesses, and it is now our endeavour to help to maintain them on a sound basis.

I am suspicious of price-fixing by Trusts . and Combines, because any attempt in that direction is infinitely worse than . similar action on the part of any Government. If two or three manufacturers or -importers get together in the absence of competition, they are likely to fix prices to the detriment of consumers. The more manufacturers there are the greater the competition, and the less risk there is of exploitation in that direction.

Senator Keating - Sometimes they agree not to compete.

Senator RUSSELL -If two or three manufacturers engaged in the same business decide to confer with the idea of fixing prices, the consumers must suffer. An illustration of the way in which we are in the hands of foreign Combines is to be found in the price which is charged for petrol. For a considerable time, excessive rates have been ruling; in the Commonwealth, and although prices have been reduced by about 2s. per case, it is still considerably dearer than it is in the country of origin. One company, which obtains supplies from Sumatra at a low price invoices its product here to a pup " company on the New York prices.

During recent years we have been very generous in paying millions to other countries for articles which could be manufactured in Australia. It has been said during the discussion on the Tariff that the primary producers will have to pay more for the articles which they require, but in New Zealand, which is practically a Free 'Trade country, or one that imposes a revenue Tariff, the implements which the primary producers use are imported free, but they are more expensive there than in Australia owing to the absence of local competition.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why do they -not purchase the goods we produce?

Senator RUSSELL - They do, and if the honorable senator desires information in regard to prices I shall be pleased to supply it when the schedule is under consideration. Agricultural implements manufactured in Australia are now used throughout the Commonwealth, and that industry would not have reached its present state of efficiency and security if it had not been for the protection it - has received under a reasonable Tariff. In the Argentine, where there are . no duties, the prices of agricultural implements are in excess of those ruling for similar machines in Australia, because the primary producers in that country have to depend solely upon importations. During the nineteen years that New-South Wales has been working under a Protective policy, she has progressed and developed her territory to a greater extent than she has ever done before.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - There has been a general advance everywhere.

Senator RUSSELL - Certainly, but New South Wales has made greater progress under the conditions I have mentioned. If 'Victoria possessed the coal resources of New South Wales even greater progress would have been made.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - What has coal to do with it?

Senator RUSSELL - Great Britain has lost her export trade in coal, and her industries have been severely handicapped because of the price which is at present ruling. Australia has been able to sell coal to Norway at 24s. per ton cheaper than Great Britain can sell it.

I have not dealt in detail with the schedule, because the items can be fully debated when we are in Committee. I have, however, endeavoured to justify the policy of the Government in submitting high duties, which have been made a little higher in some cases than would otherwise have been the case, in an endeavour to give reasonable preference to Great Britain. We cannot deal with the operations of the Steel Trust and other such Combines, but if industries are established in the Commonwealth for the production of those things which we require, we shall have power to prevent exploitation. I believe the Tariff is a scientific one, and although it may not be the last word in Tariffs, it will be the means of protecting existing industries and encouraging others to become established. We have been hewers of wood and drawers of water for other countries too long. We have lost millions of pounds sterling because we have been lacking in enterprise in establishing industries, but that time has passed. Although we have a small population, we have the raw material at our disposal, and should therefore have every opportunity of fully developing the country.

Senator Gardiner - You have had that for fifty years.

Senator RUSSELL - Victoria has done better than any other State in the Commonwealth. We have a larger population per square mile, and we have borrowed less money than New South Wales. The Victorian taxpayers are paying about one-third of what the New South Wales taxpayers are contributing. We have a population of 17 per square mile, and that cannot be said of New South Wales.- If we had a portion of the Riverina down to the Murrumbidgee, Victoria would show even more striking figures. I commend the Tariff to the Senate, and ask honorable senators to give the schedule full and careful consideration in the interests of Australia and its industries. I ask honorable senators to realize that, in supporting the motion, they will be voting for the future of the Australian nation. If they do that I shall have no cause for complaint.

Debate (on motion by Senator Pratten) adjourned.

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