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Friday, 22 June 1906

Mr GLYNN (Angas) .- Through the courtesy of the honorable and learned member for Illawarra, I am able to precede him in saying a few words on this Bill ; but, as I spoke on a similar measure last year, I do not intend to do more than make a cursory reference to some of the points which, in my mind, indicate that there is really no necessity, on the ground of urgency, for a Bill of the far-reaching character of that proposed. If my memory serves me right, we were told by the Minister of Trade and Customs, when he introduced the Bill of last session, that the legislation was urgent, because there were some 2,000 harvesters afloat on their way to Australia, and, like the companies which fear their importation, they are apparently still afloat. We were also told, at the time of the appointment of the Tariff Commission, that an alteration of the Tariff was necessary for the preservation of certain industries ; but it seems to me a reflection on the House which suggested the appointment of that Commission to ask it to deal with matters specially referred to it before the report and minutes of evidence have been presented.

Mr Fowler - It is certainly a gross reflection on the Commission.

Mr GLYNN - The sooner the Commission reports the better, in my opinion. I, like other members of the Opposition, am prepared to deal fairly with the facts produced in evidence and the reports based on them, and, so far as the little leisure at my disposal will give me the opportunity, I have already made myself acquainted with that evidence, having some months ago read some of the 1.6,000 or 17,000 questions and answers then recorded in respect of certain industries. But I have not discovered any justification for the immediate introduction of this Bill, or for the fears of certain honorable members that the iron industries of Australia cannot be preserved without a measure of this sort, or except by prohibitive duties. So far from the iron industry being prejudiced by the Tariff of 1901, I find that in Victoria the number of iron workers increased between 1896 and 1904 by over 30 per cent., that the hands employed in the making of agricultural implements increased from 852 to 1,496, and that the value of the implements made increased1 from ^244.000 to ,£431,000. Notwithstanding the clamour which has come from this State for an alteration in the Tariff, those figures do not indicate a declining energy, or a want of return for capital invested. Mr. Moore, a representative of the firm of Messrs. Robinson and Co., was, I think, put forward as an exponent of the views of the manufacturers of agricultural implements, or, at all events, of that branch of the trade whose business is the manufacture of harvesters. He was asked -

How do you put your case?

And he answered -

Briefly. I claim that a duty should be imposed which would cause the importation of stripper-harvesters to be discontinued.

The effect of this 'Bill, will, under political pressure, probably be to carry out that policy of stopping importations. At all events the power proposed to be given is a dangerous one to place in the hands of any Minister. We must remember that those who are engaged in these industries are being organized. A number of peripatetic politicians have been stumping the country dealing with these matters, not merely on the public platform, but in the establishments, with a view, to inducing the employes to use their influence to secure the duties suggested and the powers conferred by this Bill. According to the evidence that has been published the duty of 12A per cent, that has to be paid on. harvesters according to the valuation fixed by the Minister of Trade and Customs - that is the value at the place of export plus 10 per cent., or in all £65 - amounts to j£& 2s. 6d. Under the former valuation the duty amounted to 6s. The charges, it is said, amount to £14 7s. ; that is the actual additional value that is given to the machine during its transit from the port of export to the warehouse in Australia. That has to be added to the duty. I am speaking subject to correction, but these figures are in accordance with the best evidence that I can obtain. They have been published, and the estimates are sustained by the evidence given before the Tariff Commission. Testimony has also been given by representatives of local harvester manufacturers, from which it would appear that the cost of producing a machine here does not exceed £40. Again, I am speaking subject to correction. It was stated that the cost of materials used - £26 or £27 per machine - represented 75 per cent, of the total cost, and that the value of the labour represented about 25 per cent, of the cost. According to this, the total cost of a machine would be something less than £40. The duty and the import charges that I have mentioned represent a total of a little less than £23 per machine upon an article which, according to the evidence, is sold for £81 cash, or for ^86 or ^87 on credit.

Mr Henry Willis - That is not too much to pay for a machine.

Mr GLYNN - I do not know whether it is or not. I am merely stating the facts as given in evidence. Whilst I desire to deal fairly with the local manufacturers, and to prevent any possibility of foreign trusts pushing them out of the market, it seems to me that, in the face of the figures I have quoted, there is no urgent necessity for a Bill such as that now before us. A report was presented to us last year showing that from rst January, 1905, to 30th November, 1905, the value of the harvesters imported was ,£100,000, and that during the same period there had been exported from Australia harvesters valued at £30,000. If the figures given by the Minister of Trade and Customs last week are correct, there has been a shrinkage in the value of the harvesters imported since these figures were presented.

Mr Kennedy - The honorable and learned member is quoting last year's figures - no figures are yet available for this year.

Mr GLYNN - I understood that the Minister estimated that the value of the importations during the present year would be £85,000. If that estimate be correct, there has been a shrinkage in the importations. I fully realize that the profits made by the local manufacturers vary with their output, the scope of operations of particular firms, and other circumstances. But it has been given in evidence that manufacturers make a profit of about £18 per machine.

Sir William Lyne - Yes, a clear profit of from £16 to £18 per machine.

Mr GLYNN - If it be true that there is a local consumption of 5,000 or 6,000 machines, and that the three firms who are turning out the greater number are making a profit of from £16 to £18 per machine, the conditions in which the industry is placed do not strike me as being disastrous. The industry is not, as far as I can see, in imminent peril, and there is nothing to call for a Bill of this character, which would put it in the power of any complaisant Minister to stop the importation of any goods, and would substitute for the Tariff Commission a jury whose standard would vary according to its personnel, and a board, the members of which might, perhaps, in time, become experts, because the personnel would not be so mixed as would that of the jury.

Sir William Lyne - The industry in South Australia has been almost crushed out.

Mr Skene - Could the honorable and learned member say how many machines would be represented by the imports valued at £85,000 ?

Mr GLYNN - No. I believe that last year, or the year before, 400 machines were exported from Australia. The .Minister of Trade and Customs, says that the industry has been crushed out in South Australia.

Sir William Lyne - It has sustained very great injury.

Mr GLYNN - I should be only too anxious to protect the industry there if the Minister's statement were correct.

Sir William Lyne - It is correct.

Mr GLYNN - I have two or three manufacturing centres in my district, and naturally I should like to db everything I could to help them.

Sir William Lyne - Are Clutterbuck Brothers in the honorable and learned member's electorate? It is through them that the manufacture of harvesters has been: nearly stopped in South Australia.

Mr GLYNN - I know a little more than the Minister seems to think about this matter. I should do my best to protect the industry if I thought the fears of the Minister were justified, seeing that in my district there are three centres which are concerned in the manufacture of harvesters. Naturally, I should do my best for the industry, consistent with a due regard for the interests of the people as a whole. Again, at question 15901 of the evidence given before the- Tariff Commission, Mr. Moore was asked -

Can you say of your own knowledge, whether firms are suffering loss from the operation of the Tariff? - None that I know of are losing.

At question 161 7 5, he was asked -

Are you now getting no more than the same rate of profit that you did before? - Perhaps a little more.

Nevertheless, he asked for a duty of £25 per machine, and 2 1/2d. per lb. upon duplicate parts, which would bring the protection upon a machine of standard weight up to £30. That is the evidence of Mr. Moore, the manager for Messrs. Robinson and Company, who was put forward as a man fairly conversant with the business, and as a representative of the local manufacturers. That evidence was given on the 20th April, 1904. Mr. Moore said that at that time the American machines were not underselling those of the local manufacturers. There has been a reduction in the price since. I think that the price of the International Harvester Company's machines in Australia is now £76.

Mr Kennedy - Less than that.

Mr GLYNN - I have made inquiries into this matter, having been engaged in a case against an importing company, and, so far as I can understand, the present price is £76, or a little more for extended credit. Previously the price was £81 cash, or £86 on credit.

Mr Kennedy - I know of machines having been sold for much less than£76.

Mr GLYNN - I am not speaking merely from hearsay, but I am stating facts that are actually in print, or are within my personal knowledge as a lawyer. I am not going to rely upon evidence of the class that has been accepted by the Minister of Trade and Customs, such as ex parte declarations as to what will probably result from the competition of the International Harvester Company. At question 15900, Mr. Moore stated that the local manufacturers had not suffered from the Federal Tariff, but that they had expected greater expansion of trade. He was asked what was his complaint, seeing that the firms were not suffering, that the number of hands had increased, that the output had increased, and that the profits were slightly better than before. He stated that they had not secured the extension of trade they had anticipated, and that hence they wanted a duty that would prohibit importations. The word "prohibit" was used by Mr. Moore. It seems to me that we have to look at the interests of the consumers as well as at those of the manufacturers. I am only too anxious to see the continuous development of Australian industries, and to insure that our manufacturers are treated fairly. We have to remember, however, that strong protests against the suggested duties have been presented by the representatives of the Farmers' Association. I find, for instance, that Mr. George Henry Osborne, commission agent, from St. Arnaud, and secretary of the local Agricultural Society, expressed the views of 250 delegates, who attended' a meeting in Melbourne in connexion with the Tariff Commission inquiry, and passed resolutions in opposition to the proposed increase of duties. There are, I believe, in Australia from 276,000 to 277,000 farmers. The output of the agricultural, pastoral, and mining industries is valued at£76,000,000 per annum. The output of our manufacturing industries is valued at£28,000,000 per annum; that is something to be proud of, and we hope that the figures will grow. But we must consider the industries that would be seriously affected by the stoppage of the importation of machinery, and whose preservation is so largely associated with the welfare of the Commonwealth'. The total number of persons employed in industries which come into competition with imports is 86,000, but against that I put the fact that there are 276,000 farmers, whose interests, in cases, might be prejudicially affected by the adoption of a policy so extreme as that advocated by some of the agricultural implement manufacturers, or as that embodied in this Bill.

Mr Bamford - The figures of the honorable and. learned member include the whole of the farming population?

Mr GLYNN - No doubt.

Mr Fowler - Wheat-growing is the principal industry in those parts of Victoria which were dealt with by the witness.

Mr GLYNN - The importation of harvesters may have been the chief cause of the introduction of this Bill, but the scope of the measure is very much wider than that, affecting as it does every line of industry that may come within the provisions of the clause. As to the Bill itself, it may be effective in stopping imports, but it will not be effective in preventing the formation of local trusts. According to the admission of the Attorney-General, apart from the operations of Inter-State or external trade, it cannot touch persons, though it may - indeed, he affirms that it will - touch corporations. I doubt it. We have power under the Constitution to deal with corporations, but whether that power is so extensive as he says - whether it includes the passing of any law relating to production or to the conditions of distribution by corporations - is a matter of some doubt. Certainly the measure cannot touch a firm, and there is nothing to prevent local companies from being wound up and formed into large firms. In that case the provisions of this Bill could not touch them. In America the Sherman Act is directed not against importers, but against local trusts, which is significant. When it was introduced in 1890 it was directly aimed at interested carriers. There is a special Act in operation there which is known as the Wilson Act, and which deals with importers. Its provisions are much milder than are those of this Bill. The trouble in America has not arisen in connexion with imports, but in connexion with Inter-State commerce. The provisions of the Acts in force in America are not so drastic as are those contained in this Bill. To me it does seem to be a curious policy to hand over for determination by casual juries and boards to be appointed from time to time by the Minister, questions of political economy. These bodies will Have to decide when any interference has taken place with local employment, or when, in point of fact, certain imports are likely to interfere with the remuneration of local labour. In such cases they will have to determine whether the importation of these competing commodities shall be stopped. It seems to me that the evidence upon which they will act - assuming that they have the capacity to apprehend and apply it - will be far more extensive than will be the evidence likely to be brought before them. I can easily imagine a case coming before one of the Courts in which a view of political economy was presented by the Attorney-General, and another view by the leader of the Opposition. Fancy a jury, after a series of challenges - because I recognise that before a jury was struck, there would be a good many challenges dictated by political leanings - being called upon to decide abstruse questions of political economy - questions which are surrounded with so many elements of uncertainty that some universities decline to adopt a chair of political economy at all. Such a jury might be composed of the ablest men in creation, but at the same time their knowledge of the factors that govern commerce, and the conditions of the particular trade under consideration would not be sufficient to guide them to a proper conclusion. This Bill does not recognise what occurs in all industrial developments, namely, that from time to time there is a shifting of labour .from one particular branch of trade to another. When the stage coach was introduced it dislocated the whole of the carrying trade. It was one of the phenomena accompanying industrial development. In 1840 the export of local produce from Great Britain was valued, I think, at £50,000,000 ; in 1884 it had increased to £240,000,000. Right throughout that advance, there were fluctuations in certain Wades, and there were variations in the relations between supply and demand throughout all associated trades. For instance, in 1840 the value of cotton represented 33 per cent, of the total export of local produce, but .in 1884 its value had shrunk to 25 per cent. The labour displaced in that industry after a short time found its way into other avenues of trade. If there was a comparative and temporary shrinkage in cotton there was ?n increase in the output of iron, or as Giffen put it - something else increased - the stream of industrial advance was continuous.

Under this Bill, however, the importation of certain goods under conditions which must exist, and which are continually recurring wherever! prosperity exists, will 'be stopped. Consequently the measure seems to me to be an exceedingly dangerous one. Whilst I am anxious to deal fairly with the facts presented in evidence to the Tariff Commission, and to encourage the development of our local industries, I think that this Bill is altogether of too extreme a character. It is a dangerous instrument to put into' the hands of any Minister, and I regret that I am unable to see any justification for its introduction at this stage.

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