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Tuesday, 10 July 1906

Sir JOHN QUICK (Bendigo) .- I cannot help feeling sorry that this part of the Bill has been brought forward in anticipation of the receipt of the reports of the Tariff Commission. I say . that partly because, to some extent, I feel embarrassed, and almost tongue-tied, in dealing with certain questions which are now really under the deliberation of the Royal Commission ; and I cannot, in justice to my colleagues on- the Commission, freely, fully, and exhaustively discuss here questions which they have yet to settle. There are certain members of the Royal Commission who are not Members of Parliament, and who cannot make use of the opportunity, which is presented to us, to ventilate their opinions. It would, I think, be a mistake, in propriety as well as in etiquette, to now fully and exhaustively discuss those questions on the- floor of this Chamber. At the same time, I shall endeavour, as cautiously as I can without trenching on the prerogative of the Royal Commission, to make a few remark's in reference to this question. Honorable members are distinctly at a disadvantage in dealing with this part of the Bill in the absence, not only of the report of the Commission, but of the evidence given before the Commission. Some honorable members have suggested that the dumping question is not a normal part of the Tariff question - not a normal part of the Tariff conditions. So fair as my recollection serves me, there has been a considerable amount of testimony tendered to the Commission concerning proceedings under the name of " dumping ' ' ; but there seems to be considerable difference of opinion as to the exact meaning of the word. Some of the witnesses used the word " dumping " in a comfortable, self-assured manner - much in the same way as the old lady used the "blessed word Mesopotamia." But so far as I can understand from reliable evidence given before the Commission, the true definition of " dumping " is the export of surplus stock from one country into another, and the sale of that surplus stock in the importing country at prices lower than the prices of that stock in the home country or country of origin.

Mr Glynn - That is how dumping is referred to in all the consular reports.

Sir JOHN QUICK - " Dumping " does not mean the sale of those goods at a. loss, or at a price below the cost of production, but it certainly does 'mean the sale of goods in the market of the importing country at prices lower than the sale prices^ within the country of origin. I should like to draw honorable members' attention to paragraph 17 of the Tariff Commission Report No. 2, which has already been presented' to' Parliament, in reference to spirits and the distillation of spirits. In that paragraph honorable members will find a preliminary reference to this question of dumping, and a definition in reference to the transport or export of surplus stocks of spirits. The paragraph is as follows: -

When the stocks of the Scotch distilleries are heavy they ship their surplus out to Australia. They do not care at what price they sell, because it is only their surplus. Once fixed charges are paid, anything over the cost of labour and material is profit. When a distiller in a large way of business has manufactured a certain number of gallons, and has earned sufficient to cover his fixed charges, any further quantity made is not charged with these expenses, and can therefore be sold at a much cheaper rate. He is at a great advantage compared with a distillery in a small way, and only running to half its capacity. The foregoing is an illustration of dumping given by Mr. Joshua. - (Q.1260).

It will be observed that it is suggested, not that "dumping" means selling below actual cost of production, but that it means selling at a lower rate than that obtaining in the exporting country. The Bill, as it is drawn, does not meet a case of that kind ; consequently, although this part of the Bill is headed " Dumping," it is really not , a Bill or part of a Bill dealing with dumping. There is very little evidence, indeed, so far as I can remember, Before The Commission of the sale within Australia of goods, wares, or merchandise produced in countries beyond the seas, (at prices actually below the cost of production, but there is evidence of goods sold in Australia at prices below the market prices Tn the country of origin.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Just as our exports are sold at lower prices.

Mr Fowler - Dumping does not necessarily mean selling without profit.

Sir JOHN QUICK - That is so. As the extract shows, having provided for the fixed charges in the country of origin, and after exacting, sometimes, a higher price in that country, producers there are enabled to sell at a lower price in the country to which they send their goods; and, as a matter of fact, the Bill, as I read it, does not meet that case. I mav say that, although we have taken evidence under this" heading in all parts of Australia, and have examined upwards of 600 witnesses, not one witness suggested a remedy of the kind that is now embodied in the Bill. There were numbers of witnesses who came forward and referred to this exporting and! selling of surplus stock, and who suggested and demanded higher duties; but none asked for a prohibition provision such as that embodied in the Bill. So far as the evidence goes under these various headings, the Tariff Commission will deal fully, carefully, and exhaustively with every item qf alleged export of surplus stock, and its sale at lower prices in the country of consumption than in the country of export.

Mr Isaacs - Will the honorable and learned member allow me? If that export and sale is unfair in the circumstances, it is included in the Bill. In clause 14, paragraph b, the widest power is given to the Judge to say what is unfair in the circumstances, and, if the export and sale is unfair, it is included in the Bill.

Sir JOHN QUICK - But it is not included in sub-clauses a to /.

Mr Isaacs - Not specifically.

Sir JOHN QUICK - Evidently the draftsman did not understand the true definition of " dumping, " as applied to trade and1 commerce. I admit that there may be a number of cases which require consideration ; but they do not disclose " dumping " within the true commercial definition of the term, as given in the evidence Before the Tariff Commission. Of course, selling at a price below the cost of production could not last long, and could not form part of a continuous commercial system ; only in rare and extraordinary instances, such as bargain sales, would goods be sent here and sold at prices below the cost of production. As I say, such sales could not continue long, and would not require a Bill of this kind to deal with them. I am a firm believer that the Tariff is the best remedy - that the Tariff itself is, and ought to Be, the true means and method of grappling with and settling all these grievances. I believe in straight-out, honest protection - substantial protection in all instances where a good case has been made out - but I do not desire to be a party to passing a general clause such as this for the redress of Tariff grievances. It is only fair that we should tell the whole world that we are going in for high duties in certain cases, because there may be a certain kind of competition with which it is desired to deal. That would be fairer to outside countries having trade and1 commerce with Australia ; and it would be more effective also. We want to put on stiff, straight, and if necessary, high' protective duties, rather than to resort to or rely upon a measure such as this. I have my own suspicions about the origin of this Bill. I believe it really originated from a desire to supersede the Tariff Commission. When the Tariff Commission was engaged in its investigations in Western Australia and South Australia, there was an agitation in the course of which it was alleged that the Commission was not working hard enough, or fast enough, or was not sending in reports : and this Bill was launched- as a sort of counter-blast to the Commission, under the apprehension that it would not report in sufficient time for its reports to be dealt with bv this Parliament. But I can see now that this Bill, if persisted in. will tend to delay rather than to hasten the redress of Tariff grievances. We 'have had evidence in connexion with many branches of the metals and machinery industry, which I must decline at the present stage to discuss. But this Bill will not meet those grievances, nor will it remove those complaints. It will not satisfy those who have made them. It will be a disappointment and a disillusionment to a number of people who are now waiting for remedial legislation. This Bill rather stands in the way of the redress of grievances, than tends to give relief. I want this House and this Government to facilitate the early consideration of the Tariff Commission's reports: and I say that there is enough work to go on with now. There is almost a month's work in the reports furnished by the Commission, dealing with spirits distillation and wine. Why should not Parliament have an opportunity to discuss them? Although only a part of the report of the Commission has been presented, and it is a partial and incomplete report, there is sufficient material for the House to deal with. Why does not the Government at once propose that the House shall gp into Committee of Ways and Means for the purpose of redressing grievances in an industry which is crying for relief, and in which upwards of a quarter a million of capital has been invested ? Why does not the Government deal with that, and propose some practical measure of relief, instead of wasting time over this anti-Trust Bill?

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