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Wednesday, 11 July 1906

Mr KENNEDY (Moira) . - I have been much interested in the discussion of the amendment, more particularly be cause of some of the sentiments to which utterance was given last night by the honorable member for North Sydney. With those sentiments in general I am in hearty accord.

Mr Chanter - So are we all.

Mr KENNEDY - I venture to say, however, that they have little or nothing to do with the matter in hand. We are dealing with a business proposal, and must consider it on its merits. Although the honorable member for Dalley has said that it is proposed to so alter this part of the Bill that the House, in agreeing to the second reading, cannot be said to have approved of it, I venture to 'declare that no material alteration of its basic principles is proposed. The alterations which are proposed affect the methods by which effect is to be given to this part, and were clearly outlined when the second-reading debate was in progress. All that it is pertinent to ask at this juncture is: On what grounds has the amendment been moved ? As I understood the honorable member for North Sydney, he gave three reasons in support of his action - the need of showing our loyalty to the Motherland, the precedents which have been established in two directions, and the desire which has been expressed for preferential trade. To my mind those who support the amendment with a view to showing loyalty to Great Britain are one-sided loyalists. To be loyal to the Empire, we must first be loyal to Australia. We must be loyal to Australia if this country is to become self-sustaining and self-supporting, and a source of strength to the Empire. It cannot be urged that we are not free to deal with trade relations as we may think best in the interests of our community. The Bill has been framed to deal with those relations. Clause 13 determines that it shall not be operative except in the best interests of the community. Those who argue from the stand-point of loyalty do not use the word in its broad sense. If it be a good thing to exempt the United Kingdom, why should we not also exempt Canada, New Zealand, and the other parts of the Empire? The mother country desires no special treatment. Those who favour preferential trade will, when business negotiations are entered upon, deal with the interests of the Empire in a broad spirit. As to the New Zealand precedent which was adduced, I venture to say that the New Zealand legislation is entirely different from this. The New Zealand Act was passed to regulate and control the manufacture and sale of certain agricultural implements. It does not deal with all imports, but only with ploughs of a particular class harrows, drills, and chaffcutters. The title of the Act shows that the intention of its framers was to develop the manufacture of those implements in New Zealand, and that its provisions do not apply to the whole range of imports into that Colony. The second precedent which has been urged is the Commonwealth legislation with regard to the admission of contract labourers into Australia. But contract labourers who come here from Great Britain are, as soon as they arrive, on an equality with the workmen already here in regard to hours, rates of pay, and conditions generally, whereas the artisans and mechanics employed in the manufacture of the goods sent here from Great Britain are not on an equality with Australian workmen. If they were, there would1 be some force in the precedent which has been adduced. As it is, there is no similarity between the two cases.

Mr Lee - Does not the Massey-Harris Company pay the same rates of wages as are paid in Australia?

Mr KENNEDY - The amendment does not deal with the Massey-Harris Company ; it deals with the manufacturer of Great Britain. Under the amendment we cannot impose the conditions which are imposed on English workmen who come here.


Mr KENNEDY - We are not now dealing with the Tariff.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the honorable member is forgetting that there is a Tariff.

Mr KENNEDY - When we were dealing with the Tariff, those who hold different fiscal views from mine would not admit the difference of conditions which exists. The Bill attempts to prevent injury being done to our people by the importation of goods under unfair conditions, no matter where they come from.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member should read paragraph a of clause 14.

Mr KENNEDY - That is another matter, with which we can deal when it arises.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is the Bill as we have it.

Mr KENNEDY - No doubt politics at times bring men into strange company, and I listened with some amusement to the arguments of honorable members opposite in favour of the preferential treatment of British goods. If my memory serves me aright, at the last elections most of them were opposed to preferential trade.

Mr Johnson - We were opposed to any increase of duties on goods imported from foreign countries.

Mr KENNEDY - One of the planks in the platform of the Prime Minister was a proposal for preferential trade, and parties were divided on that subject.

Mr Johnson - Only as to methods, not as to the principle.

Mr KENNEDY - The Opposition were against the Prime Minister's proposal.

Mr.Johnson. - We favoured the reduction of duties on goods coming from the mother country.

Mr KENNEDY - The Opposition favoured a general reduction of duties.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Our proposal was to grant a preference to the mother country by means of reduced duties.

Mr KENNEDY - The leader of the Government was in favour of preferential trade on clearly defined lines, his first policy presupposing protection to Australian industries. He desired to give a. preference to Great Britain where that is possible; but the Opposition desired a general reduction in the rates of duties.

Mr Johnson - In the rates imposed on British imports.

Mr KENNEDY - From my point of view, the Opposition were against the preferential trade proposals of the Prime Minister, and I am, therefore, surprised to hear them to-day arguing for preference where that is impossible.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They are faking the course which they have always taken.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We offered to give preference without conditions. The Minister would not do that.

Mr KENNEDY - The honorable member for North Sydney last night referred to what might happen if Great Britain treated us as we treat her under the Tariff. The statesmen of that country support the fiscal policy which they consider best in her interest, while we adopt the policy which we consider best in our interest. He went on to say that some of our staple products - he gave two instances - are sold in the British markets at prices lower than they bring here. I contend that at no time except possibly during a short period over which some untoward circumstancess have operated, have we sent produce into the English market and sold it for less than the prices ruling in Australia. We have frequently been told by honorable members of the Opposition that we must continuously depend upon the markets of the world, which govern the prices of our staple products ; and in view of the fact that we have not a monopoly of the articles which form our staple products, how is it possible for us to so fix the rates at which we shall sell our goods? I will take, for example, the prices of mutton and beef. The latest quotations 'show that there is a difference of about1d. per lb. between the prices obtained for mutton in Australia and in Great Britain - the additional penny per lb. obtained in England is about sufficient to cover the cost of exportation.

Mr Conroy - There is a difference of 11/8d.

Mr KENNEDY - I will give the honorable and learned member the benefit of the1/8d. I assert without fear of contradiction that lambs for export and for home consumption were bought in the same market in Victoria during the last export season. The greater number of the lambs were bought for export, and shipped to the old world with profit to the shippers. Therefore, taking into account the cost of shipment, that particular product could not have been sold at higher rates in Australia than in England. The position in regard to beef is exactly the same. The latest quotations show that beef is being sold in the English market at about 3d. per lb. We do not ship any beef from the southern . States, but I asked the honorable member for Capricornia, who has an intimate knowledge of the beef export business, for information as to the price of beef at Rockhampton. He informed me that the current price was about 16s. per 100 lbs., and the London wholesale price corresponds. We have not at any time, except during a period of scarcity owing to a drought, been able to obtain for our produce a higher price in Australia than has been ruling in Great Britain. In the case of wheat, for instance, there must always be a margin of profit to the shipper. I can remember a time when wheat was being sold for 3s. ~er bushel in Great Britain, .whilst it was quoted at 6s. per bushel in Australia. We found at the end of the season that we had overshipped, and in the face of an, absolute failure of the crops in the ensuing season, we had to import wheat in order to meet our requirements. Those conditions, however, were abnormal.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But does not the honorable member see that the Bill would provide against such a case as that ?

Mr KENNEDY - I am dealing, with the statements of the' honorable member, which related to normal conditions. Sofar as I understand the Bill, it would apply only to general conditions of trade. It is not likely that in any circumstances, such as I have referred to, any steps would be taken under the Bill. Consequently, so far as I have been able to follow the arguments of the honorable member for North Sydney, there is no warrant for his amendment. I cannot imagine that the exporters of Great Britain desire to be placed in such a position that they would be able to compete unfairly in our markets.

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