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Wednesday, 11 July 1906

Mr FULLER (Illawarra) .- The speech to which we have just listened, more especially in its references to the mother country, makes one hesitate to address the Committee at this stage. I have listened to many speeches in this House, but I have not heard one which has affected me more than the appeal that has just been made by the deputy leader of the Opposition. Every Australian must recognise that

Ave in this country owe everything to the mother country. We have been living under the complete and peace-giving protection of Great Britain for over 100 years. The great development of Australia, and the splendid markets which we have gained for our produce, we owe exclusively to old England. Last night reference was made to one of our great industries by the honorable member for Laanecoorie. He quoted certain figures relating to the butter industry. But if he had thought for a moment he would have acknowledged - as men like myself, representing a district which is largely dependent upon the butter industry, are glad to acknowledge - that it is not the Australian market upon which we depend for the sale of our produce. Australia affords us a very small market indeed. We are dependent upon what we can get for our butter in Great Britain and the other markets of the world. The amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney provides, in effect, that this Bill shall not apply to goods imported from, and the product of, the United Kingdom. Where should we be if the old country were to retaliate on us by an enactment such as is proposed by this Bill ? It is perfectly true that Great Britain is to some extent dependent upon Australian wool for the support of one of her great manufacturing industries. But, on the other hand, it is a well-known fact, especially in connexion with the butter industry, that we are absolutely dependent upon the price which our goods bring in London, where the world's market prices are regulated. I was very much amused when I entered the Chamber last night, after having attended a sitting of the Tariff Commission, to find that the Minister of Trade and Customs had produced an example of dumping, in the shape of a piece of soap from Japan. He told the Committee that, nominally, that soap is imported from Germany, whereas in reality it was of Japanese manufacture. He led the Committee to believe that there were tremendous importations from Japan, which were injuring established industries of this country - that our soap manufacturers could not carry on business and employ labour because of the Japanese competition. This piece of soap was put forward as a magnificent illustration of the evils of dumping. I say with all seriousness, as a member of the Tariff Commission, supporting what has been said by the honorable member for Bendigo and the honorable member for Perth, that throughout the whole of the inquiries of the Tariff Commission dumping has not been proved to exist in Australia in any shape or form. The Minister reminded me of what occurred in New South Wales in 1891 and 1892, when an attempt was being made to sneak in protection. The Bill before us is an example of 'sneaking in, not protection, but absolute prohibition. The Parliament of New South Wales was told on that occasion that there were tremendous importations of Japanese boots, and that it would be impossible for the local manufacturers to carry on their business unless this sort of thing was stopped. Investigations were made, an'd what was the result? The only Japanese boots that could be found in the whole of New South Wales were traced by the late Mr. J. H. Want to a place somewhere down in the purlieus of Wooloomooloo, one of the suburbs of Sydney. This German or Japanese soap stands in exactly the same position. The Minister has absolutely failed to produce any evidence of dumping, except a statement by Mr. Coxon,, of Numurkah. But neither that nor any other evidence gave proof of dumping to the injury of any Australian industry. Last night the Minister in charge of the Bill left it to the Attorney-General to defend the position. The honorable gentleman said that he did not care whether goods came from Great Britain or from any other part of the world. I, as an Australian, resent that attitude very earnestly. I recognise that we in Australia to-day are dependent on the mother country, and that but for the Imperial protection we could not hold our position for a moment. That being the case, we ought to do all in our power to give the manufacturers and producers of Great Britain an opportunity to find a market for their products and manufactures in Australia. You, Mr. Chairman, are ohe of the most earnest advocates in this House of a White Australia, and I do not think there is an honorable member who does not believe in that policy. Can it be thought for a moment that, if we had not behind us the Navy of England, we should be able to maintain that policy for a month, or even for a week ? It is because we have that ceaseless protector, the British Navy, always watching our shores, that we can carry out our desires in that direction ; and it is a policy which I sincerely hope we shall be able to maintain for all time. When we consider the treatment meted out to us bv the old country - when we consider the market provided for our products, and our peaceful possession of this great Continent - is it not only fair that we should welcome the products of the old land? When we hear the Attorney-General aver that he does not care whether goods come from the mother country or from elsewhere, I say that such a decaration of opinion ought to be sent broadcast throughout the Commonwealth. At any rate, if the Attorney-General does not care where the goods come from, I as an Australian, do care. What can be said of preferential trade when we find in the Bill before us provisions in direct antagonism to the manufacturers and producers of the old country. From start to finish - when we have been considering the Tariff or dealing with measures of this description - the efforts of honorable members opposite have not been directed to the exclusion of goods of foreign nations, but of the goods of Great Britain.

Mr Wilks - And these are the bulk of our imports.

Mr FULLER - That is so. This Bill ought not to be proceeded with until we have the report of the Tariff Commission before us; and I express that opinion in all seriousness and earnestness. The Tariff Commission has been pursuing its investigations since the 16th February, 1905, and a full inquiry has been made in connexion with the particular matter with which the Bill is specially intended to deal. If the investigation is to be attended by useful results, we ought to wait until we have the report of the Commission. That point of view has been submitted by the Chairman, and by the honorable member for

Perth, who is a member of the Commission, and now I, as another member, make the same appeal. I am not at liberty to disclose the evidence that has been submitted to the Commission, but I may say that, in my opinion, we ought not to further consider this Bill until we have the report ; to do otherwise would be to pass legislation without the information to which honorable members are entitled. I do not say what the report of the Commission may or may not be; but after inquiries have been conducted in Melbourne, Adelaide. Sydney, and other centres of Australia - after witnesses have been examined so fully, so acutely, and so earnestly - we ought to pause when we find a Bill of this nature introduced as a special means of protecting one industry. The least that the Government can do is to wait until we have before us the results of the work of the Royal Commission - of the work of eight men who have given their full time and earnest attention, and all the ability which they possess, to the investigation of the matter referred to them. If, after that information has been made available, honorable members are prepared to pass the Bill, then that course may be taken in all fairness. If, on the other hand, this Bill be pressed forward, in the absence of the necessary information, it will mean, so far as the Government are concerned, a pandering to one man who represents a big interest in this country ; such a step would be unfair to the House and the country, and would indicate, to my mind, that the Government are not fit to hold the reins of power.

Mr. FOWLER(Perth) [5.55!- One reason, and, I think, almost a sufficient reason, why considerable weight should be attached to the amendment of the honorable member for North. Sydney is that the Bill sets up a purely arbitrary standard of commercial morality- a standard which goes much further than the most severe moralist, dealing with the subject on this basis, would be prepared to ,go. If we find that is the case, surely we ought to hesitate before we apply such an artificial standard to those who undoubtedly are entitled to consideration from us. Take a concrete illustration. A person might be employed in buying woollen goods in England, and shipping them to Australia, and, have offered to him, perhaps at the end .of the season, a considerable quantity at prices greatly below the market price in England, or the country of origin. The difference in the price might mean a reduction of only 5 per cent., but it would be considerable if the total profits were 10 per cent. When such a man sent the goods to Australia, or attempted to do so, he would, according to the Bill, be under the liability of having it declared that he was guilty of unfair competition.

Mr Isaacs - That would only be so if he sent the goods with the intent to destroy an Australian industry.

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