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Thursday, 12 July 1906


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I move -

That the word " under," line 3, be left out.

I move this amendment with a view to ascertain the sense of the Committee as to whether the whole of paragraph a should not be omitted from the Bill. I also take this opportunity to reply to certain statements made by honorable members last night. I might have made my reply then, except that I wished to give the Government an opportunity to get through clause 12. It has been, stated that my amendment, upon which a division was taken yesterday, was intended to admit British goods into Australia which were competing dishonorably or unfairly with Australian goods, or which were being dumped in order to destroy Australian industry. My proposal was to exclude the possibility - I might say the likelihood - of British , goods being prevented from entering Australia, although their competition be such as inmy opinion is absolutely honest and fair. If honorable members look at the measure they will see that under clause 15 proceedings have to be initiated by the Comptroller-General, who has to believe that certain parties are importing goods with the intention that they may be sold or offered for sale, or otherwise disposed of, within the Commonwealth, in unfair competition with Australian goods. How will' he arrive at an opinion as to the intention of an importer? He can have only one way of arriving at an opinion. He must take the fact that in his opinion unfair competition exists to prove that there is an intention to compete unfairly. Then we have to turn to clause 14 to know what is thisunfaircompetition which is to exclude imports, and upon which the Comptroller-

General has to take action. Paragraph a reads -

Competition shall be deemed to be unfair if under ordinary circumstances of trade it would probably lead to the Australian goods being no longer produced, or being withdrawn from the market, or being sold at a loss, unless produced at a lower remuneration for labour.


Sir William Lyne - I propose to substitute "inadequate" for "lower."


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It will then read -

Unless produced at an inadquate remuneration for labour.


Mr Isaacs - That is to bring the paragraph in accord with the decision of last night.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - All that may take place without one atom of unfair competition. There may come into this market, fairly and properly, goods which may prevent a certain quantity of Australian goods of a similar sort being produced, or may cause a certain quantity to be withdrawn from the market. If the demand is only so much and it cannot be increased, the accession of the, other , goods must reduce the sale of certain Australian goods, and if an Australian manufacturer is unable to compete at the rate of wages which he is paying, he will only be able to do so if he reduces it. Honorable members on the opposite side will say that that is an undesirable thing. But let me point out that, even from their stand-point, there is power in the Tariff Act to remedy any differences of that sort - that these are the very grounds upon which they have argued that a duty should be raised to protect Australian industries. Although I do not agree with the statements of the honorable and learned member for Corinella in some other respects, still I agree with his argument that a protectionist Government should deal with the matters that come under paragraph a, not in a Bill of this description, but by means of the Tariff. But what is the plan that is now being adopted? A Tariff has been created; in full consideration of these differences, duties have been placed upon articles ; and on top of that Tariff power is being taken to exclude, by prohibition, these goods, not because of unfair competition, not because of dishonest or dishonorable competition, but simply because of ability to compete. I ask Ministerswhy is this clause necessary, when they are able to exercise, and . have exercised, the power which is granted in the Tariff Act? Surely the proper time for protectionists to give consideration to these matters is when duties are being imposed. In this Bill they seek to prohibit the importation of goods, or to impose such conditions as may make it difficult or impossible to import them, not because the competition is unfair, but because it is successful, for the things set out in paragraph a are simply the result of successful competition. I shall now allude to two matters, as they will come into the argument in connexion with the paragraph. Several honorable members, including the honorable member for Moira, have declared that I made misstatements in a previous speech on the question. In connexion with my proposed amendment to a previous clause, I said that if Great Britain were to enact a provision similar to paragraph a, the bulk of our exports would be shut out of the British market. That statement was questioned. The honorable member for Moira said that as a matter of fact there was not unfair competition by Australian products in that market. I never said that there was. I hold that the competition as here described is not unfair, but that if the provisions of this Bill were applied to our exports by Great Britain, then it would shut out a great part of the goods which we 'send to her. I think it should be evident to any one who reads the clause carefully that when we send to Great Britain meat, fruits - the application to fruits is more limited I admit - and butter, and it leads to similar goods being no longer produced in Great Britain, or to some being withdrawn from the market, and to some not being saleable at a profit unless the wages in" Great Britain are to go lower than they are - for we find that in some cases the British farmer cannot produce in competition - then if the British Parliament were to pass a measure with a clause such as I have described, Australian goods, to a large extent, must be excluded1. The honorable member for Moira - and I am sorry he is not here - referred to the export of meat. Previously I had stated that, of course, no country exported if it could sell in its own market : that, as it must get a better price relatively in most cases in its cwn market, where it had not to incur heavy freight charges to sell, the only reason for exporting was that it had a surplus which the local market could not absorb, and which, in the interests of the producers, it was better to allow it to go to the other end of the world to realize the best price! which could be obtained therefor. The honorable member for Moira said that meat was not sold in England] at less than the price it cost in Australia.


Sir William Lyne - He said that generally it was not.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member said that it was only in very exceptional circumstances that the meat was sold at less than the cost price here. Probably he was not aware that the Sydney Meat Preserving Works, which sends to Great Britain preserved meat, and also carcass meat to a large extent, has never made a profit, and that it is not intended to make a profit. It is an association of graziers, who are always ready to go into the local market and sustain prices by their purchases. In doing this, they do not consider whether they will get in Great Britain exactly what they pay, and usually realize only cost or something less, the evidence being that they have never shown a profit on their balance-sheets for the year. Last vear the Canterbury Meat Preserving Works lost about ,£36,000 on their London, shipments, though I agree that that was exceptional. These facts show that our exporters are guilty of what the Minister calls dumping. They send Australian meat to Great Britain, and sell it there for whatever it will fetch, and even; at a loss, and, by so doing, are injuring the graziers of that country. Then, as I have said before, the butter association here fixes the local price of butter, and, so that it may be sustained', ships the surplus production to Great Britain? where, usually, less is obtained for it than is obtained for that sold locally.


Mr Cameron - They have been known to bring it back.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I believe that that has occurred ; but the occurrence is exceptional.


Mr Cameron - It happened some two years ago.


Mr Conroy - I have known wheat to be loaded into ships, and. after being taken abroad, brought back again.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That has happened too. In to-day's newspaper is a letter from a fruit-grower defending the Mildura trust. That trust, recognising that over-production must reduce the level of prices, takes care that fruit not consumable in this market shall be exported and sold, not under a protection of 3d. per lb., but in competition with the production of the world. Yet Ministers would prohibit such action, if it were taken by exporters from Great Britain. I do not object to the practices to which I have referred. Our producers are perfectly right in what they do, because, in order that they may make a profit on their productions, they must sell locally only so much as the market will consume, sending the surplus to be sold in other markets for whatever it will fetch. It was because the Bill would render perfectly legitimate trading of this kind, if indulged in by exporters from Great Britain, subject to prohibition, and, under the Customs Act, to which the measure makes special reference, forfeiture of the goods sent here, that I moved the amendment exempting British goods which, last night, was negatived on division. The illustrations which I have given show that the honorable member for Moira was wrong in saying that I had misstated the facts connected with the export of our productions. The honorable member for Laanecoorie also questioned my statements, and produced figures to show that thev were wrong. My remarks and his interjections are reported in Hansard, at page 1187, in the following words : -

I have no desire to discourage or interfere willi such exports ; but how do they affect the English producer? The importation of Australian beef, lambs, and so forth, into England has, bit by bit, taken the trade out of the hands of the English grower. The importation of Australian fruit into England operates in the same way, but not to the same degree, because it arrives there out of the English season, when there is not much English fruit to offer.


Mr Salmon - Does the honorable member St V the same about butter?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes.


Mr Salmon - The Danes do not say that the importation of Australian butter takes the business away from the English producer, but that it takes the business away from them.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member can easily satisfy himself on that point.


Mr Salmon - I have" done so.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then the honorable member must have found that what he states is not altogether the case. If we have regard to the importation of Danish butter into England before Australian and New Zealand buller went there, the enormous increase from the latter places is not nearly accounted for by any drop in Danish importations.


Mr Salmon - Is it accounted for by the drop in the English production?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Australian butter interferes with the importation of Danish butter, but it interferes to a greater degree, probably, with the English production, because it is sold at a lower price than is the Danish.

How can the honorable member ask any Parliament to conceive that the large quantity of butter which Australia and New Zealand exports to England 'does not, in combination with the Danish importations, interfere with production in England. Where was the butter obtained previously, if not from English and Irish producers?


Mr Maloney - Is not the consumption of butter increasing every year?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No doubt the consumption increases with the increase of population. The honorable member for Laanecoorie quoted certain figures from the Board of Trade returns to show that my statements were inaccurate, but I will use those figures to prove that I was well within the mark, when, speaking from memory, I said that I did not think that there was any decrease in the exportation of Danish butter to Great Britain. The figures show that there was an increase. In 1 90 1, the total quantity of butter imported into Great Britain was 3,702,890 cwts., and, in 1905, 4,147,866 cwts., an increase of 444,976 cwts., or 22,248 tons. Of the quantity imported in 1901, 631.985 cwts. came from British possessions, while, in 1905, 1,054.209 cwts. came from British possessions, an increase of 422,224 cwts., or 2i, 1:11 tons, which accounts for practically the whole increase in the period to which I am referring. The importations from Australia and New Zealand, in 1901, were 415,511 cwts., and, in 19°5' 759,7s1 cwts., an increase of 344,240 cwts., or 17,212 tons. Therefore, while the increase in the importations of butter into Great Britain in the four years between 1901 a.r.d 1905 was 22,248 tons, 17,212 tons of that increase were accounted for by the increased importations from Australia, and New Zealand. That is a very fortunate and very happy circumstance, but it does not justify the statement that 'there is no interference on the ' part of Australia and New Zealand with the British producer. It will be seen that whilst our exports to Great Britain during these years increased very considerably, there was also an increase of 1,138 tons in the importations of butter from foreign countries. Instead of there being; a decline, as was indicated bv the honorable member for Laanecoorie, in the imports into Great Britain from Denmark


Mr Salmon - I did not mention Denmark, or Danish butter, but gave the total figures for all foreign countries.







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