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Thursday, 1 July 1920

Mr GREGORY - I do not regard it as offensive, for I know that the honorable member did not intend it to be. No honorable member has a keener desire than I have to advance the best interests of Australia. I also give the

Leader of the Opposition credit for a de-: sire to improve the conditions of the country.

Mr Stewart - There is only a slight difference of opinion between us as to the best way to improve the conditions of the country.

Mr GREGORY - That is so. When in Sydney recently I saw some thousands; of small parcels of hats which had been sent by parcels post from America. A more expensive way of importing them could not have been adopted. The rabbit skins from which they had been manufactured had been purchased at high prices and sent from Australia to the United States of America at heavy freights. The wages paid in the trade' in the United States, of America were' higher than those prevailing here, and' yet it was possible to bring over this enormous consignment in the most expensive way, and to compete with the local manufacturers. How was that possible? Surely there must be something wrong with the industry here. Again, only a few days ago, at the Parcels Post Office, I, in company with other members of the Public Works Committee, saw" large quantities of goods which had been sent here in the same way, not only from the United States of America, but Japan.

Mr Corser - Australia can produce hats as good as those manufactured in any other part of the world.

Mr GREGORY - We should be able to do so, and it seems to me to be extraordinary that we are not making much greater strides in regard to the manufacture, not only of hats, but boots. Millions of pounds worth of boots should have been exported from Australia during the war. Industry generally should have flourished here. The fault, rests, not with the Australian workmen, but with the agitators, who got behind them iii the first place and urged them to "go slow," and put other obstacles in the way of the activities of the Commonwealth.

Coming to the Tariff itself, I thought that, when the present Leader of the Opposition, as Minister for Trade and Customs, introduced his Tariff of 1914 we had reached the standard of Protection required to build up the industries of Australia. For fifteen or twenty years before we had heard it said that, in order to .build up Australian industries, a higher Tariff was necessary. The Tariff was continually increased until, with the introduction of that of 1914, I believed we had a Tariff which would enable local manufacturers to compete with the Test of the world. But we have now submitted to us a Tariff that " OUtHerods Herod," largely increasing the duties on almost every article we require. There can be no argument at the present time for an increased Tariff in order to build up Australian industries. We know that, prior to the war, we had been importing large quantities of goods from various countries. Prices have increased enormously, bub still we are, and must continue, importing. This has been due to the fact, not that the duties in force at the outbreak of war were insufficient to protect Australian manufacturers, but that millions of people, and hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of machinery, were diverted from peaceful pursuits to the manufacture of munitions of war. Machinery which had formerly been used in the manufacture of these goods had to be utilized in the production of war material. Of recent years it has been almost impossible to get goods into Australia in any shape or form. Yet, at a time like this, a new Tariff has been brought forward.

We ought to be told whether this Tariff is intended to !be revenue producing, or whether it is designed to encourage the establishment of local industries.

Mr Corser - Do we not export an enormous quantity of raw material, when we should be utilizing it for manufacturing purposes?

Mr GREGORY - The man who produces the raw material of this country ought to be able to get the world's parity for it. The only way in which we shall ever be able to progress and discharge the tremendous obligations with which we are faced is by developing the vast vacant spaces of Australia, and by encouraging people to come here. When we have a population of 15,000,000 or 20,000,000, which we shall have with good government, there will be a home market for the manufacturer, who will thus be in a far better position to compete in the open nr.. Vets of the world than he is to-day.

About 1913-14 the value of our primary industries was something like £170,000,000, whilst that of our manufactured products was only about £60,000,000. In 1918, the value of our primary industries was over £200,000,000, whilst that of our manufacturing industries was less than £70,000,000. We know that one-half of the population of Australia is to be found in the State capitals. I have figures in my possession which will refute the statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) in regard to the population of this country. The Commonwealth Statistician tells me that 50 per cent, of our population is urban in character. Whilst such conditions obtain, the man who goes into the bush to struggle for an existence has an embargo placed upon the exportation of his products.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - What .embargo is there upon the export of goods to-day ?

Mr GREGORY - The Leader of the Opposition spoke of an embargo in regard to copper production. I do not know the facts of the case he speaks of, but I do know what the Government did in regard to the export of metals from Australia. I have previously cited the case of a few men, who, after battling in the back country for some years, took £70,000 worth of lead out of a small pot-hole in less than two years. Yet the profit that they obtained was less than £4,000. They were not allowed to export their product except through certain agencies.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - On account of war restrictions.

Mr GREGORY - Yes. The effect of that policy was to build up a few monopolists in our cities. In my judgment, that is one of the vilest things that has ever happened; and what has happened with the metal industry may to-morrow affect some other industry.

Coming to the Tariff itself, I have a bitter complaint to make concerning many of the acts of the Customs Department. I object to the action of the Department in imposing embargoes upon many classes of goods coming into this country. I am not speaking of the present Minister's administration, but of a period antecedent to it. Take as an illustration the question of sheep dip. There is nothing more essential to Australia than is a first class sheep dip.. I think that such an article was being manufactured here. Our local manufacturers asked for no embargo upon the imported article. Yet, upon the initiative of Sir John Higgins and the firm of Leggo and Company, an embargo' was placed upon it.

Mr Jackson - There is nothing wrong with Leggo's sheep dip.

Mr GREGORY - It may be far better than the imported sheep dips. But the firms of Cooper and Little have been doing business here for the past sixty or seventy years. They have their agencies all over the world, and were exporting sheep dip to this country. Every effort was made by the Government to prevent them securing the requisite shipping space.

Mr Corser - We wanted to compel them to establish factories here. -

Mr Jackson - The cursed Tariff again !

Mr GREGORY - The perfect Tariff again. If the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), for the purpose of assisting some other body of individuals, is prepared to destroy the trade of s. British firm by placing an embargo upon the importation of its products, I have the utmost contempt for him.

Progress reported.

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