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Wednesday, 5 October 1910
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Senator STEWART (Queensland) . - I think that the Commonwealth is now face to face with a position which demands the urgent consideration of every man who desires to see the Federation make progress. We have heard from different quarters a good deal about the prosperity of the country at the present moment. As evidence of that we are referred to the very large amount of money that is received in revenue from the Cus toms as showing that the people of Australia are so prosperous that they are able to purchase largely goods imported from abroad. The fiscal policy of Australia is protection. That policy has been entered upon deliberately with the object of developing the resources of Australia, providing employment for the people, adding as speedily as possible to the population, and- strengthening Australia as a community from every possible point of view. If that be the policy of Australia, and if the Tariff which is now in operation is the expression of it, the fact must be patent to every man who gives this matter the slightest consideration that we are not carrying out the fiscal policy which the people of Australia have laid down for us. Our Tariff is one of the greatest revenue producing engines in the world. There is not a single country on the face of the earth to-day whose Tariff produces such a large sum per head of the population as that of Australia, with the one exception of New Zealand. That fact may no doubt be very pleasant from the Treasurer's point of view. He may desire that money should be flowing in so rapidly. But from' the point of view of Australia's citizens, from the point of view of the man or woman who desires that Australia's progress shall proceed on the best lines, I think it is one of the most unfortunate circumstances which could possibly arise. What are we doing? Last year, we spent about ,£50,000,000 sterling on imported goods from other countries. A large proportion of that money could have been, and ought to have been, spent in manufacturing those goods upon the soil of Australia by Australian hands. If our Tariff is to be effective from the Protectionist's point of view, it must be very radically altered at the earliest possible opportunity. We are not protecting our industries now. The large imports are the best indication that could possibly be adduced of that fact. I have no doubt that the members of the Labour party in this Parliament, who are Protectionists, and new Protectionists, will say that until the people of Australia give us the power to deal with the conditions in every protected industry, we are going to do nothing. Now, I think that the people of Australia ought to have the power themselves to say what conditions shall prevail in every industry, and that the power should make itself felt through the Commonwealth Parliament. But our duty to begin with is to make it possible for Australia's industries to grow here in .spite .of competition from the cheap labour countries pf the world. At present, there is not a single manufacturing industry in Australia that is not being exposed to the fier.ce competition of the low wage countries of the world. Our huge imports are incontestable evidence of 'that fact. Before we can ask employers to pay decent wages, we must protect them against the competition of foreign sweaters. We are attempting to put sweating down within .pur .own borders. No man is more anxious that that should be accomplished than I am. But we are permitting the goods of sweaters in other parts of the world to pour into Australia to the extent of millions' every year. Where is our consistency in that ' matter ? We might just as well be exposed to the sweater within our borders as to the sweater outside our borders. We should have some control oyer the man within, but we certainly have no control over the man without, except through our Tariff ; and that our- Tariff is insufficient for the purpose is plainly evidenced by the huge stream of imports which is pouring into this continent.

Senator St Ledger - It is very easy to remedy that.

Senator STEWART - What is the remedy ?.

Senator St Ledger - Surely the honorable member knows. It is so simple.

Senator STEWART - I know the honorable senator's fiscal faith. I am not addressing myself to him, or to the party with which he is associated, because I know that they are not Protectionists. Neither are they Free Traders. They are Revenue Tariffists I am addressing myself to the members of my own party who are Protectionists, who are bound by the Labour policy to oppose Revenue Tariffism in every shape or form, and who, if they dp not adopt effective Protection, have but one alternative, and that is Free Trade. I am addressing myself, not to senators on my right, but to those on my left. As I have said, I know what the fiscal policy of the Opposition is. It is to tax the poor man, to tax the necessaries of life, to raise as much revenue as possible through the Customs, so that the big land-owners, the large income-earners ana the rich men may escape taxation. The very opposite is the policy of the party with which I am associated. We say, " Sweep away your Customs taxation, and use your Tariff, not as a revenue-raising machine, but as an industry-creating machine." Yet we have a Tariff on the statute-book which is notoriously ineffective. I heard Senator Vardon say behind me a few moments ago that we cannot get enough people to dp the work whichhas to be done in Australia now. Therefore I suppose his contention is that it is useless to attempt to establish new industries. But if we had the industries - if we bad even the germ pf the industries-r-we should very soon have the people. In any case, I direct the attention of Senator Vardon to the very important point that Australia is at the present moment passing through a period of greater prosperity than I believe she has ever experienced before, certainly., a period of greater prosperity than I have ever seen since I came to the country. After that we .shall have the inevitable reaction. We have had ai succession of good seasons, for whichwe are all thankful. We have had" very high prices for pur primary products. But the day will come when the drought will reassert itself, when prices will go down and the cry of the unemployed will be once more heard in the land. Now is the time to begin to prepare for that eventuality. It will be too late when the deluge is upon us. Letus lay the foundations for our industries now, so that when the necessity for- employment arises there will be plenty of it for such of our citizens as may be unfortunate enough to be out of work. I have said that the rush of imports is almost unprecedented. Let me give a few of the figures.

Senator GIVENS (QUEENSLAND) - The figures of the first three months of this financial year aremore unprecedented still.

Senator STEWART - Yes, they show a still greater advance. Last year we imported £12,000,000 worth of apparel and' textiles, and paid in duty on them no less than £1,872,000. Of metals and machinery we imported about £IO,000,000 worth and' paid in duty £997,000. These facts of themselves are a sufficient condemnation of the Tariff as it stands. This is the greatest wool-producing country in the world, yet we import woollen articles to the value of £1 000,000.

Senator St Ledger - America is thegreatest cotton-producing country in the world.

Senator STEWART - I think that wemight be the greatest cotton-producing country in the world too. There is not a. shadow of a reason why we should spend a farthing in importing either woollen or cotton goods. We are now using only 1 per cent, of the wool that we grow. We grow very little cotton, but there is no reason, so far as I can see, why we should not produce all the woollen clothing that we. require, and, in addition, grow and manufacture all the cotton goods that we require.

Senator St Ledger - Stop all woollen and cotton goods from coming in and then you will get it done.

Senator STEWART - I want the Tariff wall to be raised so high that these imports will be as nearly stopped as possible. I want to see these goods produced here. If the working people are to be taxed let it be done to establish industries, not to save the skins of the rich men. Here we have the working people paying within a few pounds of £2,000,000 in taxation on their clothing, yet we have the rich landlords shocked almost into paralysis by a proposal to raise £1,000,000 by land-value taxation. We imported last year, as I have said, £10,000,000 of metals and machinery. We have every mineral required in the industries either of Australia or of any other country. Why not utilize them? We have the men, the raw material, in fact, everything requisite, yet we pay millions sterling to keep persons employed at the other end of the world while our own citizens are in many cases going about idle. Although we have plenty of clay - some of the finest clays in the world - yet we paid last year nearly .£250,000 in taxation on imported earthenware. On wood, wicker, and cane work - and Heaven knows we have plenty of the raw material in the continent - we paid in taxation £324,197. On jewellery, although we produce gold, silver, and nearly all the precious stones, we paid in taxation .£222,000. And most wonderful of all, on leather, although we have cattle by the million, we actually paid £253,000 in taxation. I do not see why Australia should not be a large leatherexporting country.

Senator Pearce - So she is.

Senator STEWART - I know that Australia exports leather, but she also imports it very largely. The only way to prevent such importations is to make the Tariff wall sufficiently high-

Senator McGregor - To wear Australian boots.

Senator STEWART - I always do wear Australian boots. I know that a great number of Australians, if they can get any thing else, will not wear Australian boots; but I think that the Government might very well issue an order to the effect that every local manufacture should be stamped with the legend " Made in Australia." If one goes down town to buy a pair of ready-made boots, probably he will find them stamped " Made in Germany," or " Made in France," or " Made in America," or " Made in England," whereas, as a matter of fact, they were made, probably, in Melbourne. I may tell the. honorable gentleman that I never wear readymade boots. It is the same with hats. You cannot get a single hat factory in Australia to stamp its goods.

Senator McGregor - Oh, yes, you can.

Senator STEWART - I have seen the Denton stamp on some hats, but latterly it has been left off.

Senator Henderson - Oh, no.

Senator STEWART - I was assured that the last hat I bought was a Denton hat.

Senator Henderson - Probably there has been some fraud practised.

Senator STEWART - Very likely, as I am such an innocent man. I wanted a Denton , hat, the Denton stamp was not to be seen on the hat I bought ; but I was assured that it was a Denton hat.

Senator Henderson - That is right - they saw the honorable senator coming.

Senator STEWART - I believed that it was a Dalton hat.

Senator Givens - - They manufacture plenty of hats, and do not stamp them.

Senator Henderson - They do not. Show me a Denton hat without a stamp?

Senator STEWART - I am almost sure that it was a Denton hat, because I know their particular style of manufacture; but it did not bear their stamp.

Senator de Largie - That is quite a common tiling.

Senator Ready - They make hundreds of dozens without putting a stamp on them. I have handled them.

Senator STEWART - A tailor told me that a large number of Australians have a prejudice against locally-made articles, and that if articles should bear the stamp of a local firm, they would not buy them. We ought to try to get over that sort of feeling. Every article made here ought to be stamped with the words " Made in Australia." Make that the law of the country, and get the people to understand that Australian goods are of as high quality as those of any other country, and a great deal better, I am glad to think, in some lines. Australian blankets and flannels are not only equal to those of most countries, but superior to a great many of them. These industries might be very largely extended. "We manufacture at present about one-seventh of the woollen goods used in Australia, and the balance is imported. Instead of importing, we ought to be exporting. I am glad to see that a company has been formed which is to operate in Launceston.

Senator Sayers - And in Hobart.

Senator STEWART - I believe that Tasmania is specially adapted for the manufacture of woollen goods. If we want population, if we desire to become a really strong community, we must have as many industries as it is possible for us to establish.

Senator Sayers - It is British capital which is establishing industries in Australia.

Senator STEWART - We have plenty of capital in Australia.

Senator Sayers - But the owners will not invest it in industries.

Senator O'Keefe - W - We do not care where the capital comes from, if the goods are made in Australia.

Senator STEWART - If the Britisher is willing to send his capital here, we will do the best we can for him. On vehicles we paid in taxation last year £122,000. I think I am safe in saying that 90 per cent, of them might very well have been manufactured in Australia. On musical instruments we paid in taxation £82.000.

Senator Givens - Every one of them should be made here.

Senator STEWART - Yes. On "miscellaneous articles " we paid £220,000. In all, our Customs revenue for last year amounted to £9,505,74°) of which £3,000,000 was collected on stimulants and! narcotics. On sugar the taxpayers paid last year £506,000 in Customs duties, and £548,000 in Excise duties ; so that on that one article alone we raised last year over £r, 000,000.

Senator O'Keefe - Y - Yes, but only onehalf of the Excise duty affects the Protectionist argument.

Senator STEWART - I am not dealing now so much with the protective incidence of the tax as with the tax itself. Sugar should not pay a farthing of taxation for revenue purposes. So far as I am concerned, not a single halfpenny raised on the article shall ever pass into the Treasury.

If we protect the industry by means of a duty per ton, that is all right.

Senator O'Keefe - W - We should not import a ton.

Senator STEWART - No, we ought to grow sufficient for our own purposes.

Senator Sayers - It is imported though.

Senator STEWART - I know that in some years a large quantity is imported, but the seasons have a good deal to do with that. It is an industry which, I think, ought to produce in every year all that we require. It is highly improper £1.000,000 should be dragged out of the pockets of the people in taxation on one of the most commonly-used articles of food, and a necessary of life. Taxation for revenue purposes on the necessaries of life should be entirely abolished. I again direct the attention of our friends, the anti-land-taxers, to the fact that landowners are being asked to find only £1,000,000.

Senator Vardon - It is more likely to be £2,000,000.

Senator STEWART - The Treasurer's estimate of the revenue to be derived from the proposed land taxation is £1,000,000; but I should not care if the amount derived were £2,000,000 or £5,000,000 - the more the merrier. ' 1 say it is a downright shame to be taking £1,000,000 per annum out of the teacups of the poor, when we propose to take only £:r, 000,000 from the rich land-owners of Australia, the men who are obstructing settlement and standing in the way of the progress -of the Commonwealth.

Senator Walker - lt is believed that the amount will be £2.500,000.

Senator STEWART - I direct Senator Walker's attention to the fact that "King Charles' Head," about which we have heard so often from him. is about to come off. If the revenue to be derived from the proposed land taxation will amount to £2,500,000 per annum, I shall be glad.

Senator Vardon - Or if it amounts to £5,000,000 per annum.

Senator STEWART - Yes. or to £5,000,000 or £10,000,000, because we could cut down the revenue from Customs accordingly. The Lal,our party, or that section of the Labour party composed of myself - I do not wish to compromise any other member of the party, as each can get up and testify to the faith that is in him - would not raise a single farthing from Customs taxation, except from taxation on stimulants and narcotics.

Senator Givens - Why tax a man because he smokes?

Senator STEWART - I do not believe in taxing tobacco. I do not see why a man who smokes should contribute more to the cost of government than I do who do not smoke. If honorable senators are in mind to sweep away the duties on tobacco, T shall be willing to help them.

Senator St Ledger - Where would the honorable senator get revenue from?

Senator STEWART - From land value taxation ; from the community-created value in Australia. Senator St. Ledger wishes to tax the poor people on what they eat, drink, wear, and use.

Senator St Ledger - Does the honorable senator really believe that?

Senator STEWART - I do indeed ; and the more necessary an article is, the more willing are the honorable senator and the party with which he is associated, to tax it. When the Fusion party were in power, they had the whole thing cut and dried. They were going to tax tea, kerosene, and cotton goods.

Senator Vardon - I think that is absolutely untrue.

Senator SAYERS (QUEENSLAND) - Who said that?

Senator STEWART - It was an open secret.

Senator Sayers - It was never contemplated.

Senator STEWART - The honorable senator's leaders mentioned it on various occasions." lt is easy for honorable senators to deny it now, seeing that the Fusion Government, very fortunately, did not get back to power.

Senator Vardon - Can the honorable senator give chapter and verse for the statement ?

Senator STEWART - I shall look it up and try to satisfy the honorable senator. I did not think that any one would deny it. I thought it was public property that such proposals were made.

Senator Vardon - It is hardly worth denying, it is so absurd.

Senator STEWART - It is not at all absurd, when we consider what is the policy of the party to which the honorable senator belongs. We know that they are Revenue-Tariffists and anti-direct taxation men.

Senator Vardon - That is not a part of the policy of the party to which I belong.

Senator STEWART - They have always considered tea, kerosene, cotton goods, and the articles most commonly used by the working people of Australia, fair game for taxation.

Senator Vardon - I did not think the honorable senator could talk to the gallery in that way.

Senator STEWART - I am glad to have Senator Vardon's denial. He is a man for whom I have the greatest respect ; and I welcome him now into the ranks of taxation reformers. We have a distinct declaration from him that he is against the taxation of the necessaries of the poor, and that he is in favour of direct taxation.

Senator Vardon - I am for sane taxation all the time.

Senator STEWART - That is a very wide word, and embraces a great deal. I suppose the honorable senator would claim to be the judge of sanity in this connexion. I have heard that it is a very common thing in lunatic asylums for a patient to point to all the others and say, " Those fellows are all mad. I am the only sane man here." That man claims to b~e the judge of his own sanity, and of the insanity of others ; and in the same way, I suppose Senator Vardon would claim to be the judge of sane taxation. It is a misnomer to speak of land-value taxation as taxation at all.

Senator Vardon - I have supported land-value taxation for twenty years and more.

Senator STEWART - I am exceedingly glad to hear it.

Senator Walker - What about an income tax?

Senator STEWART - I shall deal with the income tax in its turn. I repeat that land-value taxation so-called is not taxation at all.

Senator Walker - It is robbery.

Senator STEWART - It is merely getting for the community the value which the community itself has created. Senator Walker says that it is robbery. I think that we could not have more clearly ex- pressed the honorable senator's taxation morality. What we call justice is robbery in his vocabulary. If the community increases the value of land by £1,000, I say that the community is entitled to that money. The value created by the effort and expenditure of the people in various directions, and by the increase of population, belongs to the people, and ought to be claimed by them.. If any honorable senator wishes to know the source from which I desire to get revenue, I point him to that stream which is now flowing in its millions into the pockets of private landowners and financial institutions of Australia. I need not labour this question very much more, but I think I have made it abundantly clear that in the very near future something must be done in connexion with the Tariff. I read the reply given by the Minister of Customs to a deputation that waited on him the other day to the effect that everything would depend upon the result of the referendum to be held next year to seek larger industrial powers for the Commonwealth Parliament. If the people give the Commonwealth Parliament power to fix wages and conditions, I suppose the Government will immediately proceed to deal with the Tariff. But what will happen if the people do not give the Commonwealth Parliament that power? I say that if the Government are not prepared to make the Tariff an effectively Protectionist Tariff, there is only one alternative before them, and that is to make it a FreeTrade Tariff. Are the Government prepared to do that? Is any political party in Australia prepared to do that?

Senator McGregor - The honorable senator should give notice of a question of that kind.

Senator STEWART - That is not necessary. ls any political party in Australia prepared to adopt a policy which, if carried into effect, would turn hundreds of thousands of workmen, women, boys, and girls, into the labour market to-morrow? No political party in Australia would be so foolish as to propose such a policy. If that is an impossible policy, there is only one other which can be adopted, and that is the policy of screwing up the Tariff so as to make it effective to keep out the imports that are at present flowing into Australia in such an extraordinary stream. The Government may say that if the people do not give them the power they propose to ask for, they will not play into the hands of the manufacturers. But when I talk about Protection, I do not think of the manufacturers. I think of Australia, of the boys and girls who are growing up every year in this Commonwealth, and for whom some avenue in life must be provided. I think of the Commonwealth and of a policy which would place in the hands of every Australian some handicraft, which would give the people an opportunity of developing their mental and mechanical, as well as their physical, powers - a policy which would make them self-contained, and would put them in a better position than any other policy I know of to defend this country against foreign aggression. Honorable senators may say, " We agree with you, but look at the sweating." I say the way to prevent sweating is to raise the Tariff so high that it will cut off the competition of the sweated countries that are now pouring their goods into Australia. When we have destroyed that competition, we shall be in a position to say to the manufacturers of Australia, " We are protecting you against the foreign invader, and we now insist that you shall pay decent wages and give fair conditions to your workers." Our Tariff is not effective. It permits millions of pounds' worth of goods which could be manufactured in Australia to pour in here annually. It is heaping revenue into the Treasury breast high. The income from Customs taxation in the Commonwealth is advancing by leaps and bounds. That, surely, is not a circumstance which brings anything like joy to the heart of the average Labour man? We want to see the goods which are now imported produced here. We do not want the government of our country to be carried on by means of Customs taxation. We wish to reduce that form of taxation to the lowest possible limit short of sweeping it away altogether. Every one knows what Customs taxation is, why it was devised in the first instance, and why it is continued. It was introduced for revenue pure and simple, and in order to derive that revenue from the poorer section of the people. The poor man who has a large family pays a greater proportion of his wages in the form of Customs taxation than does any other man, whilst the rich man pays less proportionately to his income.-. I am glad to have had an opportunity to say a few words upon this very large and important subject. I wish to impress upon the Government, upon every member of my own party, and also upon the Opposition, that this is a question which will demand the earnest attention of the people of Australia in the very near future.

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