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Wednesday, 13 July 1921

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) . - A few days ago, in reading a publication in which. I take a very great interest, I found that its leading article commenced by saying that every honorable senator was an avowed Protectionist. Consequently I was very much surprised when I learned to-day that Senator Gardiner is not a Protectionist. In his opening remarks the honorable senator stated that the enormous amount of unemployment which has been in evidence in Australia for many years is the outcome of the Tariff. Such an allegation cannot carry much weight in the absence of corroborative details. The honorable senator knows perfectly well that the great bulk of the unemployment in Australia during the past five or six years has been the result of a refusal by those who are unemployed to take advantage of the machinery which has been created to render their employment continuous. Certainly this fact explains the large amount of unemployment which is so noticeable in our metropolitan areas. Only last year a strike occurred which meant the cessation of some of our city industries. Those industries have not yet recovered from the blow which they then received. I am referring, of course, to the strike which took place in connexion with the shipping industry. For Senator Gardiner to suggest that the Tariff which has been operative for some years has adversely affected employment is ridiculous.

Senator Gardiner - This Tariff has been operative only during the past twelve months.

Senator PAYNE - What brought about the acute unemployment of last year? The annual strike which dislocated shipping at a time when it was absolutely necessary that the industry should be kept going.

Senator Crawford - The time was chosen when the strike would cause most inconvenience and loss.

Senator PAYNE - No section of workmen can strike without seriously affecting those who are employed in other industries, because every industry is practically dependent upon another industry.

Before addressing myself to the Bill, I desire to quote an authority who is justi fied in making a statement concerning the Tariff. He says -

It is quite clear that the two greater parties numerically in the Federal Parliament have made a definite promise to the country to give an effective Protection.

That is so. But what a great many of us are wondering is, What is meant by "an effective Tariff"? Effective for what, and effective for whom? That is the matter which we have to consider. This gentleman continues -

Australia has long ago made up its mind that it is not going to be a dumping ground for the over-production of other countries, and that it is going definitely to establish industries of its own which will enable it to employ its own citizens and as far as possible, keep the money within our own borders.

That is a very laudable statement to emanate from anybody. But we need to analyze it with a view to seeing how far this Tariff will be " an effective Tariff" - that is to say, a Tariff which will be effective in the best interests of Australia. We must recognise that no Tariff can be effective in the interests of Australia if it will be effective only in building up certain industries. But if by means of a Tariff we can improve the conditions of the people as a whole, then it will be an effective Tariff. Upon the other hand, if it will play into the hands of a favoured few in Australia whilst imposing a burden upon the many, it cannot be called an " effective " Tariff. I am not suggesting that that will be the outcome of this Tariff. On the first reading of a measure of this sort, we should consider what is necessary to build up Australia and make it as far as possible self-contained under fair conditions. Honorable senators may be wondering whether I am a Protectionist or a Free Trader. I believe one can be a Protectionist with out being a high-wall Tarriffite. I can claim to be a Protectionist, inasmuch as I want to see every industry possible established in the Commonwealth; but it must be established on a reasonable basis. I do not believe it would be for the welfare of the Australian community to establish at any cost all the industries that it is possible to establish in any country. What Australia needs to-day is a Tariff which will give it an opportunity to develop industries which are suitable to it, and which can be reasonably developed. We do not want a Tariff that will enable industries to be established in which, through the high Protection that may be afforded, it will not be necessary for. those engaged to do their very best. We do not want in Australia a jelly-fish, spineless class of people. We want men and women of character, prepared to do their very best, and always to put their shoulder to the wheel in advancing the interests of the country in which they live.

There is one feature of Australian industrial life which is very noticeable. We talk about adding to our industries, and extending those already established. Is it possible for us to considerably extend our existing industries, or inaugurate new ones with any chance of success, unless we have available the men who will be necessary to carry them on as they should be carried on? We all know the condition of some of our trades and industries in Aus. tralia. One of the greatest difficulties we have been labouring under for some years past is the lack of skilled artisans and mechanics; I want to see our young people become the men of Australia, on whom we can depend for the maintenance and continuance of any industry that is established. I dp not want to see a position . created which will necessitate our drawing from oversea countries our artisans and skilled mechanics, while our own young Australians become merely the unskilled labourers of industry. Unfortunately, a practice has grown up in Australia whereby the great majority of our growing lads, on leaving school and desiring to enter the industry for which they are fitted, are denied admission to it. This is due to the legislation on the statute-books of the various States, which provides that there shall be only a certain proportion of apprentices to adult workers. In the large majority of cases, the proportion is fixed at one to three*. That is the reason why, in many Australian indus-' tries the cost of production of certain items is very much higher than it ought to be. In the building trade, the cost of building is Very much greater than it should be. Any architect or master builder will tell you that the greatest difficulty he has had to contend with in the last few years is the lack of skilled workmen. This is one of the most serious problems we have to deal with, and it is time appeals were made in every State

Parliament by the representatives of the people for such an amendment , of theState legislation as will give every boy a fair deal, realizing that that boy is to become one of the burden-bearers of the Commonwealth in the future. If the present policy is continued, it will not be many years before the proportion of skilled artisans and mechanics throughout Australia will become so infinitesimal that they will practically die out, and we shall have to rely on importations. That should not be so. We claim to be proud of Australia, and spend scores of thousands of pounds per year on technical education from the extreme north to the extreme south of the Continent, in order to enable our lads to find the callings for which they are most suited, but when the time arrives, for a boy to enter the trade which he has chosen, he finds in the great majority of cases that he is debarred by the legislation to which 1 have referred.

In considering the Tariff, I hope honorable senators will recognise 'that we cannot afford to adopt in Australia a policy of splendid isolation. As other countries are dependent on us, so we are dependent on them. We have one of the finest countries in the world* but we must not be so conceited as to believe that we are the only people on the face of the earth - that we are the chosen people. When we read that "Australia has long ago made up its mind that it is not going to be made the dumping ground for the overproduction of other countries," we must in all fairness to ourselves realize that we have to dispose of our surplus products outside of Australia. We may talk as much as we like about being self-contained, but it is not sufficient to be self-contained. We must produce more and more each year if we are going to grow, and as we pro-' duce more, we shall find that our surplus products are on the increase year by year, and that we must find a market for therm in other, countries. We cannot frame a Tariff in Australia without it being known in other parts of the world, especially in those countries with which we have been trading for years. I make these remarks, not to suggest that we should make Free Trade the policy of Australia, but because I believe that in framing a Tariff we ought to consider what is reasonable and fair. We must ascertain what is reasonable protection to afford to the industries which /we have already commenced, and to those which we are anxious to establish here, and in doing so we must take into consideration not only the Tariff rates, but the natural protection which is afforded to Australia. Not only has the price of commodities increased in . Australia, but it has increased throughout the whole world. The cost of packing for the ordinary class of merchandise coming to Australia has increased by 200 per cent., while freights from the Old Land to Australia are just about double what they were before the war. The rates on ordinary merchandise before the war was 52s. 6d. per ton; to-day it is £5; and during the war period it was £10. I understand that it is likely to remain at £5 for some time.

Every one recognises the fairness of preference to Great Britain, because we belong to the British family. Any one who, suggests that preference should not be extended to British goods does not recognise the true relationship between Australia and Great Britain. Great Britain, being the Mother Country, must always have preference against any other country in Tariff matters. Whilst giving preference to Great Britain, we should recognise that there ought not to be too great a difference between the duties charged on British goods as compared with those charged on imports from other countries. We have passed through a very terrible war during the last few years. The Ally upon whom we had cause to look with most love and affection during the war - wasFrance. She stood between us and annihilation, and perhaps also between Great Britain and annihilation, and we ought to remember the debt that we owe to that country. France has been for many years a splendid customer of Australia, and the people of Australia have been accustomed for many years to- use articles of French manufacture. Consequently I say that if it is possible, in dealing with the Tariff, to recognize the debt we owe to France, we should do so.

Senator Duncan - Does the honorable senator suggest that French imports should be placed in the same ' category as British imports?

Senator PAYNE - No. But I say that the discrimination between them should not be too marked. We are in the Tariff placing France on the same footing as-

Senator Duncan - The United States?

Senator PAYNE - I was. going to say on the same basis as Holland.

Senator Keating - Or Sweden.

Senator PAYNE - Yes, or Sweden and Norway, and that is not right.

Senator Duncan - The honorable senator thinks that we should discriminate between them?

Senator PAYNE - I do.

Senator Russell - I think there may be developments which will bring imports from France under the duties of the Intermediate column.

Senator PAYNE - I am very glad to hear that. We should recognize the awful struggle, in which France is engaged to-day in the effort to repair the damage and wastage caused by the war. Big as the task of Great Britain is in this direction,- the task of France is bigger still.

Senator Duncan - Does the honorable senator not think that the preference might be mutual, and that France should give us some preference if we extend a preference to her ?

Senator PAYNE - Exactly, and I have not the slightest doubt that France will be prepared to do so.

Senator de Largie - The preference should be mutual also so far as Australia and Great Britain are concerned.

Senator PAYNE - I agree with the honorable senator. I do not know what steps; if any, are being taken by the Government to secure a preference for Australia where we are prepared to give a preference.

Senator Gardiner -We ask British makers to pay £40 before they can import a motor car into Australia.

Senator PAYNE - It is not my intention to-night to refer to the separate items of the Tariff. That can be better done when we are dealing, with the schedule to the Bill. .

In the course of his remarks, Senator. Earle made some comments upon the action of Australian manufacturers engaged in the production of woollen goods. I felt . inclined to say hear, hear, to his strictures upon that section of our commercial community. We have,f or many years, been producing wool, whilst we have manufactured a small proportion of it. into clothing and textiles necessary for the comfort and maintenance of the people of Australia. The great bulk of our wool has been sent overseas, and. a proportion of it has been returned to us in the shape of clothing and textile fabrics. From the point df view of quality of production, and the profits of manufacture, our secondary woollen industry has been eminently satisfactory. I have never been able to understand why, before the war period, there was not a considerable expansion of this industry. Referring to a period ten years preceding .the war, the majority of the mills in Australia had been established on a sound basis. There was always a market for their products, and they could not supply anything like the local demand for them. I say advisedly, that with regard to quality and price, their products compared more than favorably with similar goods turned out elsewhere in the world. But what do we find today? We find that flannel, which is the commonest woollen article produced in Australia, and one that is an absolute necessity to the people, especially to older people and children, is practically unobtainable by the poorer people in Australia. The price charged for it is beyond them. That is a disgrace to Australian manufacturers of flannel. I say this without hesitation, having looked into the matter most thoroughly. Before the war all-wool flannel was produced in Australia at \1\A. per .yard. That was the minimum price to the distributor. To-day the same flannel, less 25 per cent, in quality, is being charged for. by the mills to the distributors at 2s. 6d. per yard. This represents an advance of 150 per cent.° in price, with a reduction of 25 per cent, in quality. Is that fair to the people of Australia ? If I find in this Tariff a proposal to increase the duties on woollen textile fabrics, how can I be expected to support them ? So far as I can ascertain, there has been no increase in the cost of production of the finished article in Australian mills, and this year, when everyone reasonably expected that the price of this commodity would be reduced, we find that there is an all-round average increase in price over last year's prices of 5d. per yard. Is that a reasonable thing? Everyone knows what wool is worth in Australia to-day, and that merino wool is not used in the production of flannel. I say that this article, for which the mills now charge the distributor 2s. 6d. per yard, can be produced, of the quality now turned- out, at from le. 6d. to ls. 8d. per yard, and still show a much larger proportion of profit than was earned by the industry before the war. If I mention another item, blankets, which are absolutely essential, we shall find that practically the same objections apply. The distribution of surplus military blankets, let me say, has been a veritable God-send to the people of Australia. But for it, hundreds and, probably, thousands of children would have had to go cold this winter. How Could parents afford to pay the prices asked for blankets manufactured in Australia to-day ?

I did not intend to refer to particular articles covered by the Tariff, but I have mentioned these produced by the industry specially referred to by Senator Earle. In deference to Senator Crawford, I shall not touch on bananas to-night.

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