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Tuesday, 19 July 1921

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) . - I do not intend to speak at any length in supporting to a large degree, though not in toto, the Tariff submitted in another 'place so ably by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), and by his representative in the Senate (Senator Russell). It may be necessary for me to preface my remarks by emphasizing the fact that' I am not a Free Trader. A,t the same time, I am greatly against mie of thumb protection, or the protection of industries which, in my opinion, do not require assistance. The imposition of protective duties when unnecessary tends merely to increase the cost of living to the, community. I favour protection for young or struggling industries, but not for industries that are well established, and in the hands of persons who, in the favoured conditions that prevail in this country, are making fortunes. Parents naturally (protect their children, but when the children have grown to be adults, have accumulated property,and entered into businesses or professions, their, parents do not continue to feed them.I maintain that some industries in. which fortunes are being made 'in this countryare under his Tariff unnecessarily protected. I agree with Senator Vardon when hespeaks of the necessity for. encouraging the manufacture here of our raw products. I believe in Australian goods for Australian people. I, of course, believe in the development of our great ironi industry. But. I cannot follow SenatorVardon in his references, to wool. Inthis . country we producethe most, thebest, and the cheapest wool in the world. Our woollen manufacturers are making fortunes. The introduction of Protection has notgiven the results we hoped for in the manufacture of our wool here instead of itsexport in the raw state. I shall deal later at some length with this aspect of the Tariff.

I say that it is ourduty as public men in Australia to break down the prejudice against Australian-manufactured goods. In this wonderfully productive country, with a versatile and clever people, there is practicallynothing that we cannot produce as well as it can be produced in any other part of the world. It is an acknowledged fact that our great volunteer Army was the best-equipped army engaged in the war. In Australia, we not only turned out in our own Federal factory the bestclothing I have ever seen, and that in great variety, but our harness, boots, andmilitary equipment generally were acknowledged to be second to none. There is still, however, existingsome of the old prejudice against things Australian as there is against Australianbred stud stock. You have only to put the magic word "imported" after the name of a billygoatand he will bring more money at public auction than if that magic word is not printed after his name. It isthe same with practically everything elsebred in Australia. An imported cat will bring more than acat. bred in Australia, because there is amongst some people the foolish idea that anything imported must he better than anything we can produce here. As a matter of fact, in the great majorityof cases we produce in this country articles quiteas good as those which are imported. We have some artificial protection, whichmust tend to an unnecessarily iigh costof living. I believe in protecting necessary andyoung industries, but I do not believe in increasingthe cost of commodities sby (making them artificially dear, asunnecessarily high Customs duties must do.

I am glad to see that in the schedule to this Bill preference is givento the MotherCountry, althoughwe have not had a similar preferencedn return. Iam strongly in favour of Imperialpreference, but I have a grievance against Great Britain becauseof her treatment ofAustralian products during thewax, saidat the present time.Throughoutthe war, and to this date, the ImperialGovernment have beengiving a preference to Argentine as against Australian meat. They have been taking the Argentine article first, and have been paying higher prices for it thanthey pay for Australian meat. I think it is very necessary in the interests ofAustraliathat we should vigorously protest againstthat, more particularly ata time when there is a glut of our raw products and we cannot obtain prices for them which will pay our producers. We should makea very strong protest through our able Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who, insteadof being hastily summoned back toattend to comparatively trivial affairs here, should be left, for the present, on the other side of the world, where he is doing magnificent work for the Commonwealth.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Perhaps the blame for what the honorable senator complains of is due not so much to the Imperial Government asto the official directors appointed by the Government.

SenatorGUTHRIE. - I am notsufficiently conversant with the details to say whether that is so or not, but I am concerned about the fact.

I emphasize the serious position of our producers in this country, who at present are called upon to dispose of wool, skins, hides, meat, tallow, and cereals, with the exception of wheat, at considerably under the cost of production.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - What cereals, except wheat,arebeing produced at a loss ?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) -Barley, maize, and. particularly oats. Whilst I as* '&- Pror teetipnist,,.!, claim that high; ancV indiscrimiuate, Prcteotipn- means highly cost of living, with its natural concomitant* high, wages.. Most of. us believe: in high wages;. but the increase in the. cost of living during recent years has been in greater- ratio: than has the increase' in wages: . I ' think that our Statistician, who so ably puts before us quarterly statements showing, amongst other things* the cost of living in Australia, should include in those statements the' cost* of clothing. Hitherto he has- dealt only with the cost of foodstuffs, plus rent. As clothing> enters so: largely 'into the cost of living, I suggest that in future statistics relatingHb' that item' should' be' included in hisj statements1.: Considering' the low price of our raw - commodities in Australia,the high cost of living to our people is"avscandal"'I speak for the man upon the land', 'who 'is being' very unfairly treated.' It is the producer upon whom thie people of the cities live. We are an exporting nation, and1 yet' we make the man ' upon* the land, who" iproduices practically the - whole ofour" wealth, pay through the nose for everything that he uses. Every one of his tools, of trade "is so . '.highly prbr {ecte.d thaV 'his- cost: of. pro'ductipn has been greatly increased. Yet" when he produces he has " to accept the world's parity ; for' his products. Pue e.pnsidefa7 fion should^, therefore,. be. gjLven to^uggesr tion's either to admit the tools of pro'duor tion for . miners, and farmers, free; or upon a., very much: lower scale of duties than,, is set. out in the schedule to this Bill.

We in Australia have been Protectionists for many. years; but we- have not made the progress that we-.ought to haye made. T,he fact that more than half our people are Hying in. a. few- cities, proves that there is something radically.^ wrpng. , In Victpria, 52 per- cent, of the total papulation pf, this rich . State,-, which, is comparatively closely \ settled, are tp be fimnd. iit brie pity-

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) -It. is pretty much the game in other parts, of the world,

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) -That is no. argument' in. its, favour-.. Probably- this cpuivtry. has been blessed with the. richest soilin the world* and certa-nl-y with the best climate. We have millions, of acres of rich-, land thai, ncbody-' will go- upon. Why ? . Because- the-, whole- of our past legislation' has i been in . favour+of the city dweller, He has been protected' in every way; He* en-joys., every ccmforfe- He has water arid1- electric /light' laid -on tp ' his dwelling, there! are' picture 'theatres* and race meetings' whicK he may attend, and there is, usually a doctor-and a chemist' in the 'street m which he1 lives. But if we go into, the country districts;- what do1 we find ?' "There we find people . WsP1 never see' fresh milk; fresh fruit, or ice, who haye!no eleetrje light; no 'picture;' theatres; no electric trains, and no doctors or chemists1 handy. Not long"* ago one lady in the country, remarked* to me; "My husband^ is c'arting water to-day a distance of 20 miles in the, Mallee, whilst the Women iq our cities have merely to turn a tap' iji.lorder t'o ge'tl ari. abundance of . water.'"- The truth is. th^t we have npf yet awakened to the ' fact that Australia is, empty. Unles.s we are going tp make it more profitable for peeple.-4p develop our continent, and' "mak$ the conditions, of the rural population more -comfortable, it will remain . empty! - - We- . . shall never ' become great' so "Ibngv-'^as'" we have people huddled , together -in- our cities. Over-protection and -past legisla;- ti'on, are largely responsible for &e

Senator Duncan - As a Victorian; the honorable - senator isi - preaching' rank heresy.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - I have sufficient courage to say exactly what' I" think. Our legislation has not been1 sympathetic enough to- our- out-back residents1.- People are being- driven" off the land to-day, and are being- crowded together- in 'Sydney and Melbourne: Instead of being en^ eouraged' to- occupy this dangerously eimpty -continent, the drift of population is -all to- out cities. In some' respects; this Tariff' wilr accentuate- that movement. Under its- operation- a number of industries' will be -built' up which could not live1 if only a reasonable measure 'of protection were' extended' to them. If people are1 to enjoy such good . times -in our cities, what inducement will there be for them to- go put into the country ? We have had, this drift to the cities*' even in seasons - pf prosperity -to- tie producer; vvhen, owing to the -war, our primary products were realizing high prices. But what is the outlook to-day ? There is a less area under cultivation in Australia than there was twenty years ago, there are. 30,000,000 less sheep than there were in 1896, there are . fewer cattle, and fewer horses. When, then, is . the position likely to be when everything we produce, such as wool, meat, and most of our primary products, is realizing' much less than its cost of production? Everything that the producer has to buy is dear onaccount of high Protection and high wages. Everything that he has to sell musk be sold at the world's parity, and, owing to the scandalously high freights which obtain, he is compelled to accept ridiculously low prices for his products. The price of Australian lamb in London to-day is1s.1d. per lb., but the price at which exporters are prepared to operate during the next few months is only 5½d. per lb. ; the difference being largely accounted for by excessively high freights.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Our ships might help to relieve that position.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - I am a strong supporter of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers, because they constitute the only means by which our producers will be' able to get a fair deal in the matter of the carriage of their produce. Twopence per lb. is being offered for mutton in Australia to-day, and 20s. per 100 pounds for beef. The latter, therefore, is commanding only 2.4d. per lb. I admit that our consumers are not getting cheap living.

Although wool and meat are being sold ata very low price, our people are still being charged high prices for both clothing and food. What will be the price of Australian meat in the world's market when the 5,000,000 carcasses of Australian lambs, which are just about to. be sent overseas, are available, goodness only knows. I doubt very much whether we shall have an export trade in meat during the coming year. I doubt whether the inland meat-freezing works, the establishment of which we encouraged in. Australia, will be able to build up a profitable trade during the next few years.

Senator Rowell - Does the honorable senator think that the statement published in the press, that beef was realizing only 4½d. per lb. in England, is true ?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - I do. Our beef is realizing only that figure in London.

Senator de Largie - If our exports in these commodities cease how shall we carry on?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - I do not know. We shall bebankrupt. I have all along impressed upon the Government the urgent need that exists for real economy.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is not the position really that we cannot sell, and, therefore, cannot buy?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - As we shall not be able to profitably sell, we shall have very little money with which to import, and, consequently, there must be an enormous shrinkage in our Customs revenue during the next two years. Whilst the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) was able to make his ledger balance during' the past twelve months he will not be able to make it balance during the next few years by millions of pounds, unless we indulge in very rigid retrenchment.

Upon some of the items of the Tariff the Protection afforded is sufficient, whilst upon other items it is too much.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - And in some instances it is too little.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Yes. Take the woollen industry by way of illustration. We have a high Protective Tariff against British goods. I admit that that Tariff was necessary at one time when we were engaged in building up our woollen industry, and when the wages paid in that industry in England were only about onefourth of those which we paid. here. But in Britain to-day the wages paid in the woollen industry are as high as those which we pay. In addition, the buyers of our wool have to pay nearly 2d. per lb. by way of freight on the raw wool. They have also to bear the cost of high wages, insurance, and loss of interest, and the operatives of their mills labour only the same number of hours as do our own. They have also to pay freight to Australia again, and a ridiculously high Protective duty upon the manufactured goods. But as against a country like Japan, where the operatives in the woollen mills work twelve hours daily for an average wage of 9s. per week, our Tariff is not nearly high enough. We shall require to be on the qui vive when the various items come under consideration if we wish to do what is fair.

Senator Russell - Is not a preference granted to Great Britain upon woollens as against France?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) -I am in favour of Imperial preference throughout, even though France, our late Ally, is severely handicapped at the present time by the rate of exchange. There are several items upon which I cannot understand why a high Protective duty has been levied. Take, for example, woollen goods. A little coterie or ring has made a fortune out of woollens, and with what result to the people of Australia? Although wool is so good; so plentiful, and so cheap, we have dear blankets, dear flannel, and dear clothing, when, as* a matter of fact, we should have the best and cheapest in the world. Then why is a heavy Tariff imposed upon motor chassis which are required by doctors and farmers in the country districts ? Upon motor bodies, which can be built in Australia as well as they can be anywhere else in the world, I do not care how high a duty is levied. I believe in high duties being imposed upon all luxuries such as jewellery, silks, furs, feathers, cigars, and wines. We have a country which can produce wine's equal to the best French wines. But we have never given the industry adequate protection. We are settling a number of returned soldiers in vineyards, and I would give them a very high protective duty. I should like to emphasize the fact that I am in favour of a very high Tariff upon all luxuries, but I do not believe in taxing the tools of trade that are required for production, especially farming and mining machinery. I am a Protectionist, so far as it is reasonable to go, for all infant industries and essential industries, but I am not in favour of Protection which is going to further accentuate centralization or unduly increase the cost of living, which inthis country is, at the present time, scandalously high.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN(Western

Australia) [5.36]. - I find myself in agreement with many things said by. a number of honorable senators during this interesting debate, but I have not found myself so much in agreement with any honorable senator who has spoken as with Senator Guthrie. The principles which he has enunciated are, broadly speaking, the principles which I hold. There are, however, some questions upon which he has not expressed opinions, and on those I hope the honorable senator will agree with mine. On Friday last I drew the Minister's attention to the question of the mandated Territories and other Pacific Possessions, and warned him that Iwould ask for information, so that he might be ready with it when he replied; as to our attitude towards them. Iunderstand that Papua has its own Tariff, which is imposed on imports from Australia and other countries, and that it is contemplated to establish a somewhat similar state of affairs in regard to the mandated Territories. I am not clear on these points, and hope the Minister (Senator Russell) will give full information as to what is proposed by the Government as regards . these islands of ours, and whether it can be effected under the Tariff we are now considering, or whether it must be done by a separate Bill. My idea is that we should not treat these islands as foreign countries, but that the Tariff wall which we are building round the Commonwealth should include within it all our mandated and other Territories in the Pacific.

Senator Duncan - That of course, would bring black labour into competition with Australia.

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