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Wednesday, 17 August 1921

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) . - I am very pleased to have this opportunity, to continue . my arguments in support of the request that I intend to submit for a moderate reduction in the duty on wire under the- British preferential Tariff. The- carrying' of* such- a requestwill show at least that we are endeavouring to avoid, the over-penalization of our primary producers. I should have moved* a request to reduce the* duty from 52s. to 30s. per ton but . for the fact that under sub-item- o we have already provided for a duty of -44s. per ton on the bar iron- from which I understand the fencing wire is produced; I want to tell' the Nationalist Ministry what I 'think, of their treatment of the primary producers. I regret- to say that I anr very disappointed' with them. The primary producers have been* singled out by them for- not merely classtaxation but persecution. So far as the Government are concerned, it is a case of * tax, tax, tax the man on the land, who, in addition to having to pay high ocean' and. railway freights, has* bad roads, no electricity, no . doctors, no chemists; no ice, and, in short, none of those luxuries which the city dweller has at band. . He has none of the luxuries or* comforts of those who work* in city factories, or the wealthy manufacturing class* who, by means of this Tariff; are being spoon-fed. The result is that people are flocking from the lands bf the country to our Even in Victoria, which is rightly regarded as the Garden* State of the Commonwealth, we have the awful anomaly of 52 per cent, of the total population living in* the city of Melbourne: In. view df' all this- taxation, how can-returned soldiers' and others whom we are settling* ifr the Mallee, be expected to grow wheat when innormal times the cost of productionexceeds the price obtainable for their produce? If we return to normal times and prices, the majority of them will go to the wall. These returned soldiers and others who are .developing their blocks have to buy fencing wire, the. price of which to-day is £32 per ton as compared with . the normal price of £10 per ton.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Because we . do not make it -here.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - We do, . and. the prices . of other. things required . by -them have increased in . the same, ratio.

Senator Elliott - What was the price of this wire before the war?

SenatorGUTHRIE.- £10 per ton. This Tariff is designed to spoon-feed ' the habitues of picture theatres, race-courses, and others who enjoy all the comforts of city life. The city dweller turns on a tap and the water runs; he can get a cool drink round the corner; he is supplied with electric light and electric fans. Compare his lot with that of the man in the back country. Go into the back blocks as I have done, and you will find men -and women living 40 miles away from a doctor, and having to cart water, and dirty water at that, a distance of 10 miles. They have 'no picture shows, no electric light, no electric fans, no doctors, no chemists at hand. This is the way in which the Government are encouraging the settlement of returned soldiers and others on the land. They are taking action by means of this excessive Protectionrunmad Tariff to attract people to our cities, so that we shall have our cities overflowing and the country undeveloped. The shipping combines, the manufacturers, -the shopkeepers, the theatre owners, and picture show proprietors can pass on any taxation which they have to pay. Thoy pass on to the -consumer all such duties as these, and so increase the cost of living. If the Tariff increases the cost of a piece of cloth, or anything else, to the city- manufacturer or warehouseman, he passes on the 'increased cost to the consumer. The primary producer, however, cannotpasson any of the taxation that he has to pay. We are an exporting nation living on the excess of our exports over our imports, and we have to take -the world's market- prices, less heavy rail and ocean freights for our pri maryproduce. The . Broken Hill Proprietary Company,- to which we are giving this enormous measure of protection, has ample supplies of coal and. iron within the country. Its British competitors; however, . have to-get their-iron ore. from Spain,: and have the dearest coal in. the world, to-day. -Wages in. Britain 'are just about- as. high as they . are here, and after the British manufacturers have importied their , iron from Spain, and paid the highest price for coal,- they . have to.:send their manufactured article a distance of 12,000 miles- to Australia. . Another result of* this high protective -wall is that . "we will have practically no imports. Ships -have consequently to come out here practically in ballast, in order to take away our wool, wheat, meat, 'butter, and other primary products to "the other side of the world, where, by means of such exports, we have to establish our credits. The . consequence is that we have to pay practically double freights. I want honorable senators to realize that the legislation of ' this country is going in . a direction that is calculated to make the lot of the man" on . the land not only unprofitable, but unbearable. No one who has travelled in the back country of any of the States 'will refute that statement. Mr. . Knibbs shows all too clearly in his official statistics 'the terrible drift of population to our cities. For that I blame the Governments, past and present. The primary producer cannot pass on these increased charges. He has to compete with the wool, wheat, meat, and butter producers of other parts of lie world in the world's markets, and has- to pay every farthing of these charges. On the other hand, if, by reason of the Tariff or increased wages the manufacturer of, say, iron has his costs of production increased by £2 per ton, those who buy 'his commodity have to pay the increased costs. Whether it is a ton of iron, : a hairpin, or a pin, that is purchased, the increased cost involved in its production by reason of the Tariff . or increased wages has to be borne by the purchaser. And so with the amusement tax. We all know that it is added to the charges for admission to the theatres and picture shows. A high "Tariff means higher prices for everything the people have to buy. It accentuates the difficulties of the very people who, after. all, are producing the greater part of the wealth of the country. As I pointed out this morning, out of the total wealth produced in Australia in 1919-20, £223,500,000 came from the land. I am afraid we shall not have that return, or anything like it, again, because the prices of all our primary products have slumped, on the average, to the extent of nearly 60 per cent. On the other hand, the much-lauded manufacturers of Australia produced only £75,000,000 of the wealth of the country in the year I have, named. I wish them nothing but good luck if they can carry on under a reasonable Tariff, and do not take down the consumers. The collapse in the values of wool, skins, and meat, concurrently with the primary producers' increased cost of living, the additional cost of the machinery they have to use, and the increased rates and taxes they have to bear, make the outlook a very bad one for them. A collapse will not come about this year; we may have a very big harvest of wheat, and be able to sell at reasonably high prices this year, but within the next two or three years honorable senators will certainly regret this increased taxation and no doubt quite unintentional persecution of the man on the land.

Senator Russell - I think the honorable senator ought to drop the use of the word " persecution." He has repeated it several times.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - If I repeat it often enough, I may get it into the honor- able senator's head that this Tariff means the persecution of the man on the land, and he may realize, before it is too late, the extent to which the primary producers are being penalized. What hours does the farmer work as compared with the people in our cities, who flock to our racecourses, picture shows, and theatres? What hours does his wife work, without any domestic help? I invite honorable senators to visit back-country districts. If they do, and have any sympathy in their hearts, they will be sorry for many of the people there.

Senator Russell - When did the honorable senator see me at a picture show?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - I do not want to be personal, but I believe that the honorable senator is guilty of attending a race meeting now and again.

Senator Russell - Is there any harm in that?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - No; I also- go to race meetings.

Senator Russell - I have not been to a picture show for two years.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - I was merely pointing out that the man on the land has to work far longer hours than the coddled people in our cities, who do not know what labour is involved in the production of wheat or butter. A dairy farmer does not even have a Sunday off. A lot of the industries which the Government are , building up by means of this Tariff are tin-pot hot-house industries. We are told that this industry wants high protection, whereas those engaged in it have cheap coal, cheap iron, and comparatively cheap labour. There is no better -labourer in any industry than is the Australian. In 1918-19, according to the CommonwealthYear-Book, the average wage per head of the employees of the manufacturing industries of Australia was £129 18s., or 17 per cent, of the cost of the manufactured article. The wages paid by the primary producers are much higher than that.

Senator Vardon - The average of £129 18s. per head includes the wages of females ?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Yes ; but that is the average wage paid to those employed in the manufacturing industries of Australia, whereas the wages of those employed by the man on the farm or the station are probably double, if we take into consideration the fact that farm and station employees are both housed and fed. I cannot help rubbing in these facts, because I am dead against this excessive protection, which must increase the cost of living, penalize the' primary producer, and, at the same time, over-fatten those who are already too fat: - some of the pampered manufacturing class. I know that the Minister is not pleased with what I have said, but I believe he is fair, and I hope he will agree to the request that I intend to move at the proper time, that the duty under the British preferential Tariff be reduced from 52s. to 44s. per ton. .

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