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Wednesday, 31 August 1921

Senator VARDON (South Australia) . - I am exceedingly sorry that the Minister (Senator Millen) has not seen fit to adhere to the duty as passed by another place. My experience, extending over a good many years, teaches me that British newsprint is the best in the world, and that the British manufacturers are the most satisfactory to deal with.

Senator Wilson - Are we not treating them as such ?

Senator VARDON - In a sense we are.I urge the Committee to adhere to the present duty only because I desire that England shall regain her paper trade. During the war her paper mills were diverted to war purposes. The troops were supplied with food packed in paper containers; the first gas masks were made from paper, and practically every shell fired in France had a paper core. The waders and waterproof clothing for that awful first winter on the Somme were also made of paper. After 1916 our supplies of paper from England practically ceased. We were then at the mercy of foreign manufacturers, and any one who has purchased paper knows how we were treated by them. It may be interesting to honorable senators to learn that the manufacture of paper from wood is a comparatively recent discovery. As a matter of fact, the first patent was taken out in 1873. Prior to that time paper was made from rags, and its price was1s. per lb. The first paper made from wood to be placed on the market was sold at exactly half that price, namely, 6d. per lb., and its advent practically revolutionized the paper trade.

The paper manufacturers at that time, despite the fact that they were using crude machinery, were able to supply newsprint at 6d. per lb., and yet during 1919 and 1920 - practically ' forty years later - Australian users of newsprint had to pay something like1s. per lb. for it. ft is shown conclusively by those who have investigated the matter that the cost of manufacturing newsprint in Canada at that time was about 3½ cents, or1¾d. per lb. Mr. Lovekin, proprietor of the Perth Daily News, recently stated publicly that while in Canada as a delegate to the Empire Press Conference, he visited the paper-making districts, and was informed that the price of newsprint f.o.b. mills was 3½ cents per lb. -

He asked for paper, and the reply was that the mills did not supply any now, but that the selling was given to another company and that the price would be a little more. He was informed that when he went to the Canadian Export Company, which was the selling company, the price would be 5½ cents. He asked who the Canadian Export Company was, and he was assured that it was the millowners under another name. In the course of conversation he discovered that 3½ cents was a big price at the mills, and they could not ask more, because the mill employees would come out for higher rates, and the taxation would be heavy. Therefore, they floated the Canadian Export Company. On inquiry he found that the selling price was 6½ cents; but he was told that they could not sell for Australia, and that he would have to go to the Packing Company for that. He found that the Packing Company was the same people under still another name. . . He was also told that the price for export to Australia was 13½ cents.

The price for export to Australia was 13½ cents per lb., and to that the duty and various charges had to be added, whereas the actual cost of manufacture at the mills was only 3½ dents per lb. Why are we asked to give any special preferenoe to companies which have treated us in this way?

Senator Duncan - Which have fleeced us.

Senator VARDON - Yes. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) said in another place that these people had bled " Australia white.

Senator Buzacott - Who were they?

SenatorVARDON. - The Canadian companies, who were really controlled from the United States of America.

Senator Wilson - The price of practically everything went uppro rata during the war.

Senator VARDON - I do not think that the prices of other commodities went up in anything like the same proportion. Before the war we were paying l£d. or l|d. per lb. for newsprint, whereas in 1919 and i920, as I have said, we were paying practically ls. per lb. for it. There was no reason whatever for that great advance except that some one was making inordinate profits at our expense. I desire, if possible, to retain this preference for Great Britain so that it may get back this trade. I am. assured that we shall obtain large supplies of newsprint from England. It has been said that she is not in a position to supply her own requirements and those of Australia. My information is that she is able to do so. Earlier in my speech I referred to the crude machines employed in the manufacture of paper forty years ago. 'Practically all the paper-making machines in Canada and the United States of America come from Great Britain. Just recently there has been set up in Canada a British machine which makes newsprint 216 inches wide at the rate of 1,000 feet per minute, or 11-J miles of paper, 6 yards wide, an hour. That is done with British machinery. It .has also been, said that Great Britain is at a disadvantage in that she has to obtain from foreign countries the pulp required for the manufacture of newsprint. It is true that she imports her pulp, but she has interests in Scandinavia and also in Canada. For every ton of pulp made 2 tons of coal have to be used, and Scandinavia has to import her coal from Great Britain. "What is more, both Canada and Scandinavia have to import from Great Britain the china clay used in the manufacture of newsprint. The finest deposit is in Cornwall, and nearly 15 per cent, of newsprint consists of china clay.

Senator Duncan - So that Great Britain, after all, is not in too bad a position.

Senator VARDON - That is so. I have it that England is in a position to supply her own requirements and those of Australia. Here is a cablegram from the Lloyds Imperial Empire and Marsden Group, which undertakes to supply for five years at least 50,000 tons, and states that it is in a position to supply us with 100,000 tons a year if required.

Senator Wilson - Does the honorable senator know anything about a 7,000-t.on order which that group was unable quite recently to execute?

Senator VARDON - I have heard the statement, but have not had any evidence in support of it. It was suggested that such evidence would be forthcoming, but it has not been produced. The British. Paper Maher of 21st April, 1921, stated that of 50,000 employees in the paper trade at the end of February 26,000 were without employment, and 16,000 were working only half time. It is beyond doubt that" England is in a position to supply our requirements, and we know that we can expect a fair deal from the Old Country.

Senator Wilson - What is the honorable senator's objection to the request, seeing that it is not proposed to alter the provision that imports under the British preferential Tariff shall be free?

Senator VARDON - My desire is that they shall be free, but I want to give the Old Country a substantial preference.

Senator Wilson - A preference of £2 per ton is a substantial- one.-

Senator VARDON - I favour the more substantial one of £3 per ton. Not unnaturally, fierce competition is expected from the United States of America and Scandinavia. Japan, also, is in the market with newsprint to-day, and I do not know what sort of competition we can expect from her.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - The employees in the mills there work long hours.

Senator VARDON - And receive very low wages. I have here a copy of the London Times Trade Supplement, special Japanese Industrial Section, of 16th April, 1921, in which the following statement appears : -

The prices accepted by Japanese mills for orders coming from overseas are below those charged for orders placed to meet domestic requirements, which means that Japanese consumers of paper are made to contribute part of the cost of the article supplied to the foreign buyer.

Senator Elliott - That means dumping.

Senator VARDON - Quite so. I ask the Committee to consider this matter very carefully.- If I were to consider my own interests, I should say reduce the duty to £2 per ton, because I am a user of newsprint; but I am prepared to grant this preference of £3 per ton to Great Britain, and I hope it will remain.

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