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Friday, 21 May 1926

Senator GUTHRIE (Victoria) . - I support the bill, and I stand behind the Government in their general policy of effective protection. I congratulate Senator Needham upon the speech that he has just made. The first portion admirably expounded the policy of protection for the benefit . of his party in Victoria, and the latter portion exhibited a freetrade tendency for the benefit of his constituents in Western Australia. Being an old campaigner, the honorable senator knows every trick in the trade. He has made the assertion that Australian factories are badly equipped and inefficient. The contrary is the case. Our factories have been established for a comparatively short while, and they have had the advantage of being equipped with machinery that is the result of long years of experience in the older countries of the world. I know many factories in Melbourne, and elsewhere, that are equipped with the most up-to-date machinery it is possible to procure, and they are undoubtedly managed in the most efficient way. Our workmen are well paid and excellently treated. They are as efficient as the workmen of any other country - possibly they are more efficient. Under the protectionist policy of the Government, our workmen enjoy the highest standard of living that is to be found in any country, and their wages probably have a higher effective value. The Factories Act, which was passed by a Liberal Government in Victoria, ensured to employees in factories, not only decent hours of work and high wages, but also a sufficient quantity of air space and light, and, in short, comfortable working conditions. Senator Needham said that we ought to be able to manufacture sufficient to enable us to export. That honorable senator is to-day advocating a 44-hour working week. At the next election I presume that the number will be reduced to 40 hours; and eventually a week of 30 hours, to be worked in five days, will be advocated. Notwithstanding the protection that is afforded to industry by the Customs tariff, we could not possibly compete, even in our home market, if the men worked only 30 hours a week. I believe that we should encourage both the primary, and secondary industries. I am a protectionist, because I wish to build up the secondary industries to enable them to provide a greater amount of employment. Our principal requirement to-day is increased population. Senator Needham appeared to think that the Government's policy of protection was not effective. He said that our progress had not been sufficiently great. I have looked up the latest returns of the Commonwealth Statistician. I pay a tribute to the efficiency of that gentleman and his staff. I consider that our statistics are second to none in the world; they are most comprehensive and correct. The protection afforded by this Government has been so effective that the value of the factories in Australia increased from £39,000,000 in 1914, to £82,000,000 in 1923-4, whilst the value of the output of those factories increased from £166,450,508 to £348,577,583 in the same period. Those figures prove that the nation is making very rapid progressunder this Government. It must be remembered that the war occurred during that ten-year period, and that industries were more or less at a standstill, because our man power was engaged in assisting to win the war.

Senator McLachlan - Does the honorable senator not think there is a risk of over-production in Australia?

Senator GUTHRIE - Yes, in some commodities, because we have not a sufficiently large population. Our greatestneed is increased population. Although T am a protectionist I maintain that it is possible to impose too high a duty. These questions must be regarded sanely. High protection increases the cost of living ; but we must have effective protection to enable our factories to compete with those that are established in low-wage countries. I. think the most effective way of assisting our factories and our country is to be loyal - enthusiastically loyal - to the products of the soil and the factories of Australia. It is a more effective means of giving assistance than is the imposition of a high protective tariff. Let our people show faith in their own country by buying and using the goods it produces. I am surprised that some honorable senators opposite are so lacking in enthusiasm for the products of Australia that they do not even wear and use completely those products. Even at the present moment some of them have foreign-made matches in their pockets.

Senator Graham - I will produce my matches against the honorable senator's.

Senator GUTHRIE - I am pleased that I have at last been able to induce the honorable senator to support an Australian industry.

Senator Graham - Everything that I wear is Australian-made, but I am doubtful about what the honorable senator wears.

Senator GUTHRIE - Everything I wear and use is made in Australia. I was the first member of the Commonwealth Parliament to adopt the policy of wearing a complete outfit of Australian-made garments. Not only do I wear allAustralian goods from my boots upwards, but my crutches and crutch-ends and even my gloves were made in Australia. I find that one can get the best of articles made in Australia even down to the detail of gloves, if one cares to wear them in cold weather. Unfortunately, there is a stupid prejudice against Australian products.

It has been in existence for years, and is still in evidence. I have met people who are even prejudiced against the magnificent raisins and sultanas produced at Mildura, and try to argue that dried fruits imported from the Mediterranean have a better flavour than the Australian. Under efficient management, by the use of the latest machinery, and by the employment of efficient workers clothing can be made in Australia equal to anything made elsewhere in the world.

Senator Ogden - Not quite.

Senator GUTHRIE - I think it can be. Whether it be underclothing made by the Lincoln Mills at Coburg, tweeds and serges turned out by the returned soldiers at Geelong and elsewhere, shirts and collars made by the Pelaco people and others, or matches produced by Bryant and May at Richmond, the Australian-made article is as good as the imported. Yet in the Senate club-room a little while ago, when I asked for matches, I regret to say I was handed foreign matches. The other day in a well-known hotel I asked for tomato sauce, and, to my annoyance, was handed a bottle branded " Heinz, Pittsburg, U.S.A." We know that the sauces made in Australia are superior to imported sauces because the Australian Pure Foods Acts are very much stricter than are those of America, or elsewhere. There is really no necessity to import tomato sauce artificially coloured in a fashion not permitted in Australia. There is no need for the people of Australia to import goods like this if they would only be sufficiently enthusiastic to buy the products of their own factories. Why should we be using Japanese, Chinese, Swedish, or Polish matches as we are now doing to an alarming extent?

Senator Thompson - The matches we import are mostly Swedish.

Senator GUTHRIE - Our exports to Sweden are practically nil. I am sure that the people of Australia have only to be asked to use Australian-made matches for them to do so. These matches are made under Australian conditions of labour, which are good. The people engaged in the factories are paid higher wages than are paid in countries like Japan, China, or Sweden, from which we import matches, and they work shorter hours and enjoy better conditions than are worked or obtainable anywhere else in the world. I was' .surprised in looking up the statistics the other day to learn that for the year ending 28th February last Australia imported matches valued at £258,645 - over a quarter of million pounds which should have been spent in Australia.

Senator Graham - I am sure those matches were not used by us Australians.

Senator GUTHRIE - They were. Unfortunately, our people are sometimes thoughtless. During the election campaign when I was being heckled and unfairly treated I often challenged the audience to be as enthusiastic for Australianmade goods as I was. When a claim was made that the supporters of the Government were anti-Australian I issued the challenge that I would give £50 to a local hospital if more than 50 per cent, of the men who were heckling me had not foreign matches in their pockets at the time. That challenge was accepted at one place, and when the matches were brought forward it was seen that about 15 per cent. of the men who were calling me an anti-Australian were carrying foreign matches in their pockets. Similarly, I am sure that at least 50 per cent, of honorable senators opposite have foreign-made matches in their pockets.

Senator Graham - What about honorable senators on your own. side?

Senator GUTHRIE - I think they will bc equally guilty, but not intentionally, and only through that thoughtlessness which has led to over a quarter of a million pounds sterling, for matches alone, going annually to foreign countries.

Senator McLachlan - I wonder if there is any proposal in this Tariff to increase the duty on matches.

Senator GUTHRIE - There is no such proposal in this tariff. When merchants have sent me foreign-made matches, I have returned them, and have asked whether they supplied foreign-made matches because they made more money by selling them. They told me that such was not the case. Some said that the imported box contained more matches than the Australian box, but when I took the trouble to count them, that was not the case. The Australian-made matches are as good as those made anywhere else. I am pleased to see that the Government has increased the duty on certain woollen goods. In 1991, when increased duties were proposed for woollen goods, I opposed the proposal because, at that time a commission had shown that, over the period of the war, the woollen manufacturers of Australia had averaged a net profit of 33 per cent. As they had had such a good time, I did not think .the Government was justified in increasing the duty because, at that moment, owing to the war, wages in England and other countries producing woollen goods were practically as high as those payable in Australia. Since then, however, conditions have entirely changed. In other woollen manufacturing countries, the hours of work are much longer, and the rates of pay much loss than they are in Australia. As a result of the increased duties on woollen .goods, the woollen industry has gone ahead very well in Australia. In tern years the number of woollen mills has increased from 22 to 47. In 1913, the year prior to the war, the value of our output of manufactured woollen goods from 22 mills was £925,602, the amount of wages paid was £231,018, and the number of employees engaged was 3,090, earning an average wage of 29s. a week. There is a good deal of female labour engaged in this industry. In 1922-3, from 40 mills the output was valued at £4,712,96-1-, the wages paid had increased to £991,801, the number of employees had increased from 3,090 to 6,928, and the average weekly wage had increased to 55s. The last figures available show that, in 1923-4, the number of mills had increased to 47, and the number of employees to 7,532. Senator Grant was a little facetious in hia remark that Victoria was a down and out State, which was being far outstripped by New South Wales, but of the 47 woollen factories, the vast majority are located in Victoria, which is probably due to the fact that, while the colony of New South Wales was pursuing a policy of freetrade, Victoria, under a policy of protection, had already established the woollen industry. All of the Australian factories are now busy. They had a very bad spin for a year or two, but the recent tariff increases have proved very effective, a»d every mill, with the exception of one at Stawell, is doing fairly well. Under the Victorian Wages Board system, the 'hours of labour in Victoria are 4'5. In addition to woollen mills, we Lave clothing factories giving employment to 28,148 hands. This number is exclusive of dressmaking and millinery factories. Although the tariff has been scientifically and carefully drawn after careful investigation by the Tariff Board, and although it will be effective in keeping the mills going full steam ahead, and providing openings for fresh mills, it is an anomaly that we are still sending abroad large sums of money for woollen goods.

Senator Ogden - Does the honorable senator think that the manufacturers will be satisfied with the present duties?

Senator GUTHRIE - A few moments ago, Senator McLachlan asked if there was a fear of over production. We have a long way to go in Australia in the wool manufacturing industry before there is any fear of over production. It may not be easy to manufacture certain fancy lines here on account of our small population, but all the ordinary line3 required by man, if not by woman, can be made in Australia. We produce the greatest quantity, and the greatest variety, of wool of any continent in the world, and while our factories have the first choice - the chance of acquiring it at their doors - we have the anomaly that, during last year, we imported £4,220,000 worth of woollen goods. I maintain that we should manufacture the whole of our requirements, but I would not go as far as Senator Needham, who would have us manufacture the whole of our wool in Australia, and export it inmanufactured form. It would not be practicable to do so. For one thing, our hours of labour are shorter, and our wages are higher than those paid in other countries. In any case, we have not enough people in Australia to manufacture all the wool we produce, even if all were working at that, and doing nothing else. We lead the world in the number of our flocks, and in the output and quality of our wool. For the year ending 30th June this year, Ave shall produce a record clip, the biggest, I am glad to say, Australia has ever produced. It will amount to 2,250,000 bales.

Senator McLachlan - And off depleted flocks.

Senator GUTHRIE - Yes. Off depleted flocks, thanks to the efficiency of our flock masters, we shall have a bigger clip. But it would be quite impossible to manufacture all that wool in Australia. There may be some lines in which- we could compete with the rest of the world. I was delighted the other day to learn at the Warrnambool mills that, by specializing on blankets, they could turn out so superior an article that they could sell numbers of them to wealthy people in America, the East, and Canada. I am also pleased to learn that during the last year Australia has worked up a trade, mostly with Canada and Japan, in wooltops. Thus the first process in the manufacture of the woollen goods takes place in Australia. I am a believer in Australian goods for the Australians. Everything we eat, use, and wear, should, as far as possible, be produced in this country. To bring about this result, we do not require a highly protective tariff so much as enthusiastic support for the goods of our own country. As an advocate of trade within the Empire, I have always supported the preference that Australia gives to the Mother Country. Last year, that preference was worth £8,500,000 to Great Britain, and evidently it has had a good effect. I notice that, for the three years immediately prior to the introduction of the last tariff, the value of our imports from Great Britain was £95,000,000, whereas for the three succeeding years it increased to £198,000,000, an increase of over £100,000,000. Such commodities as Australia needs to import should be obtained from, the Mother Country rather than from Germany and other foreign countries, from which we purchased far too much prior to the war. Australia is now Great Britain's second-best customer, and Britain is by far the largest purchaser of our products. Britain takes the largest portion of our wheat, wool, butter, meat, and fruit; but I do not think she has reciprocated quite to the extent she might have done. I have been disappointed at times to notice contracts for meat placed by the British Army and Navy authorities with the Argentine. While we give Great Britain a definite preference, she has not always extended similar benefits to Australia.

Senator McLachlan - Chilled meat is obtained from the Argentine.

Senator GUTHRIE - Quite so. I was referring more particularly to contracts for tinned and potted meats. I realize that the Argentine can beat Australia with beef, because she has enormous fields of alfalfa, and her proximity to the European markets enables her to send beef there in a chilled state. I believe that a trial consignment of chilled beef has been exported from Australia, and I sincerely hope that the experiment will prove successful. While the Argentine chilled beef is superior to Australian frozen beef, our mutton and lamb are by no means inferior. It is gratifying to learn that recently contracts have been secured for the supply of tinned meats to the British Army and Navy from Australia and New Zealand. Preference should be given to British shipping. Although the British shipping companies do not pay wages as high as those obtaining in Australia, they give seamen £9 a month, which is double the wage received by the men on many of the foreign vessels trading to Australia - nearly three times as much as Japanese seamen receive, and nearly double the wage of Scandinavian seamen. I find that, owing to the low wages paid to their seamen, the foreign companies are lifting the bulk of Australia's wool and other produce, and they have been doing so for the last year or so.

Senator Needham - What a terrible waste, to pay men who serve the Empire £9 a month!

Senator GUTHRIE - I am not contending that the wage is too high. I should like to see double that amount paid, if possible; but how can we compete with other nations that are paying their seamen only £3 or £4 a month? The rate on French steamers trading to Australia is only £4 10s. a month.

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