Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 7 March 1928

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) . - I should not have taken part in this discussion but for the extraordinary statements made by Senator Ogden, who has just resumed his seat. He began by declaring himself to be a scientific protectionist. What does he mean? To me the term is rather ambiguous.

Senator Ogden - What is the attitude of the honorable senator's leader in this chamber?

Senator FINDLEY - My Leader (Senator Needham) has told honorable senators where he stands in respect of tariff duties and also what is the attitude of every member of the Labour party in this chamber. Senator Ogden at one time was a member of the Labour party and subscribed to its platform.

Senator Ogden - It was a platform worth subscribing to in those days.

Senator FINDLEY - The platform of the Labour party has always been worthy of the support of every man who believes in the principles of Labour, who believes in human progress, and who wishes to do something for the advancement and devolpment of Australia.

Senator Thompson - Have members of the Labour party a monopoly of those virtues ?

Senator FINDLEY - Senator Ogden would have us believe that he is a scientific protectionist. With many other little Australians he is an advocate of the highest possible duties in respect of industries established in his - own State, but is not so keen about protection for industries in other States. He is a fiscal Cyclops - a one-eyed protectionist. If protection is good for Tasmanian industries, surely it is equally good for industries established elsewhere in the Commonwealth. Let me remind the honorable senator that an industry which, speaking figuratively, is a small one to-day, may be giving employment to-morrow to large numbers of men and women. Under the influence of protection, and in spite of the attitude of men like Senator Ogden of today, many industries have been established in the various States of the Commonwealth. Protection which fails to protect, is not protection in the true sense of the word. I believe in a high form of protection. I am Australian from head to heel. I wish to see Australia a self-contained nation. Therefore I am prepared to do all I can to encourage Australian industries. I firmly believe that under a system of protection it is possible to produce in Australia everything required for the needs of our people. To some the value of protection is to be measured by the ability of the industry to which it applies to compete with rivals overseas. It is true that in certain industries we cannot at present compete with manufacturers overseas.

Senator Ogden - And will never be able to do so.

Senator FINDLEY - Never is a long time. The man who claims to be able to foretell the future is an optimist. Because of our higher standard of living, and improved conditions of labour, we are not able to compete with overseas manufacturers in certain industries; but it must not be forgotten that we are building up industries under conditions dissimilar from, those obtaining in many other countries.

Senator Ogdensays that Labour supports the policy of protection because it means more industries and more workers in the main centres of population, and, consequently, a bigger vote for Labour. What a narrow and restricted vision the honorable senator must have. Surely he knows that the majority of the people have declared emphatically in favour of this policy. In any case, his argument presup.poses the existence of a large number of unemployed in our rural areas before the imposition of tariff duties which have been responsible for the establishment of manufacturing industries in our cities, and since our secondary industries have provided work for unemployed rural workers, it is clear that they have improved their position under protection.

Senator Ogden - How does the honorable senator account for the large number of unemployed to-day?

Senator FINDLEY - I shall endeavour to explain what I believe to be the main causes of unemployment, not only in Australia, but throughout the world. I do not claim that protection is a panacea for all the ills that flesh is heir, but I believe it is an immeasurably better fiscal system than freetrade. There are no logical freetraders in this chamber, or in another place now.

Senator Duncan - Senator Grant is a freetrader.

Senator FINDLEY - Senator Grantis as logical a freetrader as it is possible for a man to be. The logical freetrader is opposed entirely to the raising of revenue through the Customs House. He believes in absolute freetrade, and in raising by means of a tax on land values all the revenue necessary for the government of a country. A number of honorable senators supporting the Government claim to be revenue tariffists; they are neither flesh, fowl, nor good red herring.

And now as to the cause of unemployment. For every effect there is a cause. Unemployment is not peculiar to Australia; it is as farflung as the world itself. Every observant man knows that in both victorious and vanquished countries today there are many hundreds of thousands df men and women, youths and girls, out of work. What is the principal cause of that unemployment? It is the result of the world war and its aftermath. Europe is more or less in a chaotic state financially, commercially, and industrially. Prior to the war Europe was a potential customer of Great Britain; but the curtailment of her credit by a peace treaty rendered her unable to purchase in quantities equal to those that she purchased before the war. For her own protection Germany resorted to the printing press; but the more paper marks she printed the more depreciated became her currency. Behind that currency, however, she had goods which are now being supplied to her victors by way of indemnity. The consequence is that Great Britain has a large army of unemployed workers and is unable to do much trade with Europe.

We depend for a substantial measure of our prosperity upon the exportable surplus of the goods that we produce. So long as good markets and high prices prevail for our primary products, of which we export large quantities, Australia will be all right. I admit that the nature of the season influences the position slightly.; but I also contend that the markets which we now have are not as profitable to us as those which we had before the war. Despite the assertions of Senator Ogden and others, if it were not for bounties and other forms of financial assistance which primary industries receive, the ' position of many a man on the land would be different from what it is to-day. Assistance to primary industries, in the form of either bounties or customs duties, is protection. Throughout the world there is financial stringency. "When the rest of the world is more or less embarrassed financially, Australia must feel the effect. Meanwhile, we must do all that is possible to further the progress of Australia and to open up additional avenues of employment for our workers.

Senator Ogden - Tariffs will not do it.

Senator FINDLEY - Tariffs have done and are doing it. If the iron and steel industry in New South Wales, which employs thousands of men, received that measure of protection to which I think it is justly entitled, it would be in a position to supply the whole of Australia's requirements in steel rails and other goods which to-day are imported.

Senator Duncan - Does the honorable senator say that all the steel rails which Australia requires to-day are imported?

Senator FINDLEY - The statement was made not long ago that unless the industry was given the protection for which it asked, the importations would have a very serious effect upon it and in all probability it would have to close down.

Senator Ogden - What, in the opinion of the honorable senator, is effective protection ?

Senator FINDLEY - I do not consider any duty effective that does not adequately protect an industry.

Senator Ogden - That industry is now protected to the extent of nearly 100 per cent.

Senator FINDLEY - I am prepared, if necessary, to make the duty 200 per cent, or as high as the Government is willing to go. I believe that protection is a good thing and that we cannot have too much of it. It has been said " If you increase the duty to 200 per cent., you will stop importations." That is true to a very large extent. But what would happen? Those who now send goods to Australia would establish their industries here. That has been and is being done to-day; the high duties which were imposed for the purpose of stopping importations led to oversea manufacturers setting up in business in different parts of Australia. Is there any reason why we should import -woollen goods?

Senator Ogden - The honorable senator and others who think with him are always asking for higher duties.

Senator FINDLEY - That is true. If the woollen industry is such a profit making one, we shall have manufacturers from oversea coming out here and setting up in opposition to those who are already established. Is there any reason why the fullest measure of protection should be withheld from the timber industry ? I ask Senator Ogden, as a scientific protectionist, whether he believes that that industry should be adequately protected.

Senator Ogden - Yes.

Senator FINDLEY - The honorable senator comes from Tasmania, which is deeply interested in the timber industry. Australian timbers are the finest in the world; the furniture trade, which specialises in the use of high-class timbers, will supply evidence of that. Millions of feet of our best quality timbers have been ruthlessly destroyed in past years. Why do we want the highest degree of protection for the industry? In the first place, because it is a natural industry which is capable of development; and secondly, because it would, if developed, provide employment for thousands of men. To-day it is in a struggling condition. Mill after mill has had to be closed down. There is to-day, in some quarters, a prejudice against certain Australian timbers, and for this, members - of the " Get rich quick Wallingford " brigade are largely responsible. During the war and subsequent to the termination of that conflict, there was an acute shortage of houses, and a building boom was experienced. I built my house, with an unfortunate effect upon my pocket, during that boom period. If one were civil one could get a few bricks, and a little timber and cement. The demand was so great that almost any kind of timber could be sold, not every day, but at different times. Some of it was more or less sap wood, too green to burn. The parasites have a great liking for sap wood. The borer, a diligent worker, who apparently works night and day, caused millions of pounds worth of damage. That will always be the result when timber is not; properly seasoned. Australian hardwoods and other timbers have been seriously handicapped by imports.

Senator Ogden - Are there any imported timbers in the honorable senator's house ?

Senator FINDLEY - There is very little. It was difficult, at one time, to obtain supplies of either imported or Australian timber as required. Better methods are now being employed in the seasoning of our timbers. The boom period having passed, it may be possible to obtain a higher class of timber from the mill; and if those who are engaged in the industry succeed in obtaining the protection which they are seeking, they will no doubt be able to satisfy the demands of the Australian public.

There are other items to which I might refer, but I shall refrain from doing so at this stage. I merely wished to make my position clear. The proposed duties are high, but they do not alarm me in the least. No matter how high they may be, I shall always vote for duties which will stimulate industries in Australia.

Senator Ogden - The honorable senator is not a scientific protectionist.

Senator FINDLEY - I am not a scientific protectionist in regard to timber and a revenue tariffist in regard to other industries. I am essentially Australian in my attitude towards protection. Apparently Senator Ogden regards protection mainly from the Tasmanian viewpoint. Although that is an important State, he must not overlook the fact that there are other States in the federation. I believe that, before many years have passed, a number of big industries will be established in Tasmania. One which gives every promise of materialising in the not far distant future will probably be one of the biggest that has so far been established in Australia, and our fiscal policy will have been largely responsible for it. I refer to the paper pulp industry.

Senator Ogden - They are not guaranteed a duty; they are starting without one.

Senator FINDLEY - Those who are interested in that proposition would not have gone to the trouble and expense of purchasing at the Wembley Exhibition a paper pulp machine for the making of paper at the rate of a ton a day ; and they would not have had it erected, or engaged experts and scientific men to advise them, if they had not felt certain of obtaining that measure of protection to which every industry is entitled if it is shown to be a commercial proposition.

Senator Ogden - They took the chance.

Senator FINDLEY - Those who engage in industry in Australia to-day take little or no chance. The majority of the people of Australia favour a policy of protection.

Senator Needhamsaid that at one time the only question which was seriously discussed in Australia was whether our fiscal policy should be one of freetrade or protection. While I cannot go quite so far as that, it is true that no question has aroused more public interest or caused more bitterness and enmity than Australia's fiscal policy. I have seen the Melbourne Town Hall crowded to the doors long before the appointed hour for the commencement of meetings to discuss the fiscal policy of the country; I have seen hanging from balconies banners advocating one policy or the other; and sometimes, when the opposing parties got into close quarters, the situation was so tense that I wondered what the outcome would be.

Senator Ogden - Now I suppose we are a happy family?

Senator FINDLEY - There is not today that bitterness in regard to fiscal matters that there was in the days of which I speak. More and more the people of Australia have identified themselves with the policy of protection, until to-day there are very few live freetrade organizations in this country. That even the Country party, some of whose members are opposed to protection, seems slowly, but surely, to be giving its support to that policy, is evident by the speeches made in another place by socalled representatives of that party in connexion with the schedule now before us. It would appear that a majority of Government supporters in this chamber favour that policy. It may be that they are not ready to go so far as I am prepared to go to give protection to Australian industries, but, in the main, honorable senators opposite are protectionists. It is true that there are grounds for doubting their wholeheartedness.

That charge cannot, however, be laid against the members of the Labour party. Although opposed to much of the Government's policy the Labour party will assist the Government to give adequate protection to industries already established and to encourage new industries in Australia, thus providing further avenues of employment for our people. With more and more industries established, and consequently greater opportunities for employment, there should be a greater home market for our primary products. Foi that reason the primary producers and their representatives should do all in their power to establish secondary industries in this country.

Suggest corrections