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Thursday, 8 March 1928

Senator CRAWFORD (QueenslandHonorary Minister) . - I have noted with pleasure the generally favorable tone of the debate towards the pro'posals of the Government; but a few points have been raised which call for a reply.

Senator Ogdenreferred to what he termed the pushing of the bogey of protection too far, with a consequent undue swelling of the population of the cities.

I am afraid that when the honorable senator expressed that opinion he overlooked the revolution, which has taken place within the last 20 or 30 years in connexion with our land industries. Surely he is aware that for a similar volume of production our land industries do not require anything like the labour which they needed some years ago ! I have seen many calculations respecting the labour that has been rendered unnecessary as a result 'of improvements in % farm appliances. Only quite recently I read the announcement that it is estimated that to-day on a farm of any size in America, one man is equal to an output for which 50 men were required at the beginning of the present century.

Senator Ogden - Does not that argument apply also to all secondary inindustries?

Senator CRAWFORD - It applies to a greater or less extent to the whole of our land industries and also to some extent to our secondary industries. There is no doubt that the people of Australia are very much better off to-day than they were two or three decades ago. That increased prosperity, however, has not led to any greater expenditure upon foodstuffs. The expenditure upon the products of secondary industries has considerably increased. The people to-day are living in better houses and have a higher quality of furniture, and they are spending a great deal more on amusements. Consequently, the population of the cities, not only in Australia but in practically every country in the world - certainly every country with a European population - has increased. Similar changes have not taken place in India and China; therefore the argument of one honorable senator that the wheatgrower of Australia is in competition with the wheat-grower of India does not carry much weight, because, as a rule, the Indian wheat-grower confines his operations to a few acres, and the only implement 'he uses is a small plough drawn by a couple of bullocks. No honorable senator has shown that remunerative employment for this excess city population can be found among our land industries. It has not been alleged that large areas of wheat lands in communication with markets, in any of the States are lying unproductive. I am aware that in very many of our agricultural districts sheep fattening is combined with wheat-growing. It is now the general practice in Australia to fallow wheat lands for a year or for two years; consequently millions of acres which, in other circumstances, would possibly be put under cultivation, are devoted to either the pasturage of sheep or fallowing.

In my second-reading speech I quoted from the report of the Director of Agriculture in the United States of America to the effect that with 3,000,000 fewer people engaged in agriculture in that country, a greater volume of land products is being made available. Agricultural production increased more rapidly than did population. In the report of the League of Nations, from which Senator Chapman quoted, it is stated that while the population of Europe had increased only 1 per cent, since 1914, the production of raw materials and foodstuffs in Europe had increased by 5 per cent., and that whereas the population of the world in the same period had increased by only 5 per cent., the increase in the production of raw material and foodstuffs was from 16 per cent, to 18 per cent. It is well known that no profitable market can be found for many of our land products. For that reason it is necessary to find employment in secondary industries for a large proportion of our population.

Senator Ogdenreferred to " tin pot " industries. Similar references to some of our industries having previously been made, I made it my business some months ago to inspect a number of industries in New South Wales, in the desire to see these " tin-pot " or " backyard " industries. But though I searched for some weeks I neither found nor heard of one of them. On the other hand I was impressed by the efficiency pf the management, the skill of the workmen, and the up-to-date nature of the plant in many of the factories I inspected. In a large engineering works in Newcastle I saw some expensive machinery which, I was informed, made it possible for five men to do work which before its installation required 21 men. On the day of my visit new machinery arrived to replace those machines which had been installed only two years previously. I was ' informed that the new machines would do twice the work of those they would replace. Not every large industry starts in a big way, nor is it only the large industries which are essential to our national life. Mr. MacRobertson, one of the wealthiest men in Australia, makes the proud boast that his business commenced in one of the rooms of his house.

Senator Chapmanreferred at some length to the International Economic Conference held in Geneva in May of last year. The honorable senator said that the conference expressed its views on the Australian tariff. Although I have read the report carefully I have seen no such expression of opinion. Anyone who peruses the report with an unbiased mind must conclude that the conference viewed matters solely from a European stand-point. While Senator Chapman was speaking I glanced at the report, and found that in one paragraph the word " Europe " appears four times, in the following paragraph three times, and in the next paragraph once. A few paragraphs further on in the report the word appears twice, and in other paragraphs it occurs from one to three times. The report, which clearly refers to European conditions, 'stresses the fact that following the war there were 7,000 miles of new frontier in Europe, and that the number of European tariffs had increased from 20 to 26. It is true that the following paragraph does suggest that the conference had Australia in mind -

The desire to deal with the problem of excessive industrial capacity has usually led to an attempt to reserve the home market for home production by means of tariff barriers erected with a view to creating an independent national economy capable of producing under the protection of the tariff wall, an increase of invested wealth and a more satisfactory return for the work of the nation. This effort to attain self-sufficiency cannot hope to succeed unless it is justified by the size, natural resources, economic advantages and geographical situation of a country. There are very few countries in the world which can hope to attain it.

In support of his argument that our high tariff wall might raise antagonism in other countries, Senator Kingsmill instanced the effect that higher duties on bananas had had on our trade with Fiji. It is interesting -to see what actually did happen as a result of the increased duty on bananas. For the five years before the imposition of the increased duty our exports of Australian products to Fiji represented an average value of £368,219, whereas for the five years subsequent to the increased duty, the value of our trade with Fiji averaged £357,270, or £10,949 per annum less than for the preceding period. On those figures has been built the argument that the raising of the duty on bananas was a most disastrous proceeding.

SenatorKingsmill. - What about our trade with Java ?

Senator CRAWFORD - That trade has not diminished. Australia buys from Java goods to the value of over £6,000,000 per annum, and in return sells to Java goods valued at over £2,000,000 per annum.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Will the Minister give us an analysis of the importations from Java?

Senator CRAWFORD - I shall give the approximate figures. The principal items are: - Hats, £3,000; cocoa, £4,000; coffee, £93,000; fibre, £99,000; rice. £3,000; kapok, £395,000; kerosene, £138,000; residual oil, £10,000; petroleum, £2,628,000 ; tea, £1,783,000 ; timber, £9,000; and tobacco, £45,000; a total of £5,210,000. I remind Senator Greene that the value of the tea imported from Java is about twenty times that of the coffee imported. Surely the honorable senator does not contend that the importation of coffee to the value of only £93,000 per annum isat all comparable with the importance of a friendly gesture to other branches of the British Empire !

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - What is the gain to us?

Senator CRAWFORD - Our desire is to extend the trade between this country and the other branches of the Empire.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why depart from the preferential principle?

Senator CRAWFORD - It is considered advisable to extend that principle to other parts of the Empire in the hope that we shall receive reciprocal treatment. A start must be made somewhere. Our trade in coffee with Java is only a small proportion of our total trade with that country, with which we have always been on friendly terms, a state of affairs which we all hope will continue.

Senator Carrollmade the rather astounding statement that the schedule before us is equivalent to an appeal by Australian manufacturers for assistance from the public purse. The honorable senator appears to be of the impression that only those who are engaged in the production of protected commodities benefit from our policy of protection. Surely he will admit that the benefits of protection are not confined to the manufacturers, but are shared by their employees and those in Australia who supply the raw materials. As a result of the production of this £150,000,000 worth of goods by our secondary and protected industries, the whole country is benefited and enriched. The honorable senator claimed also that the wheat-growing and wool-growing industries are carrying all other industries on their backs. A few weeks ago I journeyed through the Goulburn Valley district in Victoria, in company with an estate agent, who had an expert knowledge of the value of the land in the district. He told me that it was worth £20 an acre for wheat-growing, and, where lucerne could be grown, a good deal more for sheep raising, and I think it only fair to conclude that land in other localities must be equally valuable for those purposes. Certainly it could not be as valuable as I was informed it was for those purposes if the wheat and wool-growing industries were handicapped to the extent alleged by Senator Carroll.

Senator Carroll - The honorable senator knows that if the people on the land did not work longer hours than those which are worked by people engaged in the industries of which he has been speaking this afternoon, they would not pay their way.

Senator CRAWFORD - I know as well as most people the difficulties encountered by the man on the land. I have been on the land almost all my life, first on a mixed farm in Gippsland, and latterly on my own property in North Queensland. I know that the life of the grazier or the agriculturist is not spent on a bed of roses. But I know that people engaged in other industries also have difficultiesto overcome, and I am satisfied that every branch of rural industry is enriched and not made" poorer by the flourishing condition of secondary industries.

Senator Payneseemed to be more anxious about the position of the British manufacturer than of those who are engaged in secondary industries in Australia. It is not right that Australia should carry the whole load of the disability now suffered by British industries.

Senator Payne - I am sure that I never suggested it.

Senator CRAWFORD - I do not say that Australia has gone too far in giving preference to Great Britain, but the preference we give to British manufacturers is about four times greater than the preference extended by Great Britain to the products of Australia.

Senator Payne - Will the Honorary Minister answer my challenge? I asked him whether this tariff schedule was not erecting a barrier that importers could not surmount.

Senator CRAWFORD - Protection is useless or fails in its purpose if it is not high enough to be effective. It is simply a waste of time to impose duties which will not accomplish the purpose for which they are framed.

Honorable senators are apt to overlook the fact that about two-fifths of our continent lies within the tropics. In the Northern Territory or Western Australia, north of a line drawn across Australia in extension, of the southern border of Queensland, I do not think there are 7,000 people. Senator Kingsmill has made reference to our tropical areas. I should like him to consider how we can establish industries in those areas which are likely to bring population to them.

Senator Thompson - Will the Minister say something about the duties on timber.

Senator CRAWFORD - Timber duties are of importance to several States.. They are particularly vital to Tasmania, with its vast areas of forests, for the products of which there is only a limited market at the present time.

Senator Thompson - The duties in the schedule before us do not represent the Government's proposals. '

Senator CRAWFORD - The Government originally proposed increases of duties, but they were still further increased in another place, and, as increased, are just as much the Government's proposals as were those which were proposed when the amended schedule was first tabled in another place.

Senator Ogden - (By leave.) - I wish to make a personal explanation. Yesterday, when speaking on the second reading, I said that the Labour party in its protectionist policy was actuated by a desire to increase the industrial population and thus gain additional votes. That statement was .a little, ungenerous and unfair on my part. I am prepared to admit that quite a number of good Labour men are honestly actuated by the belief that a protectionist policy is the best for the country and is most likely to benefit it.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.

Clause 5. (Saving.)

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