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Thursday, 30 April 1936

Senator GUTHRIE (Victoria) . - I congratulate the Government upon the wonderful improvement which has occurred in trade and employment during the last few years. During the regime of the Scullin Government, when embargoes and prohibitive customs duties were the order of the day, the percentage of unemployed unionists in Australia was 31, whereas the latest figures show that including members of the Australian Workers Union and unionists employed in rural industries, the percentage has decreased to 13. An analysis of the figures covering those employed in factories and shops shows that the position is now at least normal. There are move factories and factory employees in Australia to-day than at any period in the history of the Commonwealth. Taking the figure of 100 as the index number we find that in Victoria in 1931-32 the factory employees numbered 80, whereas for 1934-35 there were actually 108 employed. For the whole of Australia in 1931-32 the figure was75, and for 1934-35 it was 100. The number of factory employees during the regime of the present Government has increased by over 25 per cent., and employment figures are the best index of the prosperity of any country. "What are the reasons for these extraordinarily satisfactory figures? The main reason is the Government's policy, including its tariff policy and the removal of embargoes which destroy trade. When the Scullin Government was in office no fewer that 80 embargoes were imposed upon importations from other countries, including Great Britain. Embargoes have been lifted and prohibitive duties reduced, and Australia is now operating under an efficient protectionist policy. The closing of trade channels by the imposition of prohibitive tariffs necessarily interferes with the prosperity of any country. I realize that while the primary industries produce great wealth and provide overseas credit, our secondary industries are just as essential. For that reason I have always been a staunch protectionist. I am opposed to prohibitive duties, and cannot be regarded as a fanatic in fiscal matters. The larger the number of persons employed in Australia at relatively high wages the better it is for everyone, including primary producers. The home market is the best market in which to sell many of our products, but the greater proportion of our principal primary products, wool and wheat, has of course to be sold overseas at world's parity. Secondary industries are essential to our development, and are also necessary to defence. Instead of British manufacturers protesting against the customs duties imposed upon their products in Australia, they should establish factories here and also bring operatives from Great Britain to work in them. Many British manufacturers find that the taxation in Great Britain is increasing alarmingly, due largely to the special imposts to provide sustenance for the unemployed.

Senator Foll - Taxation is not low in Australia.

Senator GUTHRIE - It is not. I would like to see it reduced as soon as we can alford to do so; but income tax should be the last tax to be reduced. It is fortunate for us that it is not higher in view of the amount which should he expended on defence. More British factories should be established in Australia.

Senator Sampson - Where would be the market for their products?

Senator GUTHRIE - The same market in which Australian manufacturers sell their products. We have not reached saturation point. As this country needs population, British manufacturers should establish factories in Australia and bring suitable British migrants to work in them. Is there any other way by which we can increase by migration the population of this vast and rich, hut dangerously empty, continent? I have suggested at least one way to encourage migration. If migrants are brought to Australia and we are not able to employ them in secondary industries, it is doubtful whether we can settle them in sufficient numbers on the land. There have been many failures in the past.

Senator Gibson - To-day Australia manufactures four-fifths of its total requirements.

Senator GUTHRIE - The other onefifth provides a field for expansion. Can honorable senators suggest any other way of encouraging migrants to this country? Undoubtedly we need more people in Australia ; particularly do we need Britishers.

Regarding the Ottawa agreement, I pay tribute to the splendid work done by Australia's representatives at the Ottawa Conference, particularly Mr. S. M. Bruce and Sir Henry Gullett. At that time markets for most of our primary products, particularly meat, butter and fruit, were low. Indeed, in respect of beef, mutton and lamb, it looked as though markets would collapse with a consequent collapse of prices for those very important products.

Senator Sir George Pearce - The same was the case in respect of dried fruits.

Senator GUTHRIE - Yes, and also wine. One could enumerate many other benefits accruing to Australia as the result of the Ottawa agreement. Great Britain is practically the only market for our primary products, excepting wool, which we export to 38 countries, and wheat. It is practically the only market for our meat, wine, fruit, butter, eggs and . many other commodities. We should always hear in mind that the prosperity of Australia depends on the export of our primary products. These account for 97 per cent, of the total value of our export trade. Let us see what benefits the Ottawa agreement has conferred upon Australia. Some people are apt to under-estimate them, and also the liberal treatment of this dominion by the old Mother Country which to-day, as it has done in respect of all its agreements, carries out both the spirit and the letter of the Ottawa agreement. In 1931-32, just prior to the Ottawa Conference, Great Britain took from Australia £1,600,000 worth of beef and £2,8S2,000 worth of mutton and lamb, or a total of £4,482,000. In 1935, Great Britain took from Australia £2,900,000 worth of beef and £4,800,000 worth of mutton and lamb, or an increase in the value of raw meat products of £3,300,000 annually. This does not include tinned meats. Some industries may have reached their limit, but the fat lamb industry is yet capable of enormous expansion. This year Australia will have exported between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 lamb carcasses valued at about 25s. each f.o.h., whereas little New Zealand will have exported approximately 10,000,000 lamb carcasses. Contrasting our advantages for the development of this industry with those enjoyed by New Zealand, I point out that Australia has a. large area with a rainfall as favorable as that of New Zealand, whilst the soil in many of the coastal districts around Australia is quite a.s rich as that in the dominion. I can visualize that through scientific research into soil conditions, the use of fertilizers, and the sowing of better pastures, Australia may produce up to 10,000,000 fat lambs annually. The southwest of Western Australia, the southeast of South Australia, the whole of Victoria south of the Dividing Range, and the coastal areas of New South Wales and Queensland, could easily be turned "into" rich pasture land, which can be divided into comparatively small holdings. Such a development from the point of view of closer settlement is of vital importance to Australia. Where conditions favour such, the fat lamb industry offers room for expansion, and this expansion should be undertaken as soon as possible. Honorable senators naturally will ask where we are to find markets for this increased production of fat lambs. I point out that the British market is a huge market. I do not suggest that we should displace the sister dominion of New Zealand on that market, but we should bear in mind that the British people to-day are turning from beef to lamb. Some people say this development is due to the advent of the motor car; it is pointed out that the old British predilection for roast beef is disappearing, because the British people spend more time to-day out of doors, and on their motoring tours provide themselves with preserved meats, pies, &c. For these reasons the consumption of beef in Britain is falling off, whilst the consumption of almost universally young meats is increasing. We should make sure of retaining this market. One way to do this is for Australia to honour the Ottawa agreement, not so much in the letter as in the spirit, and thus enable the Mother Country to give definite preference to Australian goods, and at the same time limit its imports from Argentina. Great Britain has already decreased its imports from Argentina. This trend will continue if we do everything in our power to safeguard and extend the Ottawa agreement. At present Ministers of this Government are in London negotiating along these lines, not only for the continuation of the Ottawa agreement, but also for the expansion of the benefits which that agreement confers on Australia. Great Britain buys practically every class of Australian primary products. In 1933-34, since the Ottawa agreement, the value of Australia's exports to Great Britain was £63,000,000 sterling, Britain taking 51.7 per cent, of our total exports, including wool and wheat. Once again, I repeat that Great Britain last year took 51 per cent, of all our exports. Despite the fact that sheep products were responsible for over 50 per cent, of those exports, and that Britain was our best customer for wool, it is by no means our only customer for wool and wheat. On the other hand, what does Australia import from Great Britain? In the same year we imported from it £25,000,000 worth of goods, representing 42.6 per cent, of our total imports. Britain bought nearly all our meat and eggs. I might mention here that egg production is becoming one of our most important industries, and our exports of eggs to Britain this year will be valued at nearly £1,000,000. Britain also purchased the bulk of our sugar, fruit and wine. Yesterday, Senator Leckie referred to a protest by British manufacturers in relation to the importation of manufactured goods.

Senator Leckie - They asked for a duty on manufactured goods.

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