Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 1 May 1936

Senator BROWN (QUEENSLAND) - To simplify the argument, I shall assume that in relation to German currency, an Australian £1 is worth only 10s. Would the Tariff Board resolve the German mark into terms of sterling for the purposes of its computations?

Senator Millen - That is the vital point.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The Customs Department does that.

Senator BROWN - I agree with the assertion of the Postmaster-General that the exchange should be something apart from the tariff. But I consider that Senator Millen is incorrect in his contention, if the Tariff Board resolves an appreciated currency into terms of sterling.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The Customs Department does it. Every currency is converted into sterling for the calculation of duty.

Senator BROWN - Then there can be no argument on that point; but I desire to explain the attitude of the Labour party on this matter. It contends that exchange should not enter as fully as it does into the tariff arrangements between Great Britain and Australia. It has been used by the Country party to force the 'Government to reduce the advantage enjoyed by the Australian manufacturer under the protective tariff. Some time ago I asked the Minister whether the exchange rate between Australia and the Old Country was a natural one. It is pertinent to ask how long our currelief will be depreciated, because economists generally are in agreement that after the lapse of a certain time conditions governing the transmission of goods become normal, and the earlier advantages enjoyed from the depreciated currency are lost. The Government is compelled to tax the people in order to confer this exchange benefit on our export industries. In effect, it is taking money from one section of the community and placing it in the pockets of another. It is true that, for some time, this process may assist, our primary producers, but if continued over several years the tendency for conditions to become stable will deprive our primary producers of some portion at least of the advantage which at present they enjoy. What would be our position if suddenly we returned to a gold basis? Clearly there is need for some control of banking functions. Since the conditions governing the exchange of goods have approximated the normal the exchange provisions in the schedule are of little advantage to this country.

Senator Leckie - Under existing conditions they give us no advantage.

Senator BROWN - I am glad that Senator Leckie is in agreement with me on this point, because he is an intelligent business man and understands the position. I resent the suggestion that members of this chamber are not capable of discussing intelligently this intricate problem and arriving at sane conclusions. It is time that we discarded the idea that the members of the Tariff Board are the Alpha and Omega of economic intelligence.

Senator Arkins - What is the honorable senator's attitude to the amendment?

Suggest corrections