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Thursday, 7 May 1936

Senator BROWN (Queensland) . - From the tearfully tragic cry of the Minister one would gather that it is necessary to have bilateral trade agreements, not only between countries, but also between industries. He suggested that, if we sell sugar to Britain,we must buy sugar-refining machinery from that country. Such an argument is false and futile and, tested by sound principles of international trade, is utterly stupid. The Minister endeavoured to put the Labour party in a false position. Eight from the beginning, we opposed the Ottawa agreement, because we did not believe it would prove of any real service to Australia. Admittedly, in respect of it, those controlling industry to-day are placed in an invidious position. But we do not want the Government to make further mistakes which will react on the general body of workmen, whether or not they are employed in the industries concerned. One-way trade is advocated only by people with one-track minds.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - Yes.

Senator BROWN - The honorable senator apparently admits that he, as well as the Minister, has a one-track mind. The Labour party realizes that Britain gives Australian sugar a preferential share of its market, but we say that Great Britain can be compensated by supplying to us millions of pounds' worth of .articles of a type not manufactured in Australia. This is the difference between our view on this matter, and the view of those mental troglydytes who contend that we must import certain commodities which are being, or can be, produced in Australia. We do not want to prejudice international trade; but we say that industries which have been established in. Australia must be protected. We require certain goods from Great Britain and other parts of the Empire, but we should encourage only importations of those classes of goods which are not produced in the Commonwealth.

Senator Hardy - Suppose Great Britain used that argument in defence of its own primary industries.

Senator BROWN - In a White Paper published about a year ago, and also through its emissary, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald. who visited Australia recently, Britain has given us clearly to understand that it intends to place its primary industries on a sound footing. Every effort has been made by the British Minister for Agriculture (Major Elliott) to improve the position of those industries. Major Elliott, who I consider to be one of the most advanced thinkers among modern politicians, sees clearly the trend of events and he has moulded his policy along lines which will give an impetus to British primary industries. He, for one, is desirous of raising international trade to a higher level. But honorable senators with whom the Ottawa agreement is an obsession, and who have only one-track minds on trade matters, are constantly endeavouring to find a solution of our international trade problem by dividing our home market for basic goods, which are produced in superabundance. They reveal a false conception of the position. The Opposition constantly tries to impress upon honorable senators that a solution is not to be found merely by sharing the Australian home market for machinery, butter, meat, or any other commodity which we are able to produce, with producers overseas. The problem goes deeper than that; international trade must be raised to a higher level iri order that we may be enabled to dispose of our exportable commodities in Britain and, in return, purchase from the Motherland goods of a class not manufactured in this country. This is a fair and plain statement of the Labour party's policy on this matter.

Senator Hardy - I do not agree with it.

Senator BROWN - I do not expect the honorable senator to do so, because his mind is cast in a certain mould; he is influenced by certain ambitions. Neither do I expect the Minister to agree with this policy, because, no doubt, certain of his individual interests conflict with what we conceive to be national interests.

Senator Herbert Hays - " They are all out of step except my son John."

Senator BROWN - That quotation does not apply in this instance, because, in step with the policy of the Labour party policy on this matter are millions of people in every part of the world. It is a policy supported by thinking people who desire to march gradually along the road of evolution to better times, and to a higher system of economy. But honorable senators opposite are stuck in an intellectual morass; for them progress is impossible.

Senator COLLINGS(Queensland) 1 4.28]. - In view of the discussion which has taken place on this item-

Senator Herbert Hays - So far only three honorable senators have taken part in it.

Senator COLLINGS - I ask the honorable senator who has just interjected to imagine what debates in this chamber would be like if the three honorable senators to whom he has derisively referred were absent. I suggest that except for the speeches of two or three senators, the debates would be very poor indeed. The difference between our proposals and those which emanate from honorable senators opposite is that all ours are serious.

Senator Brennan - The honorable senator will recollect that one of " the three who kept the bridge " was Spurius Lartius !

Senator COLLINGS - We three represent 46 per cent, of the people of Australia, and we shall continue attacking the bridge; which we shall eventually capture. I move -

That the House of Representatives bo requested to make the duties, sub-item (l), ad valorem British, 33} per cent, net; general, 65 per cent.

I ask honorable senators to visualize the need for proper protection of the industry concerned, particularly in view of the very pertinent remarks made by Senator Leckie. The proposed reductions will either result in increased importations or they will not. The Minister reproved the Opposition for lacking in honour; he alleges that we are prepared to break an agreement while, at the same time, expecting the other party to honour it. Nothing is further from the minds of members of the Opposition. Dishonour, if any, will be incurred through the actions of the Government. We refuse to make overtures to the manufacturers of sugar refining machinery in the United Kingdom, because if we did so we would be selling them a gold brick; we do not propose to do anything so immoral. These reductions will, or will not, facilitate the entry of this class of machinery into Australia. In the former event we shall, according to the Government's arguments, be keeping faith under the Ottawa agreement with the manufacturers of the United Kingdom; but if, as the Minister says, these reductions will not facilitate the entry of this machinery into Australia, we shall merely be giving lip service to the Ottawa agreement, and deceiving overseas manufacturers. I believe that the Government realizes that the Ottawa agreement will have to be revised. The Opposition refuses to admit that the Government, either legally, or iri any other way, is bound to follow slavishly the findings of the Tariff Board. This item provides an opportunity to reveal that a reasonable number of honorable senators realize the necessity for encouraging efficient Australian industries. Two firms which have proved that they are efficient, are Walkers Limited, Maryborough, and another in Bundaberg. Each of these towns has a population of 11,000. In Maryborough, the two chief industries are engineering and timber. If the engineering works, through lack of orders, are forced to sack 400 men, the effect on the town as a whole will be disastrous. Senator J. V. MacDonald pointed out that the general manager of this company recently toured the world to discover additional articles in the production of which the company's plant could be operated to greater capacity.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - What would they do if the sugar industry went out altogether?

Senator COLLINGS - The Minister knows very well that the sugar industry is not going out, and that his Government dare not destroy it; he realizes that such a step would be bad electioneering tactics.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - If the British market for our sugar, now valued at over £2,000,000, were' lost, what would become of the -sugar industry?

Senator COLLINGS - The Minister is fairly well-known in Queensland. I invite him during the recess to tour the sugar districts in that State in company with me, and I predict that if he declares that this Government intends to adopt a policy which will injure the sugar industry, he will find it prudent to place a safe distance between himself . and the infuriated populace. The Tariff Board's report states that the firms engaged in the manufacture of machinery used in the sugar industry are unusually proficient, and- that up to the present they have supplied over 80 per' cent, of its requirements. Under reduced duties .. machinery manufactured in the United Kingdom, and other countries will be able to enter into competition with that made in Australia. It was not my intention to move a request on this item ; but I am so incensed at the tactics adopted to defeat our modest suggestion, that these duties should be reconsidered, that I have moved a request, which, I trust, will have the support of a majority of the committee.

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