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Wednesday, 2 December 1936


Senator HARDY - Is that the opinion of the honorable senator or of the Labour party ?


Senator COLLINGS - These irresponsible bodies have been given an opportunity to study these proposals, but the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), with tears in his eyes, got into the "scrap" in an address over our wireless network, and asked certain persons to keep out of the ring. The Labour party did so because the Prime Minister said that negotiations were proceeding and that everything would be satisfactory if the people would remain silent. The Labour party did as requested, but, later, when it had an opportunity to enter the ring it was twitted with having been silent for so long, and then coming out on the side of Japan. I had the misfortune in August last to be a member of a Queensland audience which had been invited to attend an exhibition arranged by .the PostmasterGeneral's Department, and also to hear an address over the air by the PostmasterGeneral. Every member of the audience had definitely been invited to hear the Postmaster-General speak that evening. After we had inspected the exhibits the gentleman controlling the proceedings came on the stage and said : " Ladies and gentlemen, I am very sorry but there has been an alteration of the programme. The Prime Minister is on the air and has something of importance to say to the Australian people ". We were not invited to hear an address by the Prime Minister, and a considerable number of those present did not want to hear him. After hearing the speech some of those present, including myself, regretted that the microphone had not a body to be kicked or a soul to bc damned. Amongst Other things, the right honorable gentleman said -

I want you to bc sure that the one thing that is in my mind, and in the mind of the Government, is the preservation of the Australian standard of living. That has impelled the Government to take tariff action against Japan and the United States of America.

Let us consider the utter hypocrisy of that statement; first of all the Prime Minister, who was once a member of the Labour party, knows of the struggles of that party to lay down the policy in regard to employment which eventually led, not with the assistance of his then opponents, to the establishment of something like an Australian standard, the White Australia policy, and the keeping of the cheap goods of all countries that cannot conform to it out of Australia, so far as it was possible to do so. The right honorable gentleman knows the struggle that some of us, and our working men and women, put up to establish that Australian standard of comfort. This is not the first time that tariff schedules have been debated in this chamber. The Australian Labour party alone has fought in this Parliament for the protection of Australian industries, and we have been astonished at times at the paucity of the support we received from the different sections in the Parliament of this nation. Nevertheless, we have fought in season and out of season for a policy of high protection, a policy that will keep goods out of this market once Australia can show that it can adequately supply them. What has been the result? As a spokesman for the party on this side of the House, and on behalf of the Opposition since I became its leader, I have in season and out of season during tariff debates pointed out to the Government that every reduction of duty is in the direction of sacrificing some individual who is getting his livelihood out of Australian industry. I have said that eventually the time would certainly come when the Government would have to take drastic action to meet the situation which for a long time we predicted would arise. What happened? At last the Government, astonished that all the things the Labour opposition had been predicting for years were at last coming to pass as a result of government policy, was overwhelmed with fear. So these drastic proposals were brought down and the Parliament was adjourned in order to prevent discussion of them. The Minister in charge of this bill had a very difficult task in making his secondreading speech to-night; he had to tread very cautiously; I am inclined to compliment him on his very adroit presentation of his case. It was a very fine piece of special pleading on his part, in which the main facts were kept in the background and the non-essentials were elaborated to an unnecessary degree.


Senator Hardy - The honorable senator does not think that we should have imposed these duties on Japanese goods?


Senator COLLINGS - I know that Senator Hardy would like me to say something which would enable him to retort, as his friends in the House of Representatives unfairly did recently, that, having sat on the fence for five months, the Labour party has now fallen over on to the side of Japan. I have not fallen on the side of Japan for the simple reason that I have never been sitting on the fence. Not one yard of material or one article of any description manufactured in Japan ever comes into this country unless somebody has ordered it; Japan does not send boatloads of goods to this country and .send salesmen with the ship to dispose of them. Every article that comes here is ordered by traders, and they are not the people who provide the political funds of the party to which I belong, but rather are they subscribers to the funds of the parties from which these proposals emanated. I know it to be a fact that one Queensland merchant has a controlling interest in a Japanese textile factory. In reply to the suggestion, somewhat crudely made by Senator Hardy in his most recent interjection, I say that there was no occasion whatever to bring down in this Parliament a schedule of definitely provocative duties. If this Government is rightly, honestly and sincerely desirous of creating within this Commonwealth industries which can be and should be created, all it needs to do is to bring down a tariff which will keep out those articles which we can produce here. It should not, as it has done, have brought down a tariff which selects for special treatment, first, a good-customer country of ours, and then a bad-customer country, but both countries with which we should be on terms of friendship. Surely every honorable senator recognizes the fact that we should do everything to secure the goodwill of the United States of America and also that Japan has been one of the best customers Australia has had in the past. The new tariff schedule has been definitely provocative to both countries; there was no occasion to incur their enmity.

We have had from the Minister tonight a long dissertation on the manufacture of motor cars in Australia. No honorable senator is more desirous than I am to see Australia well started on the road to manufacturing complete cars to meet its requirements. I point out that even on these lines we should put a little intelligence into our tariff policy and into our conduct in promulgating it. We should not encourage the great sister dominion of Canada to expend millions of pounds in establishing the motor car industry in this country to such an extent that it is now employing 2,900 Australians - I refer to the Ford Motor Car Company whose products were manufactured in Canada, a country with which we have some sort of arrangement which is not altogether disadvantageous to Australia - only to follow it up by imposing provocative duties on the chassis imported by that firm. We encouraged these people, and then suddenly and without warning, at 9 p.m. a provocative tariff schedule was thrown on the table, and honorable senators were given no chance to say anything about it. What really is the fiscal policy of this Government? It would be interesting indeed to get a definite statement from a responsible cabinet Minister as to where exactly the Government thinks it is going with this policy. As a Labour man, I have said to the Government over and over again that I recognize the difficulty which confronts it; it is a composite government composed of two quite distinct, and often warring elements. It has a very difficult course to steer between those who want a high protective policy - that, of course, is the Opposition - and the others whom it has to placate, and who do not believe in duties being imposed at all on anything which they use, but want protection for everything they sell. In the press to-day, I read the following paragraph: -

Reflecting the recent extensions of the Federal Government's low-tariff policy, customs and excise revenue has soared to £18,578,000 for the five months of the current financial year ended yesterday. Receipts are £1,271,000 in excess of those for the same period of 1935-30, and are at a rate which, if maintained, will exceed the budget estimate bv £1,4.00,000. As the full effect of three recent trade treaties has not yet been felt, indications point to custom's and excise revenue for the full year 'being between £2,000,000 and £2.500,000 above the budget estimate. Already receipts are £020,000 above the estimate. The increase for last month, compared with November, 1935, was £192,000.

That is the result of a definite policy, and the Government is proceeding with it; yet in this bill the Government adopts an extreme policy in the opposite direction. What actually is the Government's policy? Would it not be worth while to adjourn the Parliament to enable the Government to make up its mind as to the fiscal policy it intends to apply to the affairs of this country? There is no need for me to declare the desire of .the .Opposition that Australian industries should he encouraged. Let me say here - because my omission to say it now may be used against me in a higher court - that Labour's policy has always been Australia first, Great Britain next, and other countries last. Reverting for a moment to the proposal to manufacture motor cars in Australia, the Labour party objects very much indeed, as I have already said, to diverting trade from one country which at least has invested some capital in this country to Great Britain which has never spent a "hean" in Australia. British car manufacturers have never built a motor car in this country, and for years they would not produce a car which would conform to Australian conditions. We should not lose sight of that fact, and the fact that -we are greatly indebted to Mr. Henry Ford for his efforts to establish the industry in this country.


Senator Guthrie - We must not forget, however, that Great Britain buys the larger proportion of everything we produce.


Senator COLLINGS - The Government's policy "was merely to divert trade from one country to another, without first making sure of procuring some quid pro quo. Such a policy is not a safe one for this country to adopt. On the question of fiscal policy - and in making tips et: tennent I know that I run the risk of wilful misrepresentation - I say that if Ave are to be robbed at all I prefer to be robbed by Australian manufacturers - who at least will spend their loot in this country, and give employment to Australian workmen. I take the same risk again when I say that it does not matter to the workers of this country whether the manufacturer who is robbing them of the opportunity to secure employment in Australian secondary industries is producing in the United States of America, Japan or even the United Kingdom. What ever the circumstances, robbery -is always an unpleasant experience to the person who is robbed.


Senator Hardy - Hoist the flag!


Senator COLLINGS - Half the flags that will be hoisted on the other side of the world, like those which were hoisted here when a member of the Royal Family visited Australia, will be made in Japan by friends of the party which Senator Hardy leads. Recently a shipload of 780 tons of Christmas toys arived in Australia, but no protest was made. The only protest against the admission of goods from Japan has related to rayon and other textiles. The reason for the protest is that emissaries from Manchester had given instructions to the Commonwealth Government. The Opposition is not so easily deceived by elaborate treatises which conceal everything worth knowing and tell nothing. Since the Lyons Government assumed office in 1932, its fiscal policy has caused every true Australian grave concern. That policy has damaged Australian secondary industries, caused unemployment among Australians, resulted in an unfavorable trade balance and a serious economic position, and injured Australian primary industries. If that is not a sufficiently complete and damning category of fiscal crime, I do not know what is. The Government has failed to recognize the importance of safeguarding and expanding Australia's secondary industries, thereby ensuring more employment and improving economic and financial conditions. A few days ago I pointed out the futility of talking about favorable and unfavorable trade balances, but as honorable senators did not believe me then, I shall not repeat the argument now. The Government professes to be concerned regarding the imports of cheap goods from one country, but it is concerned only with goods that are not manufactured in Australia. At the same time, by allowing into Australia huge imports of cheap goods which could be manufactured here, it refuses to protect the workers. What is the real situation in regard to textiles? Does the Government's action spring from a genuine desire to protect the textile industry in Australia, or is it the outcome of representations by manufacturers in Manchester who have been beaten at their own game, and in their extremity have asked the Australian Government to get them out of their difficulty?


Senator Guthrie - Does the honorable senator wish the standard of living in Japan to be also that of Manchester?


Senator COLLINGS - Much is said of the standard of living in Japan, but surely the conditions there cannot be worse than they are in parts of the United Kingdom at the present time. Only recently, at the request of the Government of the United Kingdom, King Edward VIII. visited the distressed areas in South Wales, and soon he is to undertake another mission of a similar nature to the Clyde manufacturing centres. His Majesty has been asked to make these visits because industrial conditions in the United Kingdom are so bad that men and women have been out of employment for numbers of years. Recently we read in our newspapers that His Majesty stepped behind the counter at one place that he visited and, speaking to men individually, asked them how long they had been out of work. The replies were " Three years, sir ", or " Nine years " ; in some instances, the term was even longer. The King, who was visibly affected, exclaimed " Something must be done about this; work must be found for these people ". There is no need for me to fill in the details of the picture; but conditions could scarcely be worse in any country.


Senator Hardy - Does the honorable senator know of any people in the United Kingdom, receiving only 6d. a day?


Senator COLLINGS - I suppose that interjection implies that low wages are paid to workers in Japan. I believe that that is true. I do not believe in letting in to Australia the cheap products of Japan or of any other country. I have never believed in it, but the present Commonwealth Government has always believed in it. In a speech which I delivered some years ago, I pointed out that Japanese collars were being sold in Melbourne at prices which a Melbourne manufacturer told me were below the cost of production in Australia after excluding the cost of labour. I have previously told how the Myer Emporium bought bicycles of Japanese make for a few shillings each, and retailed them at 30s. At that time the only response I received from senators outside the Labour party was sneers. But now, when the results of the Government's lack of policy are being revealed, the Government gets into a state of panic and introduces a tariff schedule which is provocative to the last degree. To-day the world is trembling in an atmosphere of mistrust. Great Britain does not fear any nation, but it is naturally anxious to maintain friendly relations with its immediate neighbours, France, Germany and Italy. Australia should not fear Japan, and for my part I do not believe that Japan is a menace to Australia in the sense that war between the countries is likely. I believe that if we in Australia continue to show the spirit of goodwill, we shall have nothing to fear from Japan. I do not think that Australia has anything to fear from any country so long as we mind our own business, and endeavour to maintain friendly relations with other people. Australia would be wise to maintain the friendliest relations with the United States of America and Japan and other countries which border the Pacific Ocean. The Commonwealth Government has failed to take a broad national outlook, but as its policy always has been, and always will be, dominated by sectional interests, it cannot be expected to place Australia first. Even if we agree that the Government has made a belated attempt to do so we are forced to the conclusion that it has acted clumsily. In introducing the Tariff Schedule on the 22nd May the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) said -

We are aiming in future to draw our supplies from countries which are already great customers of ours, and which we may confidently expect will become greater customers if we increase our purchases from them. In this way we may expect substantially to increase our export trade.

Previously, a cardinal feature of the Government's tariff policy was a systematic reduction of both the British preferential and the general tariff rates. Already 1,289 items have been reduced in the preferential tariff and, in addition, there has been a reduction of nearly 600 items in the general tariff. A mere recital of those figures may not reveal their full importance, but when I point out that those reductions have meant the displacement of Australian workers, their significance is obvious. Reduction of dutiesmeans that goods which previously were not imported are brought in, with a consequent harmful effect on employment in Australia. Under the policy of the Government, customs revenue has swelled, and yet the Government has resisted every criticism of that policy. The following table shows how imports have grown since 1931-32-

 

That phenomenal rise of the value of imports has not been accompanied by a corresponding growth of exports, for whereas compared with 1931-32 the value of imports in 1935-36 rose by £39,500,000, the value of exports increased by less than £20,000,000. I realize that the designing of a scientific tariff to protect Australian industries, both primary and secondary, is beyond the capacity of the Government, and, indeed, of any government other than one consisting of members of the Labour party. Recent happenings in regard to cement show the inability of the Government to protect Australian industries. "When duties on cement were under consideration some months ago, the Opposition, both in this chamber and in the Blouse of Representatives, visualized cement being brought to Australia as ballast for ships, but Government supporters ridiculed the idea. Their prediction has, however, been fulfilled, for the Industries Preservation Act has had to be brought into operation to prevent damage to the Australian cement industry.


Senator Arkins - In any case it would have been dumped. _


Senator COLLINGS - Although honorable senators will refer during this debate to the danger of excessive imports from Japan the fact remains that Australia's exports to that country are far in excess of its imports from it. I hope honorable senators will realize that fact. If a country takes our exports, we ex pect payment for them; but payment can only be made by allowing that country to sell us goods in return.


Senator Dein - The honorable senator does not take that attitude in regard to Fijian bananas.


Senator COLLINGS - I wish that the honorable senator had a soul above the subject of bananas. When a great national problem is under discussion, he throws1 into the arena a Fijian banana. That product is nothing to boast about, anyway; it is not comparable with the Queensland banana.

I invite honorable senators to study the trade relations between the United Kingdom and J apan. The figures in this connexion are illuminating. Imports to the United Kingdom from Japan in sterling were- 1933-34, £7,200,000; 1934-35, £7,890,000, 1935-36, £9,000,000. On the other hand Great Britain's exports to Japan were1- 1933-34, £3,480,000 ; 1934-35, £4,000,000; 1935-36, £3,540,000. While Australian exports to Japan have increased, the United Kingdom exports to this country have been reduced. Summarized, these figures mean that Great Britain's exports from Japan in the three years under review have increased by £1,690,000, while its exports have remained static; Great Britain's imports from Japan are nearly double Australian imports from Japan; Britain's imports from Japan are nearly two and a half times as much as its exports to Japan; whereas Australia's exports to Japan are three times as great as its imports from that country. Sir Ernest Thompson, leader of the Manchester trade delegation, is the gentleman who, I suggest, came to Australia in order to point out how incapable Great Britain was of competing with Japan and to beseech Australia to come to the rescue. Much of the inability of the textile manufacturers of the United Kingdom to compete with the Japanese articles is due to the fact that they will not get out of the rut. History contains ample evidence of the fact that Great Britain has never shown remarkable agility in getting out of a rut. British character might be epitomized as unpreparedness to face realities, and a disposition to muddle through. As a distinguished visitor to Australia recently said - " It takes a long time to teach us a lesson, but when we learn it we never forget it."


Senator McLeay - But we cannot compete with Japan, and, are we not out of the rut?


Senator COLLINGS - Sir Ernest Thompson according to the Melbourne Herald of the 9th March last said - lt is no use maintaining a standard of living within the Empire if we are to allow Empire markets to be flooded with goods produced under conditions which neither Britain nor Australia would tolerate.

So far as his remarks apply to Australia, I agree with them ; but why should he come here to tell us that story when Great Britain is still importing millions of pounds worth of goods whose competition, on his own admission, Great Britain is incapable of withstanding? Sir Ernest Thompson's remarks were notable for the omission of any reference to Argentine meat or to Russian wheat. Apparently these trifling matters were of no concern to him. Sir Ernest was present on a textile mission and this Government fell at his feet, saying in effect, " Yes, Sir Ernest, what you say will he d.one - never mind what happens to our wool industry." The Government has got itself into a mess, and is wilting before the consequences. The Opposition is now expected to lend the Administration a hand in order to help it out of its present muddle.


Senator Hardy - I wonder what the honorable senator would have said if the trade dispute with Japan had been settled to-day?


Senator COLLINGS - This schedule asks the Parliament of the Commonwealth to do for Great Britain in Australia what Great Britain is not prepared to do in the United Kingdom in the interests of its own manufacturers. The Opposition is prepared to assist the Government to escape from the unfortunate mess into which it has got itself. The Labour party has always been willing to help the Government to correct its errors, once it admitted them. If this tariff schedule is not an admission of the Government's incapacity and mistakes, I do not know what would 'be. The Minister in charge of the bill, in his secondreading speech, should have told honorable senators exactly what Australia will receive from Great Britain if we make the sacrifice expected of us. When the Manchester trade delegation was in Australia, Mr. Ellis, one of its members, said that the United Kingdom desired to be allowed to supply those goods which Australia cannot produce. In other words, the delegation did not want Australia to purchase from foreign countries the articles which Great Britain could supply. But would Great Britain be prepared to apply to Australia the same principles that it wishes Australia to apply in respect of itself ? It buys from J apan and other countries where labour is cheap, and which supply goods which Australia is capable of supplying. In the circumstances, the Minister should have told honorable senators what concessions the United Kingdom is prepared to grant to Australia for the sacrifice which it is proposed that the Commonwealth should make.


Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I shall inform the honorable senator when I am replying to the second-reading debate.


Senator COLLINGS - I shall be eager to receive the information. In a leading article, the Manchester Guardian urges a continuance of Britain's trade agreement with Argentina, saying that it is common ground between all-important British industries that Argentina's market must be zealously extended. If, in return for Australian concessions, Great Britain is prepared to grant us a more favorable meat agreement, in order to absorb our exportable surplus, we shall be getting down to worthwhile bargaining.


Senator Guthrie - We are obtaining a magnificent price for our produce on account of Great Britain's attitude in this respect and the Ottawa agreement.


Senator COLLINGS - I hope that the honorable senator will not tempt me to embark on a dissertation on the Ottawa agreement, because although I am well equipped to do so I should be out of order.


Senator Hardy - The United Kingdom purchases all of the exportable surplus of Queensland sugar.


Senator COLLINGS - That is so ; but I am certain that Great Britain does so only because it is in need of it. The sooner we get down to basic facts and realize that there is no friendship in business, and never will be until the existing social system is altered, with the advent of a Labour government, the sooner will our trade relations with other countries prosper. The silken ties of friendship have gone overboard ; they have become golden ties representing the mighty dollar and the worship of mammon. The Opposition is not inclined to forget previous concessions granted by Australia to Great Britain.


Senator McLeay - Has the Leader of the Opposition a list of the concessions given by Great Britain to Australia?


Senator COLLINGS - Australia purchases 42 per cent. of its total imports from Great Britain; Great Britain purchases only 7.2 per cent. of its imports from Australia. To attempt to persuade me that Australia cannot supply Great Britain with more than 7.2 per cent. of its total requirements would be futile.


Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator cannot get away with that comparison.


Senator COLLINGS - The Minister will have every opportunity to reply to my statements. If he can convince me that my information is inaccurate, he will find me very contrite. I am prepared to stand by the figures which I have cited. When it is also remembered that, apart from goods which Australia has to buy from tropical countries - and Great Britain cannot supply many of them - of every £10 worth of goods purchased in Australia, £7 worth comes from the United Kingdom, the great advantages of the preference granted by the Commonwealth toGreat Britain will be recognized.


Senator Dein - What percentage of our exports does Great Britain take?


Senator COLLINGS - The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, whom a member of the House of Representatives unkindly but rather aptly described as the "Minister for trade tragedies ", appeared to be most concerned regarding the importation of goods manufactured by cheap labour. He also referred to criticism by the Labour party as a betrayal of the Australian workman. I have said sufficient in connexion with this matter to refute such a statement. The present Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), when criticizing the Scullin Government on the 4th June, 1931, said -

Hundreds of thousands of good Australians will be compelled to pay greatly increased prices for their clothing as a result of these excessively high duties.

Yet under the present proposals Australian workmen will be compelled to pay increased prices for their clothing as the result of the protection afforded to Great Britain. The Government was not prepared to grant effective protection to its own people; but it is prepared to do so for the benefit of Great Britain. I emphasize that the policy of the Australian Labour party is Australia first; Great Britain second; and our sister dominions next, if they can supply our requirements. In our scheme of things the rest of the world, in connexion with trade, will be placed as far away as possible. A scientific tariff, properly administered by the Government, would have achieved that object. All that is wanted is a settled fiscal policy without discriminating against any nation. If this were devised, there would be no need for this sacrifice of the wool industry under the schedules.


Senator Hardy - Would the honorable senator settle the trade dispute by permitting Japan to export to Australia any quantity of textiles it pleased?


Senator COLLINGS - The honorable senator will have an opportunity to elaborate his own contention. I am endeavouring to make it clear - and I believe that I have succeeded with everybody but Senator Hardy -that the Australian Labour party stands for a high protective tariff. In those circumstances, the Opposition will support any move for the purpose of increasing the protective tariff in order to prevent the importation of cheap goods from low-wage countries. To do anything else would be to jeopardize the " White Australia " principle. If we permit the unrestricted importation of cheap Japanese articles, we might just as well allow the unrestricted immigration into Australia of the Japanese themselves.


Senator Hardy - But the honorable senator has taken objection to that.


Senator COLLINGS - The Opposition objects to having its advice in regard tofiscal policy systematically, definitely, and contumaciously rejected for a number of years until the final catastrophe, which the Labour party predicted, occurs, when we are expected to be pure, merino, dyed-in-the-wool patriots, and come to the rescue of the Government, because the components of the composite Ministry are at loggerheads. The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, when introducing these schedules, declared himself an arch-champion of protection; throughout his previous political career he was the arch-enemy of protection. If ever there was a dyedinthewool freetrader it was Sir Henry Gullett, and now we are asked to accept this reversal of form on the part of himself and the Government to which he belongs, in spite of all the protests we have made against their policy hitherto. Of course, from the remarks I have been making for the last hour, honorable senators have gathered that we shall support this bill so far as it proposes to keep out the cheap products of cheaplabour countries.







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