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Thursday, 2 June 1921

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) .- The item now under consideration affects an industry of vast importance, one that is important in many respects and for many reasons. The manufacture of iron and steel has been referred to. repeatedly during the debate as a key industry; it is more than that, it is a basic industry, without which all others would cease .to exist. It is, to use the word in its broadest sense, the primary industry. Without its productions, the farmer could not till his field, the miner could not win wealth from the earth. All industries are dependent on it.

Mr Gregory - And, therefore, may be gravely affected by the action now to be taken by this Committee.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I shall come to the effects of the duties shortly. To complete what I was saying about' the importance of the iron and steel industry, let me add that it is essential to the defence of the country and the preservation of our national existence. In view of the lessons of the war, Australia should be prepared to pay whatever price it will cost, even if that were infinitely greater than I believe it will or should be, to secure the establishment of this industry on such a sound basis that there can be no question of its future prosperity and progress. One contemplates almost with amazement what has already been accomplished in the last few years. In the year, before, the war Australia imported 54,19S tons of pig-iron and produced 66,868 tons, her consumption then being about 120,000 tons a year ; but in 1920 our production and consumption was 345,000 tons, or practically three times as much. Then, in 1913, we imported 65,000 tons of steel ingots and blooms, which was our consumption for the year, because wc were, not then manufacturing steel. It was not until 1917 that steel billets were being turned out at Lithgow, the Broken Hill Company producing them a little later. In 1919. the Broken Hill Company produced 176,843 tons of steel ingots, 31,003 tons of billets, and 2,085 tons of blooms. I have not Messrs. Hoskins' figures for that year, but in 1917 their firm made 19,667 tons of steel ingots. Thus our consumption of steel, as well as that of pig-iron, is now about three times what it was immediately before the war. ' That shows not only how great has been the development of our iron and steel industry, but also how many other of our industries have developed.

Mr Marr - What were our importations during the interval?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They were a bagatelle; we could not get what we required. The industries of this country were crying out for the raw material of machinery and building operations, and our external supplies of it were virtually cut off. During the last year of the war we imported only 874 tons of pig-iron, most of which came from the United States of America. Had not our iron and steel industry been established as it was just before the outbreak of war, what would have been the position of Australia when transport from other (countries was interrupted, and we were almost entirely deprived of supplies from our ordinary sources? We should be deeply thankful that an industry was established before the war which, during the struggle, was able to meet what had been our normal requirements, and also, to a large extent, the increased demand created by the war. Not only did it provide Australia with what Australia would have had to, go without during that period, but it also effected, as far as the community was concerned, an enormous saving. I have the figures, worked out in detail, as to the prices that were charged by the Broken Hill Company for all their main products for every year of the war.

Mr Gregory - Can you give us any of the pre-war prices for the purposes of comparison ?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have not got them here at' the moment. In any case, that is not the point I am making. Not only was the fact that these industries were established during the war of immense assistance to Australia, but they* also saved this country many millions of pounds. It is almost impossible to conceive that, if this industry had not been established, we should have been able to get our requirements, and certainly we should never have got them to anything like the same extent that the local companies were able to supply them. But even had we been able to import to the same extent as the local companies were able to supply our requirements, and had we paid the prices which the rest of the world had to pay for those products, we should have been many millions out of pocket.

Mr Hector Lamond - And that money would have gone to develop the industries of other countries and not our own.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What the honorable member suggests is perfectly correct. I have here the figures for rails and fishplates,blooms, channels, beams, angles, (heavy, light and bulb), rounds, flats, squares, rods, billets, and pig iron. The comparisons have been worked out with the utmost care. The prices for other countries are taken . from their published periodicals - the Ironmonger in England, the Iron Age and the Statist in America. There is no question of the authenticity of the figures. For the local statistics I have had to rely on the Broken Hill Company's own figures, which I asked them to give me, showing the actual amounts of the various products which they supplied, and their prices at the works for all the goods. These figures show that, as between the American prices landed c.i.f. in Australia and the prices in Australia, in the years 1915 to 1920, the net saving to the people of this country from the Broken Hill works alone . was £4,371,724. The amount of iron and steel turned out by Hoskins at Lithgow is, roughly, about one-third of the output of the Broken Hill works, and inasmuch as Hoskins were selling in competition with the Broken Hill Company, one can safely assume that their prices were . similar, and that we should therefore add one-thirdof that amount to arrive at the actual net savings to the people of this country. That is to say, we must add, roughly, £1,500,000 to the £4,371,724, thus ascertaining a net saving of very nearly £6,000,000. 1 have the same detailed statements worked out to show the comparison with England. I find that, compared with the English prices, the amount of savings to the people of this country over the same period in regard to the Broken Hill Company's works alone was£6,321,621. That of itself seems to me to be as fine a recommendation as one can give to the people of this country for the establishment of the industry here.

Mr.Gabb. - Are those departmental figures, or the firm's figures ?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have had the figures checked, so far as one can check them, from the various periodicals "which publish price-lists in Great Britain and America, -while for the local prices I have had to depend on the records of the company's office.

Mr Gregory - Are your figures depar tmentally prepared?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - All I can say is that they have been carefully checked.

Mr Gregory - Have they, been prepared by the Chamber of Manufactures, or by your Department?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I will tell the Committee frankly what I did. I knew that the products of the Broken Hill Company and of Messrs. Hoskins Limited had been sold in Australia much below the world's prices, and I knew, of course, broadly speaking, , that this must have meant a very great saving to the people of Australia. 1 asked the management of the Broken Hill Company to give me their figures, so that, by taking the figures for other countries from the various trade journals, and ascertaining the average of prices over the various periods,I might be able to arrive at the difference, and thus find the saving to the people of Australia. That was done.

Mr HECTOR LAMOND (ILLAWARRA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Do those figures cover iron and steel only?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They cover only the items I have mentioned.

Mr Hector Lamond - There is another big saving in connexion with the subsidiary industries.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - As the honorable member points out, this is only the beginning of the thing, because these products are used again in the manufacture of many articles of commerce. So we get a further saving, inasmuch as we are working on a lower outlay cost, when the manufacturer and the merchant come to put on their profits. Therefore,while there is this large saving on the rough products of the iron and steel industry, if one may so term them, there is a further saving when we consider the products manufactured from them.

Mr Bowden - The converse is also true, that if you put up the price of the raw material you put it up in the subsidiary industries, too.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is no doubt about that. I have put these broad considerations before the Committee, because it is essential not only that we should recognise the necessity for the industry here, but also that we should have some idea of the tremendous advantages which Australia has already reaped from its establishment in our . midst, never losing sight, of the fact that the safety and security of the country absolutely depend upon its definite establishment, progress, and perpetuity in Australia.

It is. when we regard the question of perpetuity that we come down definitely to the consideration of the degree of protection that we should give to the industry in its. comparative infancy., It has. had during the war a marvellous opportunity to grow and develop, an opportunity which, in normal circumstances, it would never have secured. Australia has every reason to be grateful that there were men in this country prepared in the circumstances to risk the enormous amount of capital involved in the industry, and to press ahead in the belief that the people would! recognise the immense- service- that had been rendered to them, and would be prepared also to- see that -they were- given reasonable assurance, enabling them to carry on hereafter the good work that they had begun.

That brings me to the consideration of the peculiar conditions under which the iron and steel industry must exist if. it is to continue. I do not know any industry which provides a better example of the absolute necessity for continuity of operations, and mass production. The key to the whole position lies in the fact that, the iron and steel industry must have continuity of operations, and mass production, if there is to be the slightest hope of success. Unless we can secure those two things, there is not the remotest chance of maintaining the industry against the great established Steel Combines, world wide in their operations, of which honorable members have some knowledge. Consequently, in anything we do here, we must be reasonably certain that what we do will secure those two objects. We must be reasonably assured that the protection we give will afford this great enterprise an opportunity to go. steadily on with, the work it is doing, because, if there is to be any interruption in the operations, if they are to . be submitted from time to time to a competition which will put out the fires in the blast furnaces, because they cannot produce in. competition, we shall arrive at a position where it will be utterly impossible for the industry to continue. Not only must we . take all reasonable action to prevent this, but we must also see to it that those allied and kindred industries which depend upon the blast furnaces for their supplies, and which the blast furnaces depend upon to take their products,, are likewise protected in such a manner that we- shall get continuity of operations both in the blast furnaces and the subsidiary industries. There is the whole picture, if honorable members will so regard it. Not merely must we keep- the blast furnaces continually going,, keep the metal continually moving from the blast furnaces in its molten state to the still furnace, and keep the steel ingot when it is cast in its red hot state going straight to the mills to be worked into the various forms that the trade requires, but we must also see that the industries which take in these sections . whatever they may happen to be, are also in- a position to produce continuously: The industry is Tike a huge machine into which at one end is poured the pig iron-, and- out of the other is obtained the finished' product. It must be in continuous- operation, otherwise there is not the slightest chance of placing the iron and steel industry on a sure footing in this country.

One has so much material in connexion with a subject of this nature that it is somewhat difficult to select just that which may be most suitable for the occasion.

Mr Considine - It was supplied free of charge, too, was it not?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I can only tell the honorable member for Barrier that much of the information I haveon this important subject is the result of a great deal of study and hard work.

Mr Considine - I have no doubt about that ; bus much of the material was supplied free, for I got some of it.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the honorable member had spent as many hours and weeks as I have in the study of this industry he would probably know as much as and perhaps more about it than I do myself. I have tried, because I recognise its tremendous importance to the welfare of the Commonwealth, to make myself acquainted with the industry in all its ramifications, and I have endeavoured, from the facts presented to me, to determine, in the circumstances, what is a reasonable amount of protection to extend to it, in order that it may be carried on here under satisfactory conditions.

This brings me to the point which I was about to mention when the honorable member interrupted me, namely, as to the manner in which the industry has been established in other countries. As far as I have been able to gather from a close study of the question, the iron and steel industry has not been established in any country in the world except under a Protective Tariff. Great Britain herself adopted methods of protection which, I venture to say, this Committee would not look at for a single moment.

Mr Hector Lamond - They were drastic measures.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They were, indeed, very drastic, and applied not only to the material, but also to the men engaged in the industry. In this way Great Britain established herself in a position of preeminence in the early days of the iron and steel industry under comparatively modern methods of production.

Mr Gregory - What was the position of her opponents ?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is true her opponents had not reached that stage of development now reached by the opponents of the Australian iron and steel industry, and because of this fact one is amazed that Great Britain adopted such drastic measures to establish the industry in the Mother Country.

Mr Gregory - This is the first time I have heard that Great Britain built up her industries by Protection, although I am aware that she had Protective duties.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I was astonished myself, when I studied the history of the iron and steel industry in Great Britain, to learn of the methods by which the Mother Country established her preeminence in the early days of the industry. The first country to definitely chal lenge Great Britain's position was the United . States of America, which built up the industry there under a Protective Tariff so high that I almost blush at the moderation of the request to which I am now asking the Committee to agree. The honorable member for Dampier told us last night that the United States of America had these items on the free list.

Mr Gregory - No ; I quoted the items which I said were free.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am talking of the particular items now before the Committee. It is. quite true that they are to-day on the United States of America free list, because that country, as the result of a continued policy of highProtection, has so developed theiron and steel industry that it is now in an unassailable position, no longer requiring Tariff protection. That is my conception of the proper operation of a Protective Tariff.

Mr Stewart - Will you hazard a guess when we shall reach that happy position ?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I say that, if we enjoy for the same duration of time- from 1874 to 1897 - a. term of twenty-three years of solid and continuous' high Protection on these particular items, we may expect them to be sufficiently well established. We cannot then expect to be able in the short period that this industry has been in operation in Australia to throw it open to the competition of the whole world. This would be a disastrous policy for many reasons, -some of 'which I have endeavoured to place before the Committee. ' Inmy judgment, We are. not asking for excessive duties. I agree with the honorable member for Dampier that there is a point 'beyond -which it is not desirable to go. I agree that it would be midsummer madness to force up wages in this country to a point at which it would be impossible for Australia, which, after all, is only one -country in the world, in its economic relationships with other countries; to -maintain her position. But I entirely disagree with the proposition put forward by the honorable gentleman last night, if I understood him aright, that we must make the industrial conditions here such as will enable us to compete with the nations of the world, for surely we have set up a standard of living, with regard to the workers of this country, infinitely better 'than that obtaining in many other countries.

Mr Gregory - I made it clear that my remarks were directed to the British preferential Tariff. As far as the other countries are concerned, I do not care what duty is imposed.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I took particular notice of the honorable member's remarks, because, as far as I understand the position, we have a standard of living which is appreciably better than that in many other countries that come into competition with us, including Britain herself, and I think we should endeavour to maintain that standard. If to do that it is necessary to have Protective duties, we should impose them without the slightest hesitation.

Mr JAMES PAGE (MARANOA, QUEENSLAND) - Will you indicate what you intend to do in regard to the manufacture, of steel plates for ship building?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I shall refer to that matter later on. The honorable member for Dampier also said something about the natural protection which this industry enjoyed.

Mr Gregory - I said I would not deal with that particularly, because it was only a small item.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I point out, that the Inter-State Commission, in its report on the industry, which the honorable member quoted last night, expressed the view that this natural protection is an absolute myth. It stated -

It is a commonly accepted fact, confirmed by the evidence that pig iron has been imported in considerable quantities as ballast at very cheap freights. This may not apply so much to China and India, although, during' the war, conditions have existed which have enabled cheap freights to offer from India. There are no other imports that can command so low an inward freight; and, as the competition in price and freight is most keen from those countries where labour cost is not more than half what it is in Australia, it means that the Australian iron manufacturer has no natural protection in freight and charges, and has the disability of increased cost of production.

Mr Gregory - I know the Minister wants to be fair, and so he will admit that I did hot claim natural protection so much for pig iron as for other items.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think the honors able member said that there was a greater natural protection on machinery than on this particular item. I venture to say, however, that if the Inter-State Commission had gone on, as they very well might have done, they could have pointed out that overseas freights on this particular class of material are very much lower than our coastal freights. Therefore, our local manufacturers not only have no natural protection, but have also a definite handicap in regard to freights. In addition to competing with thoroughly established industries in other countries, backed by almost unlimited capital and able to place their products if necessary at reduced costs in any part of the world, our manufacturers start so much behind scratch in regard to the cost of actually landing their products in the various ports of Australia.

Over and over again the statement has been made here that the rates of wages in other parts of the world are as high as they are in Australia, but, so far as I have been able to study the problem of wages here and elsewhere, I have gathered that, no matter what happened during the war, the present tendency is for wages in Great Britain and America to fall below th'e [Australian level. Since the Armistice the tendency has been for wages in Australia to rise all the time, and for the conditions of labour to become more difficult so far as the manufacturer is concerned, whereas in other countries competing with us the pendulum is swinging the other way, and things are daily becoming easier for the employer, and, perhaps, more difficult for the workmen. In some respects the wages paid in Great Britain are lower than the corresponding rates paid in Australia. Again, in regard to coal, the last figures I saw as to the cost of this fuel at Pittsburg, taking the pit run, as the coke works do, show that it is 16s. 8d. per ton as against £1 ls. 9d. at Newcastle. The actual amount of coal used per ton of pig iron is about 2 tons, or 1.25 tons of coke, which, of course, is actually used in the blast furnace operations, while another ton of coal is used in turning the pig iron into steel. As a consequence, the slightest reduction in price of coal elsewhere is a definite handicap to the Australian manufacturer.

Mr Gregory - In Canada immense quantities of bituminous anthracite; on which there is a fair duty, are imported,^ but still Canada is building up a big steel '' industry.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - For the moment I cannot say whether the Canadian steel industry is m that, position, but I know that in America the price of coal is coming down all the time, whereas in Australia, if anything, it is rising' all the time. Therefore, .one is faced with the definite knowledge that, the Australian manufacturer commences operations with odds against him, apart altogether from the fact, that his organization is smaller than that, of his competitors, that he has a. limited market for his products*, and that he is lacking in experience in: the commercial battlefield. In. view of these, facts, one must conclude that he needs some sort of protection, at any rate, to the- extent of the rates- set. out- in the schedule.

Now I turn to the other side of the picture. Requests have been made for increased duties. I pointed out earlier in the course of my speech that the iron and steel industry is at the base of a pyramid. Upon it are built a vast number of other industries. Upon it depends to a greater or less extent almost every individual in the community. Consequently, in the arrangement of" these duties we. must exercise due care to see that we do not ask. for more that is' necessary, while still providing what may be. regarded as sufficient. Honorable members who have asked, for increased duties say that such increases have come about in the cost of coal, labour and harbor dues, that the duties have become less effective since they were first imposed; but I would point out that at the moment this Tariff was tabled no Protection, was needed in these lines, a. statement which, is amply borne out by the fact that the Australian manufacturers were in a position to sell their products to other nations at a very much lower price than those nations were asked to pay by the manufacturers of other countries. When I set out in an endeavour to wrestle with this very difficult and tangled problem which confronted me in respect to the duties upon iron and steel products, I endeavoured to keep in mind what was likely to happen in the future as far as ohe could forecast

t.   it ; because the Tariff as I framed it was never intended to deal with the conditions prevailing at the moment.

Sir Robert Best - The Minister did not contemplate a reduction of about 70' per cent, in the value of the duty.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is not a fair presentation of the case to say that a duty has practically disappeared because additional charges have been put on the manufacturer in Australia during the period the duty has been in operation, when- it was actually not required at the moment the Tariff was tabled.

Mr Watkins - The steel-' manufacturers bad prohibition when they commenced operations in Australia-, because at that time no foreign supplies were coming to« band:

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - When the Tariff was tabled, there was no prohibition in regard to these lines. The war. had. been over for some considerable time, and it was a comparatively easy matter to secure importations provided the price of the local article was not very much below the world's market price. But as that was actually the case at the time, it did not pay foreign manufacturers, to send their products to Australia. It is hardly a fair presentation of the case to assume that a duty of 20s. was necessary when the Tariff was tabled, and then show that because certain charges' have accrued since then its value has disappeared. It was a difficult matter to forecast what was likely to happen when the period' of competition - to which we are rapidly approaching, and which in some- cases has actually arrived - could be reasonably assumed to- exist. But when we were considering these- duties we took this, into account. I think that when trads assumes what I anticipate will be its normal level, this particular duty will be found to represent about 22 per cent. British.

Mr Gregory - On pre-war levels, the duty is much more than 22' per cent.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is; but one must guess somewhat in these matters, and I have endeavoured to guess at what is likely to happen in the final adjustment of prices to which the markets will settle.

Sir Robert Best - It is purely an arbitrary assessment, because the Minister has no material' on which to form a definite judgment.'

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I admit there is nothing certain, and that one is more or less treading on shif ting quicksands. All one can say is that on pre-war prices the duty will represent very much more than 22 per cent. British, hut I am assuming that, although the prices will fall to a point appreciably below the war level, they will not reach the pre-war level. In all the circumstances, bearing in mind the fact that the iron and steel industry here has had a flying start, and that it is established on up-to-date lines with, as far as one can see, every prospect of . success, I think the rates of duty fixed should prove sufficient.

Certain figures were quoted last night as to -the prices at which certain products of the steel industry were being sold in Australia. In every instance it was stated that they have come from Belgium.

Mr Watkins - Which might mean Germany.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - As the. law prevents the importation of goods containing more than 5 per cent. of German origin, I conceived it my duty to try to ascertain whether any of the iron or steel arriving here from Belgium was of German origin. As the result of our inquiries, we were assuredas definitely as we could be in a matter of this sort that the origin of this iron and steel is not German, but that German coal, which, of course, was reparation coal, had been used in the manufacture of these articles. Of course, we could take no action in regard to that coal.

Mr Richard Foster - Was the Minister satisfied?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - As satisfied as one could be. Of course, we could only make inquiries through official channels, and that was the result. The real reason why we are up against this Belgian competition to-day is not that Belgium. is producing iron or steel cheaper than we , are, but because the exchange rates between that country and Australia are such that the Belgian manufacturers have done what I have predicted several times in this chamber would be done. I have said several times that when certain countries arrived at a point where they were anxious to get rid of their products, they would use exchange rates for the purpose of enabling them to dump those products.

Mr Gregory - Could the Broken Hill Proprietary Company supply those iron and steel goods which are being imported to-day ?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There may have been a period when, owing to strikes and the fact that the blast furnaces had to shut down for quite a long period, the Broken Hill Company and Hoskins Limited couldnot supplythe local demand, and it was necessary, therefore, to get bars and articles of that sort from abroad. I was saying that Belgian competition arises not from the fact' that Belgium is producing iron and steel at a lower cost than the Australian manufacturers, but because she is taking . advantage of the exchange ratesto dump her products.

Mr Charlton - How are we to pre- vent it?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - 'The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) has suggested increased duties. If those increases were made, they would not materially improve the position in regard to Belgian competition. A great deal more must he donebef ore we can he reasonably assured that we have overcome the exchange problem. The matter . must be dealt with by special legislation.

Mr Gregory - Belgian products would be subject to the higher rate.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It does not matter whether or not they , are governed bythe higher rate ; even the. rate . of . £4 per ton, which the . honorable member for Newcastle has suggested, would not nearly counterbalance the exchange position.

Mr Fenton - Has the Minister worked out the actual exchange rate ?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It varies from day to day ; hut I think it is now about 60 francs to the sovereign.

Mr JAMES PAGE (MARANOA, QUEENSLAND) - If a rate of £4 per ton is not sufficient, make it £10.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) -The exchange position is not normal. It may take . some time to adjust itself, but the present conditions are passing, and I do not think, it would be right to attempt to counterbalance the exchange -position by imposing duties which would apply to all countries alike, regardless of whether the exchange was favorable or unfavorable. For instance, inbuying iron from America to-day we get an oppositeresult to that which attends purchases from Belgium. The American exchange rate today is about $3.95 to the sovereign. The Belgian rate is 60 francs to the sovereign, as against the Mint par rate of 25 francs. When the Belgians dump their product into Australia, and we receive 60 francs worth of their goods for a sterling value of 25 francs, we have a position which can be met only by special legislation. To-day the American Congress and the British Parliament are wrestling with this problem in comprehensive, although entirely different, ways. At this moment the House of Commons is considering, in Committee of Ways and Means, a very drastic and comprehensive proposal at which the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) would look askance.

Mr McWilliams - God help Australia when Britain imposes a Tariff like this !

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The resolution now before the British House of Commons places in the hands of the responsible authorities tremendous power to prescribe, independent of Parliament, not only the articles upon which duty shall be imposed, but also the extent of the impost. The Imperial Parliament is outHeroding Herod in trying to protect British industries from the dumping of continental goods owing to the exchange position, subject to certain limitations. As we shall . before long have to resume trading operations with Germany, and as the present Tate of exchange is 243 marks to the sovereign instead of the Mint par rate of 25, it would mean absolute ruin to our industries, particularly the production of iron and steel, if we opened our door to trade, with Germany without first introducing special legislation to cope with the exchange position.

Mr Gregory - During the war the British Government placed an embargo on imported chemicals,, and Judge Sankey ruled that they had not the power - that the matter must be dealt with by Parliament.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The British Parliament is being asked to definitely place that power in the hands of the Board of Trade over which a Minister of the Crown presides. I have endeavoured to deal with this highly important subject as briefly as possible.

Mr Gregory - Has the Minister heard anything about restriction of trade by the Broken Hill Company ?

Mr Charlton - That was denied last night.

Mr McWILLIAMS (FRANKLIN, TASMANIA) - There has been a confirmation to-day of what was said last night by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr).

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have not heard of anything which might be regarded as restraint of trade.

Mr Gregory - Have no complaints been made officially ?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I . have had letters from two companies complaining of certain actions by the Broken Hill Company. One of them I brought under the notice of the Broken Hill Company, and the complaint was immediately adjusted. The other complaint is one of which the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) knows something. It is a quarrel between a number of very hard-headed business men.

Mr McWilliams - It is a quarrel between a monopoly and another firm.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am certain that no Court in the world would say that the action of which complaint has been made amounts to restraint of trade.

Mr Richard Foster - Hear, hear.

Mr JAMES PAGE (MARANOA, QUEENSLAND) - How does it happen that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) can see all these letters to. the Customs Department but no one else can see them? Is he wetnursing the Government?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He certainly did not see the departmental files.

Mr JAMES PAGE (MARANOA, QUEENSLAND) - Then how can he declare with such assurance that the Government are right ?

Mr Richard Foster - The Government are not involved in the dispute.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The correspondence which I have had simply reveals that there are two sets of very keen business men who are both trying to make their own point. It is perfectly legitimate business.

Mr McWilliams - Are you quite sure that it is legitimate?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - So far as I am able to understand the squabble, it is. I have not the slightest doubt that these gentlemen can arrange their business differences and come to terms. As a matter of fact; I know they are approaching each other at the present time.

Mr McWilliams - And the company is holding off until the Tariff is passed.

Mr Gregory - Does the Minister say that the quarrel has nothing to do with the fixing of prices by the Broken Hill Company ?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It has nothing whatever to do with that. I do not think I should disclose the actual details of the dispute, of which I have confidential knowledge, but I do not think that any Court would say to the Broken Hill Company that it must do what it is Being asked to do. I believe that the rates which I have asked the Committee to accept do give reasonable assurance of continuity of operations.

Mr Charlton - There is a very big doubt as to whether they do.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If I felt any reasonable doubt, I would unhesitatingly ask the Committee to increase the rates, but if we increase the rate on this basic item, we must carry the increases right through the schedule.

Mr Fenton - Does that mean that the first item governs all other items of metal and machinery, and that if there is no increase on the first item, there can be none on the others ?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not saying that there may not be need for adjustment of the duties in respect of individual items, but if we increase this basic item there is not the slightest doubt that we must do the same right along the scale.

Mr JAMES PAGE (MARANOA, QUEENSLAND) - If we put a duty on the raw material, why should it be necessary to increase the duty on wire netting or fencing wire?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The first item represents the raw material for the manufacture of the others, and whilst eventually we may arrive at- a time when we can ignore the duty altogether, and make the items free, that time is not yet. The iron and steel industry is still in its infancy, and that is why I feel that the rates laid down should be reasonably safe.

Mr Charlton - If it should be found that the rates are not sufficient, what will become of the subsidiary industries?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have not disguised from myself or the Committee the seriousness of that possibility. It is. absolutely essential that we should be reasonably assured that our industries are secure.

I think what I have done will be sufficient. If it is not, it will be for this Parliament at some future time to say so; and 1 do not think it will hesitate to say so. But I cannot conceive of any Government coming into power and letting this industry down.

Mr Charlton - Suppose that it goes down before Parliament can deal with it?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is not at ' all likely. I repeat that I have given the whole matter very careful consideration.. The. rates set down are not the rates originally proposed. Those which I have; determined upon are the outcome of careful study of the whole problem, and I ask the Committee to accept them, at all events, for the time being.

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