Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Tuesday, 10 July 1906

Mr CAMERON ("Wilmot) . - In common with most honorable members on this side of the Chamber. I am bitterly opposed to the Bill, and think that we are being unfairly treated by the Government. The honorable and learned member for Corinella asked the Minister of Customs to afford us certain information, and the Minister has made a statement in which he has done little more than repeat what he stated during the second-reading debate. He threw very little additional light on the subject. He produced a bit of soap which, although it bore a German label, he told us had been made in Japan.

Mr Johnson - And a very fine piece of soap it was.

Mr CAMERON - So far as I was able to judge, the soap was fairly good. I did not test it by making use of it, because, fortunately, I do not require so much washing as do certain Ministers. The Minister endeavoured to impress upon us the fact that dumping was being carried on to an extent that was proving disastrous to many of our industries. If he had desired to convince honorable members upon that point he should have proved his case by bringing forward incontrovertible testimony, instead of merely producing a piece of soap. Although he stated that the soap had been made in Japan, it bore a label printed partly in French and partly in. German, and there was absolutely no evidence that the article was the product of Japanese habour. The Minister should not content himself by making mere assertions, but should submit absolute proofs. Of course, the object of the Minister was to excite the feelings of honorable members against the introduction into the Com- monwealth of the products of cheap labour. If he knew anything about Japan, he would be aware that the Japanese, who live principally on rice and fish, have a very small number of cattle and sheep, and are therefore not able to produce large quantities of tallow with which to manufacture soap for export. If the soap produced by the Minister was made in Japan, its principal constituent, namely, tallow, must have been first imported either from Australia or South America. The Minister should be in a position to substantiate his statements. I should like to point out that three classes of the community are deeply interested in this measure. The first crass, the manufacturers, is a comparatively small one. The second class, the employes in our manufacturing industries, is not a very large one; and the third class, the consumers, is by far the largest and most important. It appears to me that the Minister of Trade and Customs has gone mad on the subject of protection, and that in his desire to bolster up Australian industries, he has entirely lost sight of the interests of the largest class in the com.munity, who will undoubtedly suffer seriously if this precious Bill becomes law. Dumping is generally understood to consist of placing upon the market a large quantity of a given commodity within a very short time. There can be no question that when a market is flooded in this way, the tendency is to depress prices for the time being. This may not be of any benefit to the manufacturers, or their employes, but it is certainly good for the great bulk of the consumers. The Minister says that if, as the result of dumping, our manufacturers are ruined, the importers who have been flooding the market will in a very short time raise their prices, and the consumers will eventually be no better off than if they had paid reasonable prices all along. We know, however, that if prices were unduly raised, those who had been responsible for the dumping, with the object of securing the market for themselves, would very soon be exposed to competition from other quarters. Most European countries are unable to consume all the manufactured goods that they produce, and would very readily seize an opportunity to enter into competition with any body of men who might seek to monopolize our market in the manner indicated. I do not know of any article except oil, the price of which could be unduly inflated for any length of time, because competition would undoubtedly operate to bring prices down to a normal level. For these reasons, it appears to me that we need not be afraid that any very disastrous effects will follow from dumping. The honorable and learned member for Wannon, before the adjournment for dinner, made an extremely eloquent speech, in which he conclusively proved that statements which the Minister had accepted as gospel were utterly without foundation. Manufacturers abroad, by the aid of better machinery, or owing to the fact that they are able to manufacture on a large scale, are enabled to produce certain articles very much more cheaply than they can be produced here, and if we pass this Bill we shall say to those persons, " We shall not allow you to sell your goods at a price which yields you a fair profit, and -which you are prepared to accept, but we shall compel you to raise your price to that of the Australian manufacturers of the same goods." If we take ploughs, for example, which are amongst the most useful implements employed in one of our primary industries, we shall find that Australian ploughs at the present time cannot be sold at much less than from £6 10s. to £j. We are told that they are superior to the implements imported from America and Canada. Whether that be so are not, I am unable to say. The workmanship of the imported implements may not be quite as good as that of the implements locally manufactured, but they answer their purpose, and American and Canadian ploughs can be sold here at from £4. 10s. to £5. If this Bill is to have any effect at all, action may be taken under it to compel American and Canadian manufacturers of ploughs to put their price for those implements up to the price charged by Australian manufacturers. Who will suffer by that ? It will be the farmers of Australia, of whom I am one. I therefore say that if this Bill is allowed to become law, its effect may be to inflict injustice on one of the most deserving classes in- the community. I recognise that honorable members can speak more than once to the same question in Committee, and I shall, therefore, not speak at length at this stage, but, before resuming my seat, -I do urge upon the' freetraders in the labour ranks opposite to consult the best interests of the people of Australia, and vote against these antidumping clauses.

Suggest corrections