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Monday, 18 December 1911

Senator GIVENS (Queensland) . - At this period of the session there is little opportunity for a lengthy examination of the .Bill, but it is such a small and unimportant measure that even, the most rabid Free Trader could excuse it on the grounds that the young lady in Captain Marryat's novel excused her promiscuous baby, that it is " only a very little one." I am opposed to the policy which has been pursued since the inauguration of the Commonwealth, of depending largely upon Customs taxation for revenue. I can find an excuse for the Free Trailer, and much reason in his arguments, hut no excuse for, and no reason in, the arguments of the revenue Tariffist. To me the greatest anomaly is a revenue Tariff Labourite. Since we inaugurated the Commonwealth we find that instead of decreasing the burden of taxation upon the people through the Customs House, we have been increasing it. Instead of building up great manufacturing industries, and making Australia what it really ought to be - a self-contained country as much as possible, and as it is quite capable of becoming with its enormous diversity of climate and soil, and resources of various kinds. - we find that our imports per head are also largely increasing. Honorable senators fondly hoped that the last Tariff would be mainly Protective in its incidence, but instead of being Protective, instead of inducing a larger quantity of the goods required by Australians to be manufactured locally, the opposite effect has resulted, because our imports are going up by leaps and bounds.

Senator Fraser - That is proof of 0U prosperity.

Senator GIVENS - I shall come to that view of the subject directly if the honorable senator will permit me. The net Customs and Excise revenue in 1900-1 was £8,000,000; in 1910-11 it was £13,000,000, showing a jump of £5,000,000 since Federation; and it is estimated that for the current will be very nearly £14,000,000. During the same period the receipts from the Customs and Excise per head* have risen from £2 is. 5¼d. in 1900 to £3 os. nd., estimated, in 1911-12, while the actual receipts for the last financial year were £2 18s. 9¼d Anybody who desires the true welfare of Australia cannot look upon those figures as disclosing anything else but a disastrous and calamitous state of affairs.

Senator Fraser - If it continues.

Senator GIVENS - It appears to me that it is not. only going to continue, but to become accentuated. What are we doing to alter that state of affairs? Are we trying to build up our industries by a Tariff which will really be effective? When the last Tariff was under consideration, I fought all I knew .to make absolutely free goods which could not be produced here, and which could not be viewed in the light of extravagant luxuries, such as spirits, wines, champagne, and things of that kind, and to impose really effective duties on those goods which could be, and ought to be manufactured here. Unfortunately, we have never had a Parliament which has had sufficient backbone and initiative to insist upon the Government of the day doing its will. To me, it appears that there will have to be a struggle in the near future as to whether the Cabinet should boss Parliament or vice versa. We have imposed a duty on almost every article which is imported, but the duty in most cases is not sufficiently heavy to be effectively Protectionist. The consequence is that we import these goods in larger quantities as the years go by, as is evidenced by our imports and Customs receipts. The chief effect of the Tariff has been to extract money from the pockets of the taxpayers, instead of, as it ought to do, assisting to create and establish new industries, and to foster and enlarge existing industries.

Senator Fraser - What chance have new industries to be created when old industries, which have done well, can hardly get sufficient hands to carry on with?

Senator GIVENS - The honorable senator is voicing one of the fallacies which are very commonly held, that if we raise the duties we shall only put an increased burden on the taxpayers. That I deny altogether. My own opinion is that many manufacturers in Australia do not want to see the Customs duties increased, because they enjoy a close preserve, and the Tariff is not sufficiently high to induce others to come here and compete with them. Take the case of pianos, which are included in this Bill. Does anybody believe that if the duty were trebled to-morrow the cost of pianos would be increased by one iota to the customers ? I believe that it would not be increased by a single farthing. But the effect would be that those who now export pianos to Australia would come here and manufacture them locally. It is well known that when the last Tariff was under consideration Mr. Beale, the piano manufacturer in Sydney, did not want any increase in the duty, and I doubt very much whether his competitors in Australia, Wer- theim and Company, want any increase in the duty.

Senator Sayers - They are asking for it.

Senator GIVENS - What they desire is sufficient Protection to give them an advantage over the very large imports which are coming in, but they do not want a sufficiently high duty to induce other manufacturers to come here and compete with them. Under present conditions, Mr. Beale, in Sydney, and Wertheim and Company, in Melbourne, have a monopoly of the business of manufacturing pianos in Australia. And while the duty remains as it is there is not sufficient inducement for anybody else to come here and compete. While they are doing very well, the public of Australia are suffering. On the contrary, if we had a Tariff which was sufficiently high to be really effective in its Protectionist incidence, a large number of other manufacturers would come here, establish their works, and we should have free competition amongst the manufacturers, with the result that the people of Australia would be much better served than they are at present. 1 Senator McGregor. - What justification have you for saying that Mr. Wertheim or Mr. Beale does not want more Protection? Senator GIVENS. - Because I heard Mr. Beale say so when the last Tariff was put through.

Senator Blakey - Mr. Wertheim does not say that.

Senator GIVENS - I know as a matter of fact, and you, sir, ought to know it too, that in one particular line of manufacture it was proposed to increase the duty. Were the manufacturers engaged in that line in favour of the increased duty? On the contrary, they circularized the representatives of the States in which their manufactories were situated opposing an increase in the duty.

Senator McGregor - Who was that?

Senator GIVENS - The condensed milk manufacturers of Australia. I have in my possession, and can produce it at five minutes' notice, a circular which was sent to every senator for Queensland objecting to an increase in the duty on condensed milk. Why did the manufacturers object? They were enjoying sufficient Protection at the time to carry on their factories at a profit and make a success of them, and they feared what has since happened, that if the duty were increased the large manufacturers in the Old World would come here and compete with them. I am glad to say that the duty was increased, and that

Nestle Company - perhaps the biggest, firm in this line of business in the world - came to Australia and nestled here, and are now manufacturing condensed milk all over Australia. Does anybody say that that has not been a good thing for its people? It was in spite of the manufacturers of condensed milk that the duty was raised.

Senator McGregor - There was no manufacture of condensed milk then worth talking about.

Senator GIVENS - The honorable senator does not seem to know that there were at least three factories in Queensland at that time, and one in Victoria.

Senator O'KEEFE (TASMANIA) - Why did they send out a circular if it was not worth talking about?

Senator GIVENS - What they feared was competition on the part of those who were manufacturing the article in the Old Country. That increase in duty has not put up the price of condensed milE to the people of Australia by one farthing. On the contrary, we are- getting a better quality of milk, and having it manufactured within our own borders, where profitable employment is being found for a large number of people. That is a splendid thing for those settled on the land, and all round it adds to our general prosperity. It is the sort of thing we get from effective Protection, but what we get for the most part from the mongrel Tariff now in existence is an ineffective Protection which does not create anything in the way of manufactures, but extracts large sums of money from the people's pockets. It has been said on behalf of the Protectionist senators on this side that they cannot be expected to vote for higher duties until the Federal Parliament is given authority to enforce the new Protection. While that view appeals to everybody's sympathies, there is no justification for making it' a buckler and shield for the Free Traders and Revenue Tariffists on this side of the Senate. This Parliament' has been elected to work under a Constitution which gives it specific duties to perform, and we should be recreant to our trust were we to refuse to carry out those duties because we do not get some other power that we think we ought to possess. It is essential that this Parliament should be clothed with full powers to enforce new Protection, but we appealed to the people for them, and the people refused them to us. I hope that the people will be wiser on the next occasion, but in the meantime the people have given us power to enforce Protection through the Customs House.

Senator Vardon - What do you mean by the new Protection?

Senator GIVENS - Shortly put, the power to protect the worker and consumer as well as the manufacturer.

Senator Vardon - How are you going to protect the consumer?

Senator GIVENS - The honorable senator opens up a very tempting vista for discussion along which I may not be allowed to travel. The people have deliberately refused for the time being to give us power to enforce new Protection, but is there any reason imaginable why we should sulk like a lot of school-kids, and refuse to carry out the duty of enforcing Protection through the Customs House? A reasonable view of the situation is that it is our duty to carry out all those functions with which we have been intrusted, and allow the poeple to say in good time whether it is wise or not to give us further power-. The people have very nearly the same power, or would have if they put their foot down strongly enough, to enforce new Protection through the State Parliaments.

Senator O'Keefe - Not under the franchise of the Legislative Councils.

Senator GIVENS - At any rate, it was the people's right to say to which Parliament they would give the power. As Senator O'Keefe points out, there is a very fierce and stubborn lion in- the path of the new Protection in the shape of the Upper Houses of the State Parliaments; but there is not an Upper House in Australia which dare withstand the will of the people for any length of time if the people are only sufficiently in earnest.

Senator O'Keefe - They have done it most effectually in Tasmania for the last twenty years.

Senator GIVENS - The climate of Tasmania is so genial that its people are inclined to be good-humoured with everybody, and to take everything very easily. What I am trying to emphasize is that simply because the people refuse to enlarge, its powers is absolutely no excuse for this Parliament to refuse to carry out the duties with which it has been intrusted. The granting of extra powers is a question entirely for the people themselves. Until such time as they, are given to us, they must remain outside the functions of this Parliament. We have, however, the power, if we choose to use it, to protect Australianindustries through the Customs House, tofoster and build up existing industries, create new industries, and make Australia a great manufacturing nation, or, if we like to use it, to make our Customs House a great engine for revenue-producing purposes.

Senator Fraser - Australia is a great manufacturing nation now.

Senator GIVENS - It is not. We import into Australia more per head of population than any other country in the world., Of course, Senator Fraser, Senator Vardon, and others on that side say that thisis all due to prosperity, but it is not. If we had a properly effective Tariff, which would build up Australian industries, £20,000,000, or £30,000,000, or evert £40,000,000, which we now send away for the products of foreign manufactories, could be used in the purchase of goods produced in our own manufactories.

Senator Vardon - Then you want to increase your population 50 per cent.

Senator GIVENS - The very way ta do it is to impose a really effective. Tariff. If £40,000,000 worth of goods now imported were made in Australia by Australian hands profitable employment would be found for another 1,000,000 people. It may be said that £40,000,000 .would not keep another 1,000,000 people, but the number of workmen with their wives and families engaged in the productionof those .£40,000,000 worth of goods, with the others to whom the fructifying flood of production which would be going on all. round would give employment, would quite account for an increase of population to that extent. That is the sort of policy we want for Australia. I have no use for a shilly-shally Tariff policy. A Tariff should be either one thing or the other. It should make no pretence to be protective unless it is really meant to be protective in earnest. It should make no pretence to be a Free Trade Tariff unless it is really Free Trade, and that is where 1 join issue with my honorable friends on the other side. They pretend to be Free Traders, but I never yet found one of them' to be other than a revenue tariffist. Every one of them wants the highest possible return of revenue from the Customs inorder that the money bags' and the land' monopolists of Australia may escape their just share of taxation. The CustomsHouse hitherto, in this and other countries,, has been nothing but a great engine -for extracting money out of the pockets of the people without the people knowing it. Through it there has been imposed taxation of the most oppressive kind upon the poorer classes of the people without their being aware of it. From :the Labour stand - point that should not be, and we on this side of the House, at least, should have no desire to use the 'Customs House for that purpose. My policy, from long before I became a member of this Parliament, has been to

Allow every article required for the use of the people that we c'annot reasonably hope to manufacture here to come in absolutely free, and to impose such a high protective Tariff as would be really effective upon any article which we manufacture or can reasonably hope to manufacture. :So far I have never yet found any Australian Government which would translate that reasonable view of a Tariff into an Act of Parliament, nor does there -seem to be any in prospect that will. Every Government desires to choose the line of least resistance. No Government cares to levy direct taxation, because that comes home at once to the taxpayers. Governments, consequently, view with the greatest approval a Tariff which extracts from the people, in an indirect way, £3 per head per annum. Mr. Holman, a member of the Labour Government of New South Wales, in a speech which he had printed in pamphlet form during the discussion on the Financial Agreement, and which he had sent to every member of this Parliament, made the statement that the great advantage of Customs House taxation was that it collected itself. It is imposed upon the necessaries of life, and before any man can use them for the support of his family he must purchase them from some shopkeeper, who has had to pay the duty upon them to the Government before he could get possession of. the goods. Customs taxation is self-collecting, and the poorer people have to pay the bulk of it. A Tariff of that sort has no fascination for me. I am exceedingly sorry that this small amendment of the Tariff should have been brought down, not merely in the closing days, but in the closing hours of the session, when honorable members are afforded no opportunity to deal fully with the matter. Many of the proposals contained in this Bill are concerned with mere technicalities, alterations of definitions, which may be quite justifiable from the departmental point of view ; but we have no time to examine these proposals and see what will be the real effect of the altered definitions. Some of the direct alterations of Tariff duties go a little way in the direction I desire, and on the principle that one should be thankful even for small mercies, I am prepared to approve of this Bill as far as it goes. We have no time in dealing with this Bill to establish a really protective Tariff. From that point of view this measure may be considered an abortion, because it is so absolutely unformed and incomplete. We are always living in hope that the future will bring something good, and I hope that Ministers will take note of the fact that many Protectionist members of the Labour party will insist upon a really effective revision of the Tariff. Merely tinkering with it in the way now proposed can do no real good. So long as the Tariff continues to result in a large increase of importations and in the taxation paid by the people, so long will it be unsatisfactory. It has been put forward as an excuse for the failure of the Government to propose a general revision of the Tariff this session that a number of Australian manufacturers have refused to answer inquiries , made by the Minister of Trade and Customs. It has been said that before bringing in any- real revision of the Tariff, he had a right to be supplied with truthful answers to the questions put by him. I have nothing but approval for Mr. Tudor's effort to obtain the information for which he sought. It is highly desirable -for statistical purposes, if for no other reason, that the Government should have the information asked for. But the refusal of the manufacturers to give it is no excuse for the failure of the Government to deal properly with the Tariff. An earnest Protectionist who desires a really protective Tariff for Australia requires an answer to only two questions. These two questions are : Is die importation of goods of a particular class which can be manufactured in Australia increasing or otherwise; and is the revenue produced by the Tariff increasing or otherwise? An answer to these two questions is all that is necessary to satisfy any real Protectionist as to whether a revision of the Tariff is required. It must be patent to every one that if the imports of goods which can be manufactured here are increasing, the protective duty upon those goods is not effective, and ought to be made effective. Again, if the revenue derived from the Customs is increasing that is proof positive that we are continuing to import more goods which might be manufactured here, and there is need for. greater protection. Mr. -Tudor, as Minister of Trade and Customs, has had an absolute answer to both these questions. In his official position he has had evidence before him every day in the week of increasing imports of goods which can be manufactured in Australia. He has had the same evidence of a continuous increase in the taxation of the people through the Customs. He has, therefore, had complete information showing the necessity for a proper revision of the Tariff. In the circumstances, I regret exceedingly that the Government, who are the Executive authority of Parliament, and more than that, of the party on this side, the majority of whom are militant Protectionists, did not bring forward a proposal for a revision of the Tariff which would give effective Protection to the industries of Australia. Many established industries require to be fostered to a greater extent, and there are several industries which might be established. The time is too limited for me to go into a general disquisition on the subject. But I hope that during the recess the Government will take into 'serious consideration the statements which have been" made during the debate on this proposal, and will make it the main business of next session to carry such a complete revision of the Tariff as will result in the better establishment of existing industries and the creation of new industries, and, at the same time, a reduction of the very large revenue at present derived from the Tariff. Honorable senators may say that increased duties under the Tariff will increase the taxation of the people. They may increase the taxation for a year or two, while industries are being properly established here : but when our industries are properly established and in full swing, we shall have a reduction of the taxation of the people, because they will be able to get the goods they require locally. I again express the hope that during the recess the Government will see their way to consider a full revision of the Tariff, and that it will be the main business of the next session of Parliament.

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