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Thursday, 11 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) (1:27 AM) . - My chief reason for rising at this stage is to supplement some of the remarks which were made by Senator Guthrie with respect to the enormous profits made in the woollen industry, by a quotation- of current rates of wages and working hours in the industry. I quote from the labour and industrial statistics issued by Mr. Knibbs. I find that in the clothing industry the weekly wage in Sydney is 76s. lid. In Melbourne it is 71s. 4d.; Brisbane, 74s. 2d.; Adelaide, 72s. 10d.; Perth, 72s. 4d.; Hobart, 58s. 6d. ; and the average weekly wage for the six capital cities is 73s. fid. Referring to working hours, the figures given are - Sydney, 46.21; Melbourne, 46.34; Brisbane, 44.27; Adelaide, 44.27; Perth, 44.36; Hobart, 46.57; and the average, 45.89. The hourly wage given is - For Sydney, ls. 8d. ; Melbourne, ls. 6 1/2d. Brisbane, ls. 8d. ; Adelaide, ls. 7fd.; Perth ls. 7£d; Hobart; ls. 3d.; and the average ls. 7 1/2d.

Senator Reid.What branch of the industry do the figures refer to - the manufacturing or the making up ?

Senator GARDINER - There is no statement made as to that, or I would certainly not misquote. The honorable senator's question is a fair one, and I am inclined to think that in estimating these amounts the manufacturing and making-up branches of the clothing industry have been combined.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - The weekly wage in the manufacturing industry is less than the figure quoted by the honorable senator. It is 66s. for the whole of Australia.

Senator GARDINER - I am glad to have that statement. The weekly wage I have quoted is higher than that mentioned by Senator Guthrie. This was my reason for joining in the debate, and, perhaps, a reason for continuing is lack of knowledge as to when the Government propose to adjourn. If they intend to put the Tariff through to-night, one might just as well say all that one can on every item. I do not know that there is any wisdom in an attempt to force the Tariff through Committee. Senator Payne's request scarcely provides a fair opportunity to get anything like Free Trade with Great Britain in those industries in which for centuries the Mother Country has been supreme. Why should Australia, this far-flung outpost of the British Empire, refuse to trade with Britain in this particular commodity except at an advantage of from 25 per cent, to 30 per cent, in Customs duties? On the admission of our manufacturers, there is no occasion for this handicap. Senator Guthrie has proved, I think, to every honorable senator's satisfaction that, as far as the woollen trade is concerned, the natural protection afforded Australia, approximating 50 per cent., is ample; so why add another 30 per cent., par- 'ticularly against our own kith and kin? The Minister (Senator Russell) in introducing this matter, emphasized the superiority of our- operatives. Ha dwelt on the subject at considerable length. I rather agree with him as to the great capacity of the Australian worker. I like to hear the Australian workman thus described, because we may depend upon it, other nations will do all they can to discount our value. The Minister proved to his own, and, I think, to every one else's satisfaction, that our operatives are so intelligent, and can so adapt themselves to new industries that they are the equal of any other workers in the world. What necessity, then, can there be for thus handicapping the operatives of the Mother Country 1 It is difficult to understand why any barrier against trading with Great Britain should be raised by those who profess love for the Motherland. If an enemy had done this thing I could have understood it; but when it has been done by one of her household, so to speak, it must be hard for Britain to bear. I am quite aware, of course, that the Age will attack me on this matter, and suggest that I am displaying more interest in the profitable employment of British than Australian workmen. I am doing nothing of the sort. We have not developed our industries to the extent of being able to supply all our own requirements, and if British mills are idle and British operatives are out of work, surely we can take counsel together and consider whether in trade, as in war, we cannot assist the Empire by the adoption of a policy acceptable to both countries. I should have thought that this Government and their supporters, elected, as they were, chiefly because of their professions of loyalty to Great Britain, would have led the way in this matter. Surely they do not want members of a party, who they suggest are disloyal to the- Mother Country, to point the way in which Australian and British policies may operate for mutual advantage? Even Senator Payne is only prepared to reduce the trade barrier by 5 per cent. On this question I accept Senator Guthrie's opinion, because I realize that he has expert knowledge of all aspects of the wool industry. I believe that the industry can be carried on in Australia without any duty at all, but the Government, in their desire to protect this most profitable business, evidently think otherwise. That the .Australian mill-owner with the raw material at his door can successfully employ Australian workmen is proved by the results at the Geelong mill, managed by the Government. I do not think there has been any industrial trouble there.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - None at all.

Senator GARDINER - We know what splendid buildings they have down there; how the health and comfort of the employees are considered, and how ideal are the general conditions.

Senator Russell - -And that pays, too.

Senator GARDINER - There is no question about that, for a well-paid community soon becomes an intellectual community. If we could extend that principle to the employment of all Australian labour instead' of the haphazard system of seeking to handicap trade with Customs duties in the hope that they will lead to the investment of capital and the employment of our operatives, our industrial position would be most satisfactory. Instead of having only one mill of our own in Victoria, why should we not have a mill in every State, and, in this way, further help our primary producers? If our secondary and primary industries can thus progress side by side we shall be rapidly nearing that millennium which some people think is far away, because they cannot see beyond the industrial possibilities of their own lifetime. I confess that I commenced consideration of this Tariff schedule with grave forebodings as to the result of its passage through another place. I had publicly stated that I thought the intellectual outlook of Australia, on account of the war, has slumped 300 years. However, judging by the manner in which Protectionists here have met the Minister in his absurd proposals, I feel I can leave the subject, recognising that we are now much nearer an intelligent solution of labour troubles and the question of the development of Australian industries by the Government and people of Australia for the benefit of the people of Australia. We are rapidly approaching the time when the development of any industry will not be left in the hands of private enterprise. I do not speak with an intimate knowledge of the woollen industry; but I received to-day from a gentleman engaged in the manufacture of clothing in Victoria an interesting letter on the subject. I have not met this gentleman, but, becoming interested o in the report -of the Tariff debate in this Chamber, he wrote to tell me that Victoria, after fifty years of Protection, is still unable to produce the serge required for a policeman's uniform. Whether that is so or not I cannot say; but the statement comes from one who ought to know.

Senator Russell - It is not correct. Such serge is supplied by the Commonwealth Mill, and is used for the uniforms of policemen and railway and postal officials.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - But it remained for the Commonwealth .Mill to produce that class of serge.

Senator GARDINER - The point I was making was that, apart from the Commonwealth Mill, no woollen manufacturer in Victoria, despite fifty years of Protection, was able to produce such serge.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Outside the Commonwealth Mill, it is not made in Victoria.

Senator GARDINER - That is an ex0cellent illustration of the direction which the development of Australian industry should take. If Victoria, after being the home of Protection in Australia for fifty years, is unable to boast of a woollen mill, apart from that owned by the Commonwealth, that can produce the material required for a policeman's uniform, then there is something defective in Protection as a means of establishing native industries. The Labour party was scarcely in power for a year before it established a Government woollen mill that could produce such material, so that the Labour party's methods of solving such a difficulty are more intelligent than are those offered by the Protectionists. I am glad to have had Senator Guthrie's confirmation of the statement contained in the letter addressed to me by a local clothing manufacturer.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - The honorable senator's time has expired.

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