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Tuesday, 10 July 1906

Mr JOHNSON (LANG, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not prepared to accept the Minister as always a reliable authority on matters of this kind, because he has so often been shown to have made mistakes, and to have misled the House in matters of fact.

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member has no right to say that.

Mr JOHNSON - I have every, right to state what is a notorious fact. The deception may be unintentional, perhaps ; but it has turned out upon inquiry that the Minister's information was incorrect. Does he mean to say that he knows that sewing machines as a whole are manufactured at Beale's' factory ? I have been led to believe something verv different from that. I understand that in regard to both pianos and sewing machines only certain portions of them are manufac tured here. As to typewriters, it may be that there is a typewriting factory in Australia of which honorable members have no knowledge. I certainly know of no such industry. I do know that most typewriting machines are the subject of patents, and I take it that whatever manufacturing there may be here is done only with the consent and under the control of the patentees, who are mostly, if not wholly, nonresidents of Australia. I do not believe, however, that there are such cases. Certainly I have never heard of them. In regard to oil, it has been shown that oil can only be produced here at a considerably greater cost than that of oil imported from where the natural oil is obtained from wells. It can be landed in Australia without in any way lowering the rates of wages, or curtailing legitimate profits. But this imported oil is shown to be much cheaper and better than the Australian oil, which, so far from being an injury to the poorer classes, who use oil for lighting purposes, is a distinct advantage, and we ought not to seek to put obstacles in the way of their getting cheap lighting. Among other things which the Minister enumerated in his second-reading speech was galvanized wire rope. Is there any galvanized wire rope manufactured in Australia?

Sir William Lyne - There never will be if the honorable member's policy is carried out.

Mr JOHNSON - The Minister is evading the point. In a second-reading speech he led the House to believe that these several articles are being dumped here to the detriment of Australian industries, to compete against articles which are made here and sold at a lower price than the locallymade article.

Sir William Lyne - I did not say so.

Mr JOHNSON - The honorable gentleman implied as much, if he did not say it in so many words; otherwise ,'for what purpose did he quote illustrations of that kind? Where was their application if it were not to point a moral of that description ? Yet, when we come to inquire about the articles which are alleged to be dumped in competition with Australian manufactures, and to their detriment, we find that no such articles are being made here. These articles are needed for the benefit of many other industries which ' to a larn-e extent depend upon them; and therefore prohibition will be a death-blow to many of such industries. In his precious list, the Minister cited table knives as an illustration of the terrible effects which the importation of these goods has upon Australian industries. Where can any one point, in Australia, to a factory which manufactures table knives ? I do not know of such a factory, and I do not think that any other honorable members do. Yet this is one of the items relied upon by the Minister to strengthen his case for the clauses against alleged dumping. Another item he enumerated was steel rails. Do we manufacture steel rails?

Sir William Lyne - We should.

Mr JOHNSON - That is an evasion; the point is, do we?

Sir William Lyne - Because the honorable member stops it.

Mr JOHNSON - The honorable gentleman has quoted these articles, not as showing what should be manufactured in Australia, but as evidence of industries which he alleges are suffering by competition from imports. He tried to make it appear to the public that all these industries were established and subject to unfair competition, and he gave these alleged instances of dumping and injury to Australian industries as his reason for the introduction of a measure for the purpose of stopping the importation of goods.

Sir William Lyne - I never said so.

Mr JOHNSON - If the honorable gentleman did not say so directly, he implied as much; otherwise, what was his purpose in giving the illustrations? They had not the slightest point or application. But he knows perfectly well that they were intended for that purpose, and for no other. Again, he cited shovels, tin plates,1 washboards, and lawn mowers. Where are tin plates manufactured in Australia? Perhaps he will also tell us where we manufacture lawn mowers . and other articles which he enumerated in this precious list, which was not worth the paper it was written on as an illustration for his purpose. But coming to the question of price, he also dragged in harvesters. The conviction is firmly rooted in the minds of honorable members that this measure has been introduced with the object of benefiting one Australian industry primarily, and that is the harvester industry, which is chiefly in the hands off his friend and protege,Mr. McKay of Ballarat. We know perfectly well that if it had not been for the persistent efforts of a certain firm in Victoria - who behind the back of Parliament, wanted to get all the advantages which prohibition would give them, and which it refused to give them by means of the Tariff - in agitating and bringing pressure to bear upon the Minister, to legislate so that they could secure a monopoly of the manufacture of the article in this State, we should not have seen a Bill of this character introduced. Other matters are only dragged in for the purpose of throwing dust in the eyes of > the people, and making it appear that generally the industries of Australia are the subject of this paternal interest at the hands of the Government. But we know perfectly well what the mainspring of their action was. The Bill was only intended primarily to benefit a man who admittedly is making from ^28,000 to ^30,000 a year out of the existing Tariff - a man who is not paying conspicuously high wages to his employes, but who has the effrontery to want the taxpayers, when they would not grant him the additional protection he desired, to be made to suffer by means of using the administration of the Customs House. This Bill was only designed for that purpose. Knowing that Parliament would not give higher protection to this firm, the Minister came down with this Bill, so that behind the back of Parliament an irresponsible tribunal, in' conjunction with himself, could bring about all the monopolistic advantages which the most prohibitive duty would give them. It is time that this measure and its authors were exposed, and the people made fully acquainted with its character. The Minister deplored the fact that imported harvesters are sold to the farmers at a cheaperrate than are the locally-made harvesters. In his view it is an evil that the farmers should get cheap harvesters. I wonder if the farmers in Ms own electorate regard' cheap agricultural implements as an evil. If they do, there is nothing to prevent them voluntarily paying double or quadruple the price. Who gets the benefit of the cheapness in connexion with the articles which he enumerated? Do not the public reap the benefit? When. I asked the Minister that question by interjection, he immediately turned round and said that the object of this legislation was to cheapen the price of the locally-made article to the people. Who will believe that statement, unless he be the veriest simpleton in the world? First, the Minister complained about the effect of dumping being to bring about cheapness, because he spoke of the imported article under-selling the Australian article, and he said " That is an evil, and must be stamped out, and the only way to prevent that cheapness is to stop the introduction of these articles, so that 'the l ocally-made articles can command a higher price." But in the very next breath he contradicted himself, by declaring that the reason why he wanted to prevent importation was not that the local producer could get a better price for his article, but that the public could get the article at a lower price. Who can follow arguments of such a contradictory character ? The Minister cannot possibly have any faith in them, because if he only reflects for a moment he must be struck with their utter absurdity and absolutely selfcontradictory character. But we know perfectly well that all this facing-both-ways is characteristic of the Minister and those who want to bleed the unfortunate public for private gain. What they want to do is to raise the price of all goods to the consumer. The result will be absolute injury to the great mass of the people. In regard to dumping, the honorable and learned member for West Sydney referred to the scriptural illustration of the falling of manna. I suppose the Minister of Trade and Customs would say that was dumping of the very worst description. Yet, if we were to get all our material wants rained down from heaven in the same way - if the earth were to be flooded with bounteous gifts of the things which, minister to the necessities, the comforts, the luxuries, and the happiness of the people - I suppose that it would be called dumping in the most extreme form. But can anybody point to a single person who would be hurt or injured by such a process of dumping? I wish that those who object to dumping would only dump into my back yard all those useful things which go to minister to the wants and luxuries of mankind. I should receive them most thankfully. I -should not take it ill if my grocer, my butcher, my baker, my tailor, or any one else to whom I usually have to give something in exchange when I want his goods, were to insist upon dumping them into my back yard every hour <>f the week at a fraction of cost or at no cost at all to me. I wonder who would get poor first - I cr the dumpers? Why, sir, it is absolutely absurd to argue that any system of importing the things which the people need at the lowest possible rates can do injury to the community. Is it to be supposed for a moment that a country will dump its goods into Australia without getting some equivalent in return ? Does not the Minister know sufficient of economics to be aware that imports are paid for by exports, and that no country can be a purely exporting country unless it chooses to pay about twice or, perhaps, even more, the rate of freight which otherwise would be charged, even if trade could be carried on at all of such a one-sided character? Only this afternoon, in connexion with the mail contract, we had from the Prime Minister a statement in which he said that certain ships with a very large tonnage would have to be built, and provided with an immense amount of storage space for the purpose, of - what? - taking away Australian perishable products in exchange for .goods produced in other countries. How are the sales going to be effected? The Minister knows perfectly well that such sales are effected by means of exchanges, and that the exports in the mail ships will have to be paid for by goods imported from other countries in exchange. Does he suppose that these magnificent ships will leave London, and other ports, and come to Australia with thenholds empty? Yet the very object of this measure is to try to bring about such a state of things ! We know perfectly well that they could not carry on trade and commerce on those lines for a month without going bankrupt, and doing immense damage not only to themselves, but to the trade and prestige of Australia. This afternoon we had the honorable and learned member for West Sydney, a professed out-and-out free-trader, defending legislation of this character, certainly in a more or less unconvincing and, perhaps, half-hearted way. Has he considered what the effect would, be upon the particular class of persons whom he comes here specially to represent? One of the effects of any diminution of importation by means of the prohibitive power proposed to be granted to the Minister would be to largely paralyze the trade, commerce, and industry of this country. There would be fewer ships coming here to land goods. A multitude of the men who find employment on the wharfs of Melbourne,

Adelaide, and Sydney would have to seek other avenues of labour. Our graving docks and ship-repairing yards would suffer severely through a diminution in the volume of work which ordinarily went to them. The hands who are now employed in industries which are more or less dependent upon shipping, and the success of which must either be promoted or diminished as our shipping is encouraged or discouraged, would be very seriously affected by the operations of the Bill. Honorable members must know that any interference with the trade and commerce of this country would involve not only the importers, with the immense army of employes dependent on the importing trade, and an immense number of carters and others, but also various branches of industry which are directly and indirectly associated with, and dependent upon, shipping. This would affect all our ports and all the people of Australia. I do not wish to pursue the subject at any great length at the present stage, but I would seriously urge the Minister to give due weight to the speech of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo. Coming from the Chairman of the Tariff Commission, as it did, it certainly should carry a very large amount of weight with the Minister. I urge the honorable gentleman to give due consideration to the appeal to delay the further consideration of the measure until honorable members generally have had an opportunity of studying the reports of the Tariff Commission, and then seeing whether any such necessity exists for this legislation as he alleges does exist. I do not for a moment believe that there can be brought forward any evidence which will justify the introduction of a Bill containing clauses of this description'. I do not believe that the Minister knows of a tangible case of dumping which will justify the enactment of such legislation. In the face of any evidence to the contrary, we can only assume, and we are warranted in assuming, that there must be some sinister influences outside the House which have not been disclosed by the Minister, or any of his supporters, to account for this indecent and undignified1 haste in pushing forward a measure for which no reason whatever has been shown to exist.

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