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Tuesday, 22 November 1910

Senator VARDON (South Australia) . - I suppose that no Tariff that could possibly be passed could be expected to be perfect. Certainly the last Tariff passed by this Parliament has revealed many anomalies. That is as might have been expected. No doubt it is the duty of Parliament to rectify anomalies as they become apparent. One of the prominent planks in the policy of the late Government was a promise to rectify anomalies from a Protectionist stand-point. But in that Government there was the shadow of Free Trade. A scare on Free Trade grounds was raised in the country ; and some of those who at one time were prepared to support the late Government, including many manufacturers, and even the Chamber of Manufactures, were scared because of the fear of Free Trade influence in the Cabinet

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - And they were quite right.

Senator VARDON - The honorable senator is very seldom right. Some manufacturers, who first of all assisted Mr. Deakin into office - one man in particular has been referred to in the Senate as having a good deal of influence in that respect - afterwards assisted to turn him out, for the reason, as I have said, that they were scared. Manufacturers and workers alike were persuaded that they would secure a rectification of Tariff anomalies from the Labour party, not from the Fusion Government. That was the cry that went out. all over the country during the late elections.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The people believed it.

Senator Millen - They did not know the honorable senator's party.

Senator VARDON.The people believed that they would get a quicker rectification of anomalies and higher duties from a Labour Government.

Senator McGregor - And so they will.

Senator VARDON - The Labour party went into office mainly for that reason.

Senator McDougall - Nothing of the sort.

Senator McGregor - The Labour partywas supported, not because of any specious promises-

Senator VARDON - The Labour party went into office because of specious promises made with regard to this very matter.

Senator de Largie - That is pure humbug.

Senator VARDON - If there is any party in this community that has been betrayed by the Labour Government it is the Protectionist party. They realize today, more fully than any one else in Australia, that, instead of getting what they were led to expect, they have been presented with a measure that does nothing to realize their hopes.

Senator McGregor - We are Protectionist Labour people, not Protectionist Conservatives.

Senator Fraser - The honorable senator and his party are Protectionists of any sort that will catch votes.

Senator VARDON - This Bill is said to be for the purpose of the rectification of anomalies. But. as a matter of fact, it creates more anomalies than it rectifies. It: is simply a pistol held at the heads of the manufacturers and the industrial workers of Australia. The Government say to them, in effect, " Carry these referenda or there shall be no Tariff alterations ; give us power to control all industries, or there shall be no Tariff reform. Anomalies may remain and industries may languish, but you will get no relief from these evils until you carry the referenda." That is the meaning of this Bill. In fact, the Minister who introduced it in another place said distinctly and frankly - and I always admire a man when he speaks straight out - that the Tariff is not going to be touched until the referenda are carried.

Senator Henderson - Hear, hear. Senator McGregor. - I said that on the platform.

Senator VARDON - Exactly. Here, then, is a pistol held at the heads of the manufacturers and industrial workers. No fewer than four questions are submitted to the electors at the one referenda. The Bill before us will do no more than help the departmental officers to administer the existing Tariff. But, at the same time, it will inflict a very heavy blow on certain industries. It will gravely injure the boxmaking industry throughout the Commonwealth. I speak about this matter because, while I am not in any way interested in the box-making trade, I happen to know something about it, and if one has knowledge with regard to a subject I think he ought to make his fellow-senators acquainted with it. I believe in protecting industries. If there is an industry that has been established, or can be established, I am prepared to give to it a full amount of protection, but I do not believe in giving protection to one industry at the expense of another.

Senator Fraser - Sometimes with the effect of killing another.

Senator VARDON - That is what is being done by means of this measure. Take the matter of boards referred to in item 356. I admit that there has been some little difficulty, but it is one which might very easily be overcome. The opinion is prevalent, I think in every State except Victoria, that the Australian Paper Mill has the Trade and Customs Department by the wool. I am told that it has made a boast to that effect, and that it obtains practically whatever decisions it wants in regard to these matters. That ought not to be possible; there ought to be some better method of deciding the questions. If the mill makes strawboard, brown .paper, and paperboard, give it all the protection it wants in regard to those articles, but why kill other industries in that attempt? That is what is being done in this Bill. The Australian Paper Mill does not produce pasteboard, cardboard, manillaboard, woodboard, leatherboard, or greyboard for boxmaking. I am quite willing to admit that there may have been a little confusion in regard to the classification of grey- board, because years ago, before the boxmaking industry came into existence, the' greyboard of commerce was practically a second-class millboard, and, therefore, some regulation might have been needed to define the matter, but there need not have been any difficulty in that regard, so far as I can see.

Senator Findley - The importers have only themselves to blame, because in many instances they have been trying to get at the Customs Department by importing stuff under the lower duties.

Senator Millen - That does not apply to leatherboards.

Senator VARDON - I do not think that it applies to any of these boards.

Senator Findley - Yes, it does. Senator VARDON.- Tt is not difficult to find out what a board is. Here, for instance, is a sample of pulpboard. Everybody knows what it is. It is used for many purposes. It is used very largely by picture- framers as well as by boxmakers. There is no difficulty about that board. Here, again, is one class of greyboard. The refuse of boxmaking materials is ground into a pulp, and made into a board of this character, being a good deal stiffer and tougher than an ordinary pulpboard. It could be easily ascertained what it is.

Senator Findley - What about leatherboards ?

Senator VARDON - Here is a sample of leatherboard. It is called by that name simply because of its colour and toughness.

Senator Findley - It is not leatherboard.

Senator VARDON - Why not? It is altogether distinct from that which is an imitation of leatherboard.

Senator Millen - Why do the Government bracket them, all together?

Senator VARDON - Here is a sample of leatherboard,. which is used largely for making tailors' boxes, for suits, and so on.

Senator Findley - It is not leatherboard.

Senator VARDON - It is simply called leatherboard because of its colour and toughness. It is not the leatherboard which is used in the shoemaking trade, but it is a board which is known well to all boxmakers, and might easily be known to the trade itself. Here is a sample of greyboard, which the Minister can see if he wishes. It is made out of newspapers, which are pulped up. It gets its grey colour simply from the ink which was used on the paper. There would be no difficulty in identifying a board of that character. Yet all the manufacturers are called upon, improperly I think, to pay duty on these boards.

Senator Findley - Because some of them have been getting at the Customs.

Senator Sayers - Are not the Customs officers able to manage their own business? Senator Findley. - Na

Senator VARDON - Then more shame to them.

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