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Tuesday, 23 August 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - I think that is a very important question and one that should 'be answered,because a large quantity of these articles come from America. If only a mere fraction of our total requirements is imported from the Old Country, we are im-; posing a 10 per cent, duty on the primary producers without any reason. That may suit Senator Earle, who, without rhyme or reason, will vote for any duties if they are high enough. These discs are im-. ported from America, and it is only fair, that we should be supplied with information as to the quantity exported by Great Britain and the United States of America. I do not know if the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) can supply it to-night, but I am prepared to stay here until I obtain some satisfaction, because I do not believe in imposing an unnecessary tax.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then vote for, the request, because I have not the figures.

Senator LYNCH - The Minister should have them.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable senator must not expect everything on the spur of the moment ; I am not a walking encycloptedia.

Senator LYNCH - Surely the Minis; ter can obtain the "information.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable senator should obtain his own facts and then decide how to vote.

Senator LYNCH - I am supplying information to the effect that disc3 are imported in large quantities from America.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then vote on that assumption.

Senator LYNCH - I use them on my ploughs, and if the Minister could inform me that, say, 70 per cent, of our requirements came from Great Britain, I would be in favour of giving preference.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I only asked the honorable senator to vote.

Senator LYNCH - I am not going to vote just yet. We have had information on items as trivial as! meat skewers when it was a question of imposing a duty of 2 or 3 per cent. ; but when it is a matter that affects people who have to dispose of their products in overseas markets, necessary particulars are not supplied. I cannot understand why honorable senators are prepared to support such a duty in the absence of information. These discs are not made in Australia, and the industry is not even going through the gestation process here. These matters might be easily settled if we were supplied with the information which the Committee is entitled to receive. I have said before that no Tariff has been introduced in this Chamber about which so little information has been vouchsafed by the Government as has been forthcoining in connexion with that now under discussion.

Senator Earle - Oh !

Senator LYNCH - If Senator Earle were blindfolded in this chamber, and could smell the side on which the Government were, he would go there by instinct. I have here a copy of the information which was presented by the Government of the day in submitting a previous Tariff. It gives every detail of imports under every line of the Tariff, the revenue received, and the countries from which the different articles came. What have we here in the way of information? We have a make-up from Ambrose Pratt, with the imprimatur of the Government.

Senator Earle -All the information to which the honorable senator has referred would not alter a vote.

Senator LYNCH - I know it would not alter Senator Earle's votes; but I regard him as a shocking example. I am not going to vote for a revenue duty on these implements and machinery. I do not desire my name to be associated with the passing of a Tariff of this description merely for the purpose of raising revenue and without any compensating advantage whatever in the way of preference to imports from the Old Country or the establishment of any industry here. This proposal is not in accord with the policy put before the country by_the Government of adequate protection for secondary industries. There was no talk when that policy was framed of raising revenue from duties on such items as these. The idea then was to raise revenue from luxuries, but not on the absolute necessities of the farm for every day in the week. We can get no information from the Minister in charge of the Bill, and arc asked simply to vote for the Government proposal. I do not propose to vote for it until I get more information. This is a proposal to obtain revenue by taking it out of the pockets of the farmers, who have to work, fourteen hours a day. I propose now to quote what men are doing in Western Australia in the agricultural industry. These are the men from whom the Government propose to take an extra 10 per cent, in the way of duty on the spare parts they require for the machinery they use. I have a McKay plough on my farm, and it is a fairly good article. I have a Nicholson and Morrow plough also, but I had to waif three months for discs, and where did they come from?" They came from America.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Was that during the war?

Senator LYNCH - It was during last season. These disc ploughs are used for breaking down rough country. They are the equivalent, as Senator DrakeBrockman has said, of the stump-jump plough used in new country. They are required to cut through saplings and' roots up to 2" inches in diameter. Here is the storyshowing the hard struggle which men have to go through in Western Australia ; and let me say their experience is not singular, as the man on the land has to go through a similar struggle in the other States. I can support from my own experience the statements I propose to quote. Experience is the best schoolmaster in these matters. Ministers have not this experience, but I have it. and I know where the shoe pinches.

Senator Vardon - The poor old man on the land !

Senator LYNCH - I do not wish it to appear that the man on the land is whining in this Chamber through me or through any one else. I can let him speak for himself.

Senator Vardon - He has had a pretty good time.

Senator Elliott - He has made more than any one else during the last four or five years.

Senator LYNCH - A Royal Coramission appointed in Western Australia obtained J;he following evidence: - Mr. Wilcox, the holder of 1,200 acres of land, was asked what were the average hours the farmer had to work according to his experience, and his answer was -

From sunrise to sunset all the year round.

Mr. Brown,who had been farming for thirteen years on 500 acres of land, and was previously in South Australia, was asked the question, "What hours do you, work?" and his answer was -

Sixteen or seventeen hours a day; some farmers do a bit better than that.

Mr. Pott,who had been farming for nine years, was also questioned. These were all practical men, and I am trying to let honorable senators know what is being done by the men who are holding the fort in the West. If they did not hold it, some of the representatives of eastern States in this Chamber might go over and try their hand at it. If the men who are there now cannot hold the fort they would not have a dog's show of holding it.

Senator Duncan - They could get bettler land in the east.

Senator LYNCH - I am speaking of those upon whom an extra impost will be levied as the result of this ill-considered Tariff. I shall look after their interests as long as I have a seat in this Parliament.

Senator Duncan - Men on the land have to struggle in the eastern States' also.

Senator LYNCH - I have admitted that. I said I was referring to condi-' ti ons that were not singular to Western Australia, and I shall later on be able to quote from a New South Wales Royal Commission a little information about share-fanning in that State. Mr. Pott was asked by the Western Australian Commission : " Are you satisfied to be on ' the land?" His reply was -

If I had known as much as I know now about farming I do not think I should ever have tackled it. I do not think you get a fair return for the capital put into it. The hours are very long - twelve or thirteen hours a day. There is not much in it when all is said and done.'

Mr. Smith,a farmer of eight years' experience, said -

I reckon that the ordinary man on a farm works on the average tcn hours a day all the year round.

Senator Bolton - What has this to do with the item?

Senator LYNCH - I do not want men who are working for ten hours a day and more to have to pay 10 per cent, extra in the shape of duty on plough discs. These are not forty-four or forty-eight hours a week men. Their hours are fifty-four and longer per week, and they are farming on dry areas. I want information about imports under this item, and I expect to get it. Mr. Smith gave this evidence -

I reckon that the ordinary man on a farm works on the average ten hours a day all the year round. I could not do it in ten hours when I was working myself some time ago. I was working for twelve hours, reckoning the time taken in feeding the horses.

A Mr. Nichols was asked the question: "Do you think that 9s. per day of fourteen hours is a fair allowance for wages?" His answer was -

No. It should be more like 15s. or 13s. If you compare the energy the farmer puts in with that of the navvy, it should be more like fi per day.

I can give honorable senators a chapter on share-farming, but in the meantime I enter my protest against this iniquitous proposal to impose an extra 10 per cent, duty on these articles which are so necessary in the frontier settlement of this country, without any ' compensating advantage to which the Minister in charge of the Bill can point.

SenatorE. D. MILLEN (New South Wales - Minister for Repatriation) merit's proposal is iniquitous according to Senator Lynch. It has been in operation for seven years, but I have not known Senator Lynch to be so eloquent on the subject before.

Senator Lynch - I had not a chance to deal with it before.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable senator had it in the Tariff of 1914.

Senator Lynch - How does the honorable senator 'know that I did not object to it at that time?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - This duty has been in operation for seven years-

Senator Lynch - The honorable senator is assuming that we had an opportunity to discuss the 1914 Tariff.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - But it is only now that we learn that it is a great iniquity.

Senator Lynch - The 1914 Tariff was validated by Act of Parliament. It was not discussed.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I listened in silence and with admiration to the hpnorable senator's remarks; I trust he will give me an opportunity to 'make a few observations. Although this duty has been in operation since 1914, I was not aware that there was in existence such an iniquity as the honorable senator, judging by his remarks, would have us believe this to be. The Inter-State Commission inquired into this matter, and there is a note in its report to which I would specially draw the attention of Senator Lynch, because he seems to think that the Government should have at its command, in regard to the item, all sorts of information of a monetary and detailed character.

Senator Lynch - The Government should not ask for a duty unless they have such information in support of it.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is well known that there are many items the imports under which are not separated, but bulked, -for the purposes of the Customs Department. The Department cannot tell us what the imports are under this item, because it is a comparatively small one, and the imports are not shown under the heading of " Countries of origin." The Inter-State Commission report that fact. They state that there are no statistics, giving the imports or countries of origin of disc or agricultural implements.

All the discs locally used are imported. The figures as to the imports are small, and are bulked with, those relating to other items, but the Customs officials assure me that these implements are imported from England as well as from America, and possibly Canada. So much forthat point. I ask honorable senators to bear in mind that this question of Avhether we shall give Great Britain a preference of 10 per cent, against America, Canada, and possibly Germany - Germany may not make these implements just now, but she soon will be making them if I am any judge of her tendency to revive-

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Do we not want to sell our wool? Are we not asking Ger-, many to buy it?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not now discussing the economic and rival advantages of Free Trade and Protection ; I am trying merely to deal with this item. We are entitled to pay some little regard to the question of whether or not we shall continue this duty of 10 per cent, under the general Tariff with the open and avowed object of giving a preference to the Mother Country. Those who respect the authority of the Inter state Commission will be glad to know that it recommends that such a preference should be given.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Inter-State Commission's reports are quoted only when they suit.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Human nature exists in this Chamber as elsewhere.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I understood the honorable senator to say that the InterState Commission reported that it could not get any information as to the imports under this item.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It could not obtain details as to the number of implements coming from each country of export. It is silent, as I am, on that point. The information is not to be obtained. Many of the smaller imports are bulked together in this way, and it is impossible to make available information that does not exist. It was not' due to want of courtesy to Senator Lynch or any one else that the desired information was not given. A reference lo page 20 of the Inter-State Commission's report will show that it recommended exactly what this

Tariff attempts to do - the imposition of a duty of 10 per cent, under the general Tariff, and that imports from Great Britain should be free. Whether honorable senators are disposed to agree to that duty or not, I submit that it is a matter upon which they can easily make up their minds. There has been a long discussion, and those who are disposed to think that the range of duties on implements used by the primary producer is too high can easily determine their position, so that I think I am not unreasonable in asking the Committee to come to a decision immediately on this question.

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