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Wednesday, 16 October 1901
Page: 6071

Mr BATCHELOR () - Does the honorable member's side promise us free' kerosene ?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - lam not laying down a policy for the Commonwealth, but I am criticising that which has been, brought down by the Government, and showing how harshly it will bear upon the people. My own opinion is that there is* no necessity for these high, duties at all, but it would take me too long to- particularize what duties I would propose and those which I would strike off.

Mr Batchelor () - Look at the good the honorable member might do-; he might bring some of us over to his- side of the House.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - The honorable member will have an opportunity of saying whether he believes in. having a high duty on kerosene. He knows that in Victoria and in New South Wales we have let kerosene come in free because we have realized that the men who are pioneers and who are suffering all the disadvantages and hardships connected1 with the work of . settling the country are entitled to have their burdens lightened as much as possible. We shall not be doing this by putting a heavy duty on kerosene or the other articles I have mentioned. Honorable members know what occurred in Victoria when the protective system was first started. They commenced in a very moderate way in 1867, with 10 per cent, duties, in 1871 those1 duties were increased to 20' per cent., and in 1879 they went on to 25 per cent. After that the party persevered until- they got the duties up to 35 per cent., and in 1892 to 45 per cent. In 1895 the duties went down again to 35 per cent., and I shall be able toread some of the speeches delivered by honorable members now supporting the Government, in regard' to the duties then imposed.The Prime Minister last night referred to reapers and binders, and pointed out that in England there was a "ring." of manufacturers who, as soon as they heard of the proposed Tariff on agricultural machinery, rushed down prices all over the Commonwealth.

Mr Kingston () - That was in anticipation of the Tariff.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - -I understood the Prime Minister to say that in anticipation of the duty the "ring" reconsidered their position, with a view to under-selling any machinery manufactured in the various States. But what are the facts in connexion with reapers and binders? There was a duty of 20 per cent. before July, 1879, but on the 20th of that month the duty was abolished. Before the last-mentioned date the price of reapers and binders was £90, and it was reduced to £75 the day after the duty was abolished. Since then the price has been reduced by £5, and similar amounts from time to time, until to-day reapers and binders are sold at £35 to £40.

Mr Kingston () - When the price of reapers and binders was £90, can the honorable member tell us what the price was in the country of production?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - I am not in a position to say what the price was in the country of production, but if the right honorable gentleman's reasoning is right, and a heavy duty will lower theprice of the article, how is it that a duty of 15 per cent. has been left on strippers ? The same argument will apply to strippers as to reapers and binders.

Mr Kingston () - Strippers are produced here, are they not?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - A great many are imported as well, but I am now talking of the time when the duty was taken off reapers and binders. I have here a circular issued by Carolin and Co. Limited, of 191 Collins-street, Melbourne, in regard to the price which, I believe, has prevailed for the last two years, of what is known as the " Bonnie " reaper and binder. I am not here as an advertising agent. I am simply endeavouring to reply to the arguments which have been advanced in regard to reapers and binders, and to show that it is competition which has brought down the price. When this new reaper and binder came out two years ago, the price, as set forth, was £30, and when the other manufacturers saw a new article coming into the market they, as other business men would do, endeavoured to prevent this new implement from taking the place of others, and reduced the prices of their productions.

Mr Kennedy () - Was any standard make of machine sold at £30 two years ago, in any of the States?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - I hold in my hand a price list, and also an advertisement which appeared in one of the newspapers on the 30th July, 1901, giving the price of this article for the last two years as £30.

Mr Kennedy () - It is some machine the manufacturers want farmers to experiment with. A standard machine is not sold at that price.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - The honorable member will have an opportunity of inquiring into the truth of what I have stated.

Mr Deakin () - The honorable member for Moira knows what he is talking about.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - And so do I. If honorable members think there is anything wrong about the circular I have mentioned, they will have an opportunity of disproving its accuracy. Last night we were told something about starch. I do not deal with this matter because any honorable member happens to be interested in the industry.

Mr Chapman () - Then why mention it?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - Because starch has been prominently brought forward, and it has been stated over and over again that the price of starch is the same in Victoria as in New South Wales. Messrs. Lewis and Whitty have issued two price lists, one for Victoria and one for New SouthWales ; and, according to their circular, the Melbourne price of starch is 31/2d. per lb., while the Sydney price is about 27/8d. Harper's box starch is sold at about 33s. l1d. per cwt. in Victoria, whereas it is sold in New South Wales at about 27s., a difference of 6s. per cwt., or close on3/4d. per lb. I have also a sale list of Messrs. Foy and Gibson, of Melbourne, who sell a box of starch at 41/2d. per lb. in this city. I understand that Messrs. Harper and Co., owing to some arrangement of trade which is not clear to me, do not issue price-lists. I find that Hordern, of Sydney, sells "Silver Star" starch at 31/2d. per lb., as against the 41/2d. per lb. charged in Melbourne. It is only fair to say, though this does not make very much difference in the price, that an ounce more is given to the lb. in Melbourne than is given in Sydney. I think that 15 ozs. to the lb. are given in Sydney.

Mr Mauger () - So that the honorable member is not comparing like with like.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - I am showing that there is a difference of1d. per lb. in the price, and that the difference in weight does not amount to more than threesixteenths of a penny. It will be seen that there is virtually a difference of about 3/4d.per lb. in the price of starch, as between free-trade New South Wales and protectionist Victoria. That bears out what the leader of the Opposition said the other night, namely, that different prices are quoted for Melbourne and Sydney, and this difference the manufacturers in Victoria are able to put into their own pockets. These, and not the purchasing public of Victoria, are the men who have made money out of the duties. If they can sell for a certain price in Sydney, they ought to be able to sell for the same price in Melbourne ; but because of the fiscal barrier, they prevent the people of Victoria from obtaining the benefit of the lower price.

Mr Chapman () - That barrier is knocked down.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - I am glad to say it is ; and I am only sorry that the splendid principle of free-trade has not been carried one step further. The Government and their supporters spoke in favour of taking down the barriers between the States, and of the great advantages of freetrade amongst members of the same community. During the elections they led the people to believe that there would be some preferential duties in favour of Great Britain, but we hear nothing of that proposal now. Last night reference Was made by the Prime Minister to the rate of wages paid in the various factories. It is a strange thing that the Prime Minister should have made no reference whatever, so far as I could gather, to any industry in which there were no wages boards in existence. He dealt only with industries in connexion with which there are wages boards. If honorable members will look at a report which has been issued by the Chief Inspector of Factories in Victoria, they will find that a very different state of affairs exists from what the Prime Minister wanted to make us believe. According to the right honorable gentleman the wages of male hands employed in the boot factories in Victoria amount to 44s. 9d. per week on an average, whereasthe Chief Inspector of Factories says that the average is 34s. 5d.

Mr Mauger () - What report is that?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - I am quoting from Appendix B of a special report issued by the Victorian Chief Inspector of Factories. It relates to the special boards. If my honorable friend will take the trouble to look at it, he will see that my statement is correct.

Mr Mauger () - For what year is the report ?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - It is for the year 1 900, and it shows the average weekly wage, for 48 hours work, for the trades for which special boards have been appointed. The figures are supplied by the manufacturers, but the report says that in a few instances returns were not received. As I have said, the Chief Inspector of Factories shows that 34s. 5d. is the total average wage received by these workers, whereas the Prime Minister last night told us that the average rate of wage for males was 44s. 9d. That is not the way to put forward statements. We want the truth.

Mr Mauger () - Let the honorable member give the House the New South Wales average.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () -I will give the honorable member quite enough information before I sit down. The Premier said last night that the average wage for females employed in the boot factories was, as I understood, 22s. The chief inspector says the average is 14s. 7d.

Mr Mauger () - What is the honorable member quoting from now?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - I am still quoting from Appendix B. In respect to cabinetmakers, the average wage for males, as stated by the Prime Minister, was 50s.1d., whereas according to the inspector's report it is 42s. 4d. For shirtmakers the average for females was stated at 21s. ; according to the inspector's report it is 14s.8d.

Mr Mauger () - The honorable member is taking the average received by workers under 21 years of age.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - My honorable friend will have an opportunity of replying to me later on. I could also quote other instances to show the way in which the right honorable gentleman misquoted these returns. He has not been fair to his own State in the way he mixed up the figures. The Prime Minister said that he had returns from Mr. Coghlan showing the wages paid in the various industries of New South Wales. I have not been able to discover a return in Mr. Coghlan's book in that respect. I cannot find any return which gives me the information which the Prime Minister ventured to quote to honorable members last night. I could, if time permitted, refer to other instances which the Chief Inspector of Factories in Victoria gives, to show the sad condition in which some of the workers in this State have been reduced under the system of protection which has prevailed here. I am glad to say that in New South Wales the workers have been strong enough to obtain an increase of wages without the aid of special boards. They have done it by their own strength, because they were able to accumulate from the wages which they received a little surplus, by means of which, in many instances, they could fight their battles with a good bank balance behind them.

Mr Tudor () - One of the workers of New South Wales did not say that at Lithgow on Monday.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - I am not responsible for the opinion of any individual man.

Mr Kingston () - I have read the parliamentary debates, and from them I have come to a different conclusion.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - I have also read the debates. I have some interesting information here with regard to the wages paid in the different industries, and the condition of workers in Victoria, but I am not going to deal with that question now. I dare say that other honorable members will find an opportunity to deal with it. But I can show clearly that our employes in New South Wales are far better off in every way in which a test can be applied to them than are the employes of Victoria. The Federal Government, nevertheless, are endeavouring to hamper them, and lessen their purchasing power by putting high taxes upon the necessaries of life. These duties will increase the cost of their clothing, their boots and shoes, their hats, and the various necessaries which they have to purchase. It is not fair that our workers should be hampered in this way. For 30 years a protective policy has been in force in Victoria. The raising of the price of imported articles does not represent the actual cost to the consumers. It must be recollected that by putting these duties on, as has been done, for instance, in the case of starch - arid the same remark applies to other industries - Victoria has enabled the manufacturers to increase the cost of living to the consumers, whilst, as the AttorneyGeneral has said in regard to the woollen industry, the manufacturers have not paid to the men wages in accordance with the amount of protection their industries received. That was a notable speech made by the honorable and learned gentleman. It was one of the best and most reliable statements ever made by faim. I know he will not deny the admission I have attributed to him, because it appears in Hansard. I do not mean by that to suggest that he would, because although we differ in our political views I believe him to be a truthful man. The honorable and learned gentleman made a strong indictment against the manufacturers of Victoria, as strong an indictment as ,a man could make, when he said they were being protected t« the extent of from 30 to 35 per cent., but that he saw no evidence of increased wages being paid to factory employes here. Protection gave no increased wages to the workers, and it was found necessary to create wages boards to force manufacturers to make their employes a fair return for their work.

Mr Kingston () - What is the object of the New South Wales Conciliation Act ?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - I will deal with that matter presently. I had to get up at a moment's notice last night owing to the disinclination of honorable members to speak on this question at that stage. I cannot blame them, because this is an important question, and I realize that honorable members ought to be prepared before they address themselves to it.

Mr Joseph Cook () - What is the matter with honorable members on the other side 1 Are they dumb 1

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - I have no complaint to make against honorable members sitting behind the Government. If they are not in a position to reply to the arguments of the free-trade members then it is all the better for the State of Victoria.

Mr Kennedy () - It would be better for the honorable member to give us some arguments calling for a reply.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - My honorable friend is like all protectionists. He has his prejudices, just as the protectionists say that free-traders are prejudiced. I will show presently that many protectionists in the old country have been forced to alter their policy just as protectionists in this country will be forced to alter theirs. When I made a statement last night in regard to the number of employes in the factories of New South Wales and Victoria I was contradicted. But what are the facts 1 In 1889 there were 41,299 males employed in the factories of New South Wales. In 1899 - ten years later - there were 47,063, or an increase of 5,764. Now, let us see what occurred in Victoria. In 1889, Victoria, under its protectionist system, had 49,105 male employes in its factories. Ten years later, protection, instead of swelling their ranks, had led to a decrease, the number of employes in Victorian factories in 1899 being only 44,041, or a reduction of 5,064. Is that any evidence that the system of protection has given an advantage to the male workers of this State? I admit that the number of females employed in Victorian factories has increased. In 1899 there were 8,583 females employed in New SouthWales' factories, while in Victoria there were 16,029. Over 5,000 of the male workers were driven out of the factories of Victoria between 1889 and 1 899, because the manufacturers would not pay them sufficient to keep body and soul together, and girls were employed in their place. Instead of the man being the breadwinner of the family, as he should be, the Victorian manufacturers compel women to do work which should fall to the lot of males. I will defy the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to deny the fact that the number of male employes in Victorian factories decreased by 5,064 during the period I have named, while the number of female employes increased by 7,703. Do these facts bear any evidence of the benefits of protection to Victoria? I think not. The value of production in New South Wales was £38,579,000, while in Victoria it was £30,870,000 odd, or nearly £8,000,000 less than that of the free-trade State of New South Wales.

Mr Mauger () - How much of the New South Wales returns relates to wool and minerals ?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - I am taking all the industries. Some parts of a State are suitable for one kind of industryand some for another kind. One part may be suitable for manufacturing purposes, another for farming, and still another for pastoral pursuits. I am taking, therefore, the whole of the industries. I will now take the population figures. According to a newspaper article which I read the other day, we have to gauge the attractivenessof a country by its population. In 1871. the population of Victoria was 221,000 in excess of that of New South Wales.In 1899, New Sou th Wales had not only caught up to Victoria, but had a population exceeding that of this State by 193,000. In ten years New South Wales gained 235,000 people, while Victoria gained 10,000. Is that any evidence of the advantages of protection ? During that period, the increase in the population of little Tasmania was 37,000 greater than that of Victoria.

Sir William Lyne () - Tasmania had the most protective Tariff of all the States.

Mr Cameron () - No ; a revenue Tariff.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - Now I take the departures. There have been a great many from Victoria during recent years. She has lost some of the best of her population. Not being able to get a living here, many of her men had to seek employment elsewhere. A number of them came to New South Wales, and we gladly welcomed them, because they made good citizens. We have nothing to say against Victorians. As citizens they are quite as good as are the people of New South Wales, but, unfortunately, they have not been blessed with the advantages of a free and independent organ of public opinion. At least, they have had one, but the other, which has exercised a great deal more influence in the past, has not been fair to the workers ; it has not given them reliable information. I shall show that as the result of the educational process which is in force in Victoria, the honorable and learned member for Indi - a former Attorney-General for Victoria - is 30 or 40 years out in regard to some of the historical events of the old country to which he has referred us. In view of that fact, we cannot be surprised that the honorable and learned gentleman is a protectionist. If I thought that such a thing could have occurred under free-trade as the honorable and learned member said had taken place, I should begin to feel that the question whether protection was not a right principle required serious consideration. But I will refer to that presently. As was pointed out by the leader of the Opposition last evening, New South Wales has been most kind and considerate to Victoria and the other States. She practically said to them - " We will allow your produce to come in free. We want to put no tax upon it. We will allow you to compete with our farmers. They are not afraid, neither are our people. They believe in the stability of the policy under which we are working and therefore we welcome open competition."

What has happened in regard to agriculture? In 1891 the area under cultivation was 846,000 acres, whilst in 1899 it had increased to 2,440,000 acres. Do these figures supply any evidence of decay with a free port? I can also show that the amount of the New South "Wales imports has been incorrectly put before the people of Victoria in order to deceive them as to the condition of the farmers in the former State.

Mr Ewing () - How many acres are there under cultivation in Victoria?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - My honorable friend can supply that information.

Mr Ewing () - Just so. It does not suit the honorable member to give it.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH () - Last night the leader of the Opposition read an article from the organ which, I believe, rules the opinions of a great many Victorian constituencies.