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Thursday, 4 August 1904

Mr SPEAKER - Order ; will the honorable member take his seat. It is necessary for me to again call attention to the fact that numerous conversations are proceeding in various parts of the chamber, and consequently it is difficult for the honorable member to proceed. I would ask honorable members to discontinue conversing aloud or to continue their conversations elsewhere.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I repeat that in 1899 the Geelong tanners employed some 500 men, whereas to-day they employ only sixty. They formerly paid wages at the rate of £40,000 a year; they now pay at the rate of £5,000. Similarly in 1899 the Austral Otis Company, which is referred to in the newspapers this morning, employed 600 men, whereas at present it employs only about 100. That company previously disbursed £75,000 a year in wages; it now pays only -£21.000. These are a few instances which illustrate the influence which the Tariff has exercised upon certain industries, which, I admit, have been affected to a greater extent than have any others.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - How is it that in Sydney the iron industry is poorly employed notwithstanding that the duties were increased ?

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - There are very good reasons, I presume, for that, and before I conclude my remarks I will show why industries might have been expected to do a little less business this year than they would do at other periods. I prefer, however, to put my argument in my own way. I find also that there has been a reduction in the number of hands employed and the amount of wages paid in a number of other industries. For example, in the brush and broom trade, the furniture trade, rope and twine factories, and clothing factories - indeed, in almost every industry affected by the Tariff - I learn from official figures that the number of workmen employed has decreased, with a consequent shrinkage in the amount of wages paid. As a typical instance of what may happen under the Tariff. I propose to cite some figures in connexion with the leather trade. If there is any industry which is natural to Australia, I think it is that connected with leather - the tanning trade. But what is its present position ? As the result of the unscientific and mischievous Tariff at present operating, the leather business of Australia has very considerably decreased. In Victoria alone, between the years 1899 and 1903, the value of tanned leather exported has decreased bv£170,956. That in itself is an enormous decrease, and largely accounts for the figures which have been put forward by the Geelong tanners, who say that, whereas they formerly employed 500 men, they now employ only 100.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - How can the operation of the Tariff affect exports?

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - The duty upon leather has been reduced, with the result that, instead of tanning the leather locally, Victoria is exporting the raw hides. A return which was presented to this House, at the instance of the honorable and learned member for Corio, goes to show that whilst the tanned leather business has declined, the export of the raw material from this country has increased. For instance, in 1901, 143,961 hides were exported from Victoria, and 687.970 skins, valued at £831,931. In 1903, the number of hides exported had increased to 430,066, the number of skins to 1,123,256. and their value had increased to £1,553,322, a difference in two years of , £721,391.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Most of those skins were taken from starving stock.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I admit that a very large number of them had taken off stock, because they were starved to death, but that is no reason why the skins should not have been tanned in this country, instead of being exported to undergo that process. ' In connexion with the iron and steel industry, too, I learn that imports are increasing to a very large extent. Unfortunately, I have not been able to obtain the official figures for 1903, and, therefore, I cannot make the comparison which I desired to institute. Honorable members, however, are aware that the imports of iron and steel goods into Australia, represent, roughly speaking, a value of £7, 000.000 annually. The value of the imports of metals and machinery - the finished articles - is increasing very rapidly, owing to the fact that firms like the Austral Otis Company, and other great engineering establishments, are not now manufacturing the goods which they formerly manufactured. But the most significant . circumstance in connexion with the whole position is the rapid decrease of our population since the present Tariff came into operation. This remark applies more particularly to Victoria. Up till the time when the Tariff was imposed, it is true that Victoria had been losing population. That fact was largely due to disasters of various kinds which this State had experienced, in the shape of drought, the land boom, and the banking crisis. But, prior to the imposition of the Federal Tariff, Victoria had been steadily overcoming these disasters, with the result that, in 1899, the loss of population, which had been gradually diminishing, was less than it had been for some time previously. Immediately following the imposition of the Federal Tariff, however, the loss of population began to increase, and in 1901 - according to the figures supplied by the Government Statist of this State - the emigration loss was 1,428,' of which number 1,100 were adults. In 1902, that loss had increased to 13,716, including 11,864 adults. In the following year it had still further increased to 16,570, of which the adults numbered 12,885.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Do those figures relate to Victoria alone?

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Yes. Between 1 901 and 1903 the loss by emigration increased from 1,428 to 16,570, whilst the total loss for the two Tariff years, 1902-3, runs into 30,286 persons, of whom 24,749 were adults ! The bulk of these people have gone to New Zealand and South Africa. During 1901.. the immigration increase for the whole of Australia was 9,492, in 1902 it was only 2,094. In 1903 our population decreased by 6,692, of which number 6,000 were adults. Probably my statements will be met with the objection that there has been an increase of population in Australia. That is quite true, but it is accounted for by the circumstance that the births have been greater than the deaths, and also greater than the loss by emigration. To increase the population by the addition of infants only is very poor satisfaction for the loss of grown-up persons. If this kind of thing continues indefinitely, the population of Australia will consist mainly of women and babies. The males will all have gone elsewhere. I wish it to be distinctly understood, therefore, that I am dealing only with those coming to or leaving this Continent, and not with the population figures as a whole. In the case of Victoria, I have shown that the loss of population since the Tariff came into operation has become exceedingly serious, whilst in the case of Australia, during 1903. there was an actual loss of 6,000 adults. This sort of thing must be attributable to some cause. If it is not attributable to the fact that we are not now employing our own people to do our own work, I am unable to assign any reason for it. I think that under these circumstances I have fairly well succeeded in proving that the Commonwealth Tariff has been mischievous in its effects, and is unscientific in its operation. But further justification - if it were necessary - for the opening up of this question, at the present time, arises from the fact that those who are proclaiming most loudly the necessity for fiscal peace, are those who are not prepared to accept it.

Mr Wilks - Did not the honorable member's party go to the country on the cry of fiscal peace?

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - When we went to the electors some eight months ago, we asked for four things. We asked for fiscal peace and preferential trade, which is not the same policy as fiscal peace alone. Then we asked for a bonus on iron and other potential Australian products, and for the continuance in existence of the then protectionist Ministry. We have not any one of those four things to-day.

Mr Wilks - There is another thing which the honorable member wants, and that is loyalty to his leader.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - So far as fiscal peace was concerned, we were prepared to abide by it if we secured preferential trade, the effect of which would have been to help us in the line which I am now advocating. Preferential trade would not have involved a re-opening of the whole Tariff any more than giving effect to my motion would involve a general re-opening of it. My motion merely seeks a re-opening of the -Tariff with regard to those lines of industry which are affected most detrimentally, and in connexion with which men are losing employment, and capitalists are being driven out of industries. As I have just said, however, those men who speak so loudly of fiscal peace are not themselves prepared to observe it, and in fact are not observing it. Those who won the battle have a right, I think, to do as they please afterwards with regard to the re-opening of the question.

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