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Thursday, 20 October 1904

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - The Prime Minister has been at great pains to clear himself, as he has phrased it, with respect to this Bill; but his attitude in regard to it is, to my mind, an extraordinary one.

Mr Reid - That, according to the honorable member, has been my attitude ever since I came into office, and will be my attitude so long as I remain here.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - The right honorable gentleman condemned the proposal contained in the Bill, lock, stock, and barrel. He described it as a public robbery.

Mr Reid - I did not use that expression at all. The honorable member might have some regard for accuracy.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - If the right honorable gentleman did not use those exact words, his meaning was the same, because he said that it was a proposal to take £324,000 out of the pockets of the public to put it into the pockets of a syndicate.

Mr Reid - How can what is done with the sanction of an Act of" Parliament be a robbery ?

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - The clear meaning of what the right honorable gentleman said was what I have stated. Yet, in spite of his strong condemnation , of this proposal, the carrying into effect of which he professes to regard as a public disaster, he has given up a week of the public time in order to facilitate its passing. Where is the right honorable gentleman's consistency there? He has proclaimed in the loudest tones that he is here to protect the public purse, and yet he is giving up public time to facilitate the doing of that to which he professes to be so much opposed. His attitude in the matter is so extraordinary that I can come only to the conclusion to which a number of other'honorable members must have come, that this is a scheme to get rid of another week, and to bring the session nearer to a recess.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - A very good object, too.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - If the right honorable gentleman were honest as to his intentions, we might all be willing to help him. But when he poses as the saviour of the public, and yet opens up the way for the doing of that to which he asserts he is so much opposed, I cannot believe in his sincerity. He has referred to the fact that the members of the Royal Commission were practically evenly divided, and that what is called the majority report is not really a majority report. Let me remind him that one of those who, according to the honorable member for Parramatta, drew up the minority report - the late representative of Kalgoorlie- when he went before his constituents for re-election was not returned. They sent in a man who was in favour of the proposed bonuses, and who was a protectionist.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They did not return him because he was a protectionist, but because he was a representative of labour.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I know that Mr. Kirwan was a free-trader- of the freetraders, and sat as such.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And he was an excellent man, too.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I do not deny that, but the gentleman who opposed him was a protectionist, and he defeated the man who practically drew up this precious minority report. What does the Prime Minister mean by a natural industry ? I contend that there is none more natural to Australia than the iron industry. It forms the base and beginning of every manufacturing trade worthy of the name. We cannot make anything from a needle to a battle-ship without the use of iron or steel. Yet the Prime Minister says, in effect, that the iron industry is not natural to the Commonwealth. He does not enlighten us as to what he conceives to be a natural industry. He says that natural industries can stand the Australian rate of wage, but he does not tell us what that wage is. Does he consider shepherding a natural industry ?

Mr Conroy - The honorable member has robbed the workers by imposing' high protective duties.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - We have done more to help the workers than have those honorable members who are willing to permit the sweated products and prison-made goods of foreign countries to come in here free of duty.

Mr Conroy - As if our workingmen had too many goods in their houses.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - That is not the question. The point is that if they have no money they cannot purchase what they require. Unless they can obtain employment . they cannot earn money. It is the aim of the Protectionist Party to provide them with employment. What does the Prime Minister mean by " the more pressing problems of Australia " ? Can there be any more pressing problem than the question how we can best establish the iron industry, which is the basis of all the great manufacturing enterprises of this country ? Every witness before the Bonus Commission admitted that iron was the basis of his manufacturing business. Even those who were opposed to the granting of the bonus conceded that. Yet. the Prime Minister glibly talks about ' establishingnatural industries which he is not prepared to indicate. I know of no industry which is , so important, or for which we might do so much, as that of the manufacture of iron. The Prime Minister has spoken about cheapness. We know that that is his god. We recollect that he has stated that we could not expect to establish large manufacturing, industries in Australia until the workers were reduced to such a condition that they would hare to accept the starvation and sweating wages paid in the old world. We do not forget his references to the " crop of miser)'," and the lower rate of wages necessary to compete with old world manufactures.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member will repeat that statement so often that he will believe it.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - The statement is reported in Hansard, and the Prime Minister has not dared to deny it. He has made the statement more than once.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I complain of the ugly twist which the honorable member gives to the statement.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - The Prime Minister proposes to establish industries in Australia when the wages are reduced down to the rates paid in India, where the natives live upon a handful of rice, and need only a mat by way of furniture.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Prime Minister did not refer to India, but to the Continent.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - We are perfectly aware of the conditions which prevail in protective countries on the continent, where there are no factory laws. We do not believe in that kind of 'protection. We advocate a protective system which is complete from the Customs House onwards. The Prime Minister was pleased to quote a Mr. Middleton, who, in giving evidence before the Bonus Commission, pointed out that the iron industry could not possibly survive unless local manufacturers could turn out' their products at the same prices at which similar goods could be imported. The right honorable gentleman forgot to quote from the evidence of other witnesses, who also had something to say upon the subject of cheapness. Mr. J. P. Franki, the managing director of Mort's Dock and Engineering Company, ' Sydney, one of the greatest concerns in Australia, said that he looked upon the establishment of the manufacture of iron here as one of the things that would enable him to turn out his work at a cheaper rate. He arrived at that conclusion, because his company had now to import large quantities of iron, and keep it in stock, and to debit to their customers with the interest upon their outlay in that direction. He said, further, that if iron were locally produced it would not be necessary for them to keep large stocks, because they could buy material as they required it, and would therefore be able to supply their customers at a cheaper rate. Mr. Morison, of Messrs. Morison and Bearby, engineers, of Newcastle, also gave some very interesting evidence. At question 2231 he was asked bv Mr. Fuller-

How do you arrive at the conclusion that the advantages you have spoken of as likely to follow the establishment of local ironworks would make it worth your while to pay 5 per cent, more for imported iron ? - Ohe of the advantages we should get would be that we should not need to carry such heavy stocks. Where we now have to keep 100 tons of imported iron on hand, it would probably be necessary to keep not more than, say, 25 tons on hand. Therefore, there would be a saving of interest. We should not have so much capital lying idle.

A Mr. Rogers supplemented these remarks, by saying very much the same thing. Those of us who believe in bonuses contend that, the establishment of the iron industry hi Australia would eventually tend to cheapen the manufacture of goods required by local consumers. By bringing the locally-made goods into competition with the imported articles, the first reduction in price would be brought about. Then, as Mr. Franki has pointed out, if the manufacturers were able to avoid the large outlay necessitated by their having to keep large stocks of imported iron, they would be able .to reduce the price of their goods. These are matters of such interest that I wonder that the Prime Minister did not refer to them. He was ready enough to quote passages in the evidence that were calculated to bolster up his own case. I suppose that we are all inclined to assume the part of an advocate, but the Prime Minister occupies a position different from that of other honorable members, because he claims not only to be responsible for the conduct of business in this House, but to be the spokesman of the outside public, and to be charged with the duty of promoting the progress of the country as a whole. Therefore, he ought, in all fairness, to have represented the case as it was put before the Commission. He was pleased to make reference to an experiment made in Victoria some years ago in respect to the worsted industry. ' In that case, again, he did not state all the facts. In connexion with that business a bonus was offered. But instead of maintaining the industry as it should have been maintained, after the bonus had expired, by means of a reasonable duty, no duty whatever was imposed. The importers put their heads together - also their purses - and practically smashed the local manufacturer, just as they did some years previously in connexion with the iron industry in New South Wales. We have it upon sworn testimony that in that

State certain individuals were prepared to start operations under 'similar conditions to those which exist to-day.. They did so. They believed that they could oust the imported article. Almost immediately "'the importers formed a ring, brought flown the prices, and ruined the local manufacturers.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is that the only reason for its failure?

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - That is quite a sufficient reason for its failure. In con- nexion with other bonuses, the very same practice is being followed to-day. Quite recently I read a letter from a firm of importers, who in the most brazen fashion possible were offering to sell goods below their cost price in order to ruin local manufacturers. Whilst I am in favour df granting a bonus to assist in the establishment of the iron industry. I also advocate the imposition of a reasonable duty, in order to maintain the industry when the bonus has expired, and to keep, up that competition which is necessary to assist the local consumers in the shape of iron founders and others. Jt is rather interesting to note what the American Steel Trust proposes to do in connexion with this matter. A recent cablegram sets out that -

The American Steel Trust proposes to establish mills in Canada at a cost of£2,400,000, in order to evade the Canadian Customs duty of 28s. per ton upon steel.

Does not that point the example which we should follow? If it will pay the American Steel Trust to spend more than £2,000.000 to establish their works in Canada in order to avoid the payment of Customs duty, it will probably pay capitalists to do the same thing here. That would mean that our own workmen would be employed instead of those of America. The cablegram which I have read shows what can be accomplished in the way of inducing the investment of capital in any industry when the right methods are adopted. Until we follow the example of Canada we shall not get the American trust, or any other trust, to establish the iron industry in Australia.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honorable member wish trusts to start operations here?

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - No. At the same time, there are certain monopolies which, when wisely directed, will confer a greater benefit upon the community than does the unholy competition which takes place under other conditions. Free-traders Have asked why we should grant the proposed bonus. They say in effect, " If the quality of the ore is proved, and if the market is a sound one, where is the necessity for granting a bonus?" I have endeavoured to supply answers to these questions, and I propose now to supplement those answers.


Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I do not "think I can be accused of occupying much of the time of this House.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why stone-wall the Bill ? Let us come to a division.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Under the circumstances, I ask leave to continue my remarks to-morrow.

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