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Thursday, 27 May 1915

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) . - I was misunderstood by the honorable member for Wentworth when he was speaking about the desirability of the Inter-State Commission dealing with the subject to which he was referring. I interjected then, and repeat now, that the Commission would be 'better employed on any other work than that on which it is now engaged. I should like to know from the Minister if he thinks that the Commission has done the excellent work which it was thought it would do in connexion with the Tariff. It has been engaged on Tariff investigation for a considerable time. Has the Minister still the unbounded confidence in the Commission which he expressed a fortnight ago when replying to a question put to him by me? I think it fair to assume that, good Protectionist as he is, he has by this time lost confidence in the Commission, as has every one who believes in the settled policy of the country.

Mr Page - The Commission has furnished unbiased reports.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - The honorable member cannot have read them.

Mr Page - I have read every one of them. They are splendid.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - They cannot please any person who believes that Protection is the settled policy of the country. They seethe with Free Trade arguments, and every page contains evidence of the Free Trade proclivities of a majority of the members of the Commission. I shall not go into the Tariff question ; there will be plenty of time for that, but, as this Government practically pledged itself on the hustings to take no notice of the reports on the Tariff of the 1 Inter-State Commission--

Mr Joseph Cook - Did this Government pledge itself to ignore the reports of the Inter-State Commission?

Mr J H Catts - No. Ministers said that they would not necessarily follow the Commission's recommendations.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - I have here the statement made by the Prime Minister, who did not agree with the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition on this question. The Leader of the Opposition will, perhaps, admit that the InterState Commission was appointed by his Government for the sole purpose of conveniently getting rid of the Tariff issue, and throwing responsibility on other shoulders.

Mr Joseph Cook - The honorable member has no right to say that.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - I am saying only what I feel.

Mr Joseph Cook - Perhaps the honorable member is stating the motives of the Labour party in introducing the Bill which gave the Commission its powers!

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - The Leader of the Opposition told the electors that he and his party were pledged to abide by the conclusions arrived at by the Commission; that he was going to place the whole responsibility of dealing with the Tariff on the Commission. Every line of the reports to hand bears out the anticipation of Protectionists that those reports would, to put the matter as mildly as possible, show pronounced Free Trade leanings on the part of the Commissioners. This is what the Leader of the Opposition told the country regarding his attitude towards the Commission -

Our position is perfectly clear and simple on the fiscal question. We have arranged for a complete and expert investigation of the whole question by the Inter-State Commission, so that Parliament may be thoroughly informed when it comes to deal with the matter. The work of the Commission is now well advanced, and it is as certain as anything can be that' it will report in time to deal with the Tariff during the first session of the next Parliament.

It does not look like it now. I wonder how long the Commission will take to come to the end of its Tariff inquiries -

The position of the party is clearly stated in the following proposal : To maintain the Protective policy of Australia as decided upon bv the people, amending the Tariff as necessary in the light of investigations by the Inter-State Commission.

Mr Joseph Cook - Hear, hear!

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - I hope the Tariff will never be amended in the light of the investigations of the InterState Commission, if the reports that have come to hand are a fair sample of what the results of the Commission's investigation will be.

Mr Joseph Cook - Perhaps the honorable member will now read the statement made by the Attorney-General to the

Sydney Chamber of Commerce the other day?

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - I propose to read the statement of the Prime Minister, to show the attitude of this party on the Tariff question. Every member on this side is pledged to that statement. Not one member repudiated it. The right honorable gentleman said -

At the first opportunity, if returned, we would bring in an effective Tariff.

Mr Joseph Cook - Did you bring in an effective Tariff?

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - The Tariff will be effective when we have finished with it.

Mr Joseph Cook - Then you did not bring in an effective Tariff, and, therefore, broke your promise to the electors.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - We ignored that Free Trade body, the InterState Commission. To continue my quotation from the speech of the Prime Minister -

Australia, as a young country, could not compete without a high Tariff wall against the dumping of goods made by cheap foreign labour. Manufactures and industries could not be developed and maintained without substantial Tariff protection. Mr. Cook, who w-.s not a fool, had seen that the people were demanding Protection, and he" 'pretended to be in accord with the demand, yet he left the matter in the hands of three men constituting the Inter-State Commission.

.   . We pledge ourselves, if returned to power, to amend the Tariff during the first session to give effective protection to Australian industries.

The reports of the Inter-State Commission have, so far, been diametrically opposed to the sentiment of the 'people of Australia in regard to a Protective Tariff. Sir William Irvine, speaking at Dandenong, said -

I think the great majority of the people are entirely in accord with the policy adopted by the Liberal Government of remitting the whole of the issues raised by the Tariff question to the careful consideration of the Inter-State Commission. . . . The people of Victoria are, in my opinion, not in favour of any general all-round increase in protective duties, but are in favour of such modifications of the Tariff as will be found by the Inter-State Commission to be necessary to complete the existing scheme of effective Protection for Australian industries.

What did they do to give effect to this sentiment? They appointed three gentlemen to constitute the Inter-State Commission, and every one knows the fiscal faith of the Chairman, of that Commission. A Free Trader is at the head of that Commission. I do not grumble at that; he is entitled to his convictions; but as the present Leader of the Opposition from many platforms in this country declared that, whatever the opinions of honorable members opposite had been in the past, they had concluded that the right thing to do, as a party, was to abide by the settled policy of the country, which is Protection, the proper thing for them to have done was to appoint men to the Inter-State Commission who were not known to be Free Traders or did not have the reputation of being Free Traders..

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - You know that your party was about to appoint a Free Trader Chairman of that .Commission.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - The honorable member does not know anything of the kind. I do not know it. I should be very sorry to have anything to do with the appointment of a Free Trade chairman to a body that was supposed to deal in a comprehensive way with what was the settled policy of the country.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Every one knows that he just missed the bus.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - I have already said that the reports of the InterState Commission are an insult to the Protectionist sentiment of this country. Although both parties have agreed that Protection is the settled policy of the country, every page of the reports submitted to us by the Inter-State Commission is seething with Free Trade sentiments. The apologies for not proposing to raise duties are alarming. I believe that they have submitted five recommendations so far.

Mr Tudor - I think there are nine reports.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - At any rate, there is only one in which they have hinted at the desirability of raising the duty. In every other case they recommend either no disturbing of the present duty or the wiping out of the duty altogether. In one report they say -

Speaking of the manufacturing industries of the Commonwealth as a whole, their general expansion in the last five years has been most striking.

Mr Sinclair - Hear, hear ! So it has been.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - If the honorable member had seen the latest figures with regard to our imports during the last five years he would not say that. The report of the Commission upon the boot and shoe manufacturing industry is an index of their feelings on the whole Tariff question. They very carefully cover up everything that would be detrimental to their finding. For instance, they compare very conveniently the years 1909 and 1913; whereas if they had compared the years 1910 and 1913, there would have been a remarkable disparity in the figures. The boot and shoe factories of Australia in 1910 turned out 11,618,000 pairs; in 1913 the output was 11,135,000 pairs, and there were 610 fewer people engaged. This is the only principal industry upon which they have reported, and they point out that the trade is flourishing in every way, and they quote from the Commonwealth Year-Booh - I have not gone into it closely to know whether it is correct - as follows : - :

Among the specialized secondary industries of Australia, the hoot and shoe industry stands pre-eminent in respect of the number of factories engaged in it, the employment afforded by it, and the range of its output.

There is not one word in their report about 610 fewer people having been engaged in the industry in 1913, as compared with 1910, and there is not one word about the evidence on which their statement is based. I wish to point out one matter in answer to their report that this is a flourishing industry. I take the evidence given by the representatives of the conference of boot manufacturers of the various States. A statement was addressed to the Inter-State Commission by the Conference between representatives of the Boot Manufacturers Associations of New South Wales and Victoria, and representatives of the Australian Boot Trade Employees Federation from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and Tasmania, held at Melbourne on the 30th and 3lst October, and 3rd November, 1913. That was the principal evidence on the boot and shoe industry which the Commission received/ and I wish the Committee to note how rauch out of keeping with that evidence is the report made by the Commission. The statement submitted by that body, representative of both employers and employees in the boot and shoe industry throughout the Commonwealth, was -

Up to 1909, under the 1901 and 1907 Tariffs, the industry had been steadily progressing; during 1910, however, signs of a change began to manifest themselves, and a check in the irate of expansion became noticeable. This feature developed distinctly during 1910-12, three years in which Australia enjoyed great prosperity - the population increasing by about 410,000 in the period- and by the end of 1912 the drift backwards was so marked that the Australian boot trade had become " an arrested industry."

In a preceding paragraph it is stated that - the industry has been stopped in growth, is, in fact, in actual decline, and that the greater needs of our increasing population, which should be followed by a corresponding expansion in the employment and output figures of the industry, appear to be met by la'rger importations.

Mr Joseph Cook - Who put that statement in?

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - It is signed by A. Whybrow, Thomas Y. Harkness, James Florey, representatives of the manufacturers, and Arthur Long, W. Forty, and E. F. Windebank, representatives of the Employees. Yet in view of that statement, the Inter-State Commission ask us to believe that this industry is going ahead by leaps and bounds. I believe that there are now 700 fewer employees in the boot trade than there were in 1910.

Mr Joseph Cook - What does the Commission recommend ?

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - Its recommendation is the most peculiar I have ever seen. The Commission says, in regard to the bigger part of the industry which is flourishing, that there should be an increase of 5 per cent, in the duty, but of the part which is weak and languishing the Commission says that because it is in that condition it is not worth extra protection.

Mr Joseph Cook - I understand that the Commission recommended what the present Minister proposes.

Mr Tudor - The Commission recommends that glace kid, which is dutiable at present, should be admitted free.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - Do we not manufacture glace kid in Australia ?

Mr Tudor - We have done so.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - Every member on this side of the House is pledged to the policy enunciated by the

Prime Minister when he said on the hustings that if the Labour party were returned to power, our first duty would be to raise a Tariff wall that would effectively protect our Australian industries.

Mr Joseph Cook - And the Prime Minister has expressed in the Tariff schedule what he meant.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - I do not think I would be doing my duty in discussing this item if I were not to say that it is an absolute waste of this country's time and money to have a body dealing with the Tariff when the party now in power is pledged to take no notice of the Commission. I have no confidence in the members of that body. I do not think their heart is in this inquiry, and I do not think they are capable of dealing with the subject. In the five -reports of the Commission I have seen enough to convince me that the members of that body are not in sympathy with the Protectionist policy of this country, and the people who appointed them never intended that they should bring in any recommendation in the direction of higher Protection. I agree with the honorable member for Wentworth that there are many other things requiring investigation which the Commission is much better fitted to deal with. I believe that in 1914 Australia's imports exceeded the exports by about £6,000,000, and a body of men who, in the face of that fact, will submit a report that gives no recognition of that state of affairs, must be out of sympathy with the sentiment that pervades this community.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - What is your opinion of protection for the primary producer?

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - When we are dealing with the Tariff, I shall not be one to vote for imposing or removing a duty because by such action I may gain votes. My desire is to make the Tariff effective so as to protect us in regard to everything we can produce in Australia, against the dumping of the products of cheap foreign labour.

Mr Gregory - What about colonial wine ?

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - The honorable member is referring to a question I put to the Minister of Trade and Customs in regard to the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to impose a duty on wines imported into England. The honorable member is evidently unable or unwilling to realize that a person may, consistently -with Protectionist principles, advocate the course of action I then suggested. A Protectionist naturally wishes to create industries in his own country principally, and at Home the people are not concerned about the wine industry.

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