Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 29 August 1906

Senator DRAKE (Queensland) .- I agree with Senator Trenwith that there is nothing morally wrong in the practice of dumping as it is described in the Bill. Under certain circumstances1, a country maybe quite justified in prohibiting the introduction of goods; but I do not see that the enactment of a law of that kind would make the practice morally wrong. It would be enacted simply as a matter of expediency, in order . to promote the supposed well-being of the country. Let us look at' one of the cases in which com- petition will be deemed unfair unless the contrary be proved -

(d)   If the imported goods are imported by or for the manufacturer, or some person acting for or in combination, with him or accounting to him, and are being sold in Australia at a price which is less than gives the person importing or selling them a fair profit upon their fair foreign market value, or their fair selling value if sold in the country of production, together with all charges after shipment from the place whence the goods are exported directly to Australia (including Customs duty).

There is nothing morally wrong in such competition. Under the circumstances described, it may suit our purpose to prohibit the importation of the goods, but it cannot be said that there is anything wicked or vile in their importation.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Besides, it may be a proper thing to prohibit them. A man may be selling bad stock at less than cost price.

Senator DRAKE - Quite so. For certain purposes it is proposed to prohibit the introduction of these goods, as being calculated, perhaps, to do injury to persons whoare trading in similar articles here. But it is a pure trade transaction, and it is simply a matter of expediency for us to consider whether it is desirable that they should be excluded. It ought to be remembered that the alternative to prohibition is not unrestricted competition, as some honorable members seem to assume, because the Tariff would still continue in operation. I will not say that the duties are right in all cases. Perhaps they might with advantage be made higher in some cases and lower in others. But the Tariff was solemnly agreed to by the Parliament as being adequate to protect our industries. What the amendment proposes is that in regard to all the world the Tariff shall remain in operation as it stands, but that in the case of foreign producers or manufacturers there should be the Tariff plus this possible prohibition. That is very similar, indeed, to the proposals for preferential trade which were submitted to the country less than threeyears ago. What the protectionists who were in favour of preferential trade with Great Britain proposed then was that the Tariff should remain with a certain addition in the case of foreign imports.

Senator Styles - That was not so with all protectionists. able senator means that some protectionists were in favour of imposing higher duties at once.

Senator Styles - Or re-adjusting our own Tariff first.

Senator DRAKE - I can quite understand that amongst a body of protectionists who desire to protect the industries of the country, there must always be some who are in favour of imposing very much higher duties on particular articles, and of allowing the Tariff to remain as it is in regard to other articles. The contention of the Protectionist Party, or, perhaps I should say the Government Party, at the last election was that they desired preferential trade with Great Britain, and that was held to mean the addition to the Tariff of a certain percentage in the case of foreign imports, so as to give a preference to Great Britain. This Bill proposes a protection to industries by another method than the Tariff, and one which goes further. It is somewhat different in character, but the object aimed at is the same. Instead of protection by means of a high Tariff, it is to be protection by means of a Tariff with possibly prohibition in certain cases.

Senator Mulcahy - The other protection would work by rule of thumb.

Senator DRAKE - Protection by means of the Tariff is, in my opinion, preferable, because it operates all round, and applies equally to large as well as small industries. My point at present is that this prohibition is to come in and operate when the Tariff fails to give the necessary protection to local industries.. Therefore the case is very nearly on all-fours when we come to consider preferential trade. What the amendment proposes is that against all the world there shall remain the Tariff, which, of course, may be altered from time to time, but against foreign countries there is to be the Tariff and possibly prohibition in certain cases. Surely that is the principle of preferential trade which the Deakin Government, of which I was a member, advocated at the last general election. I feel that it is only reasonable and proper for me to vote for the amendment.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia) [8.14]. - I should not have risen to speak again but for the attempt, good humoured but laboured, of Senator Trenwith to treat the amendment as a piece of chaff, and for that reason not to enter upon a discussion of it. I do not regard anything that concerns trade relations within the Commonwealth, or with the mother country or foreign nations, as a matter to be approached in a spirit of levity, or to be the subject, to use my honorable friend's expression, of " poking fun." It is altogether too serious a matter to be treated in that way; and while I thoroughly appreciate the good humour which it bespeaks on his part, *ld the unfailing friendliness which he exhibits towards any proposal I make, although he may be very hostile to it in reality, I do not think that it is quite the way in which the amendment should be treated, and I do not thank him for his remarks from that stand-point. Senator Playford has not met the situation at all.

Senator Playford - Rather too much, I think.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - If that was the way in which my honorable friend dealt with the matters relating to Papua and Defence, concerning which he was asked to supply information, last Friday, I do not wonder at the summary method of a countout, which is. not applicable in ordinary circumstances, being resorted to.

Senator Trenwith - That is not a threat ?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - No. As I was not here, Ailat throws a little light on the attitude adopted by the honorable senators then present, showing their feeling of displeasure at the course taken by the Minister of Defence. But my honorable friend says that the Tariff is the proper means to deal with the question of trade, and that there are two ways under the Tariff of giving preference - one by raising the duties against the countries which ought not to have the preference, so as to a kind of bastard preference for the country supposed to Wave the benefit; and the other by lowering the Tariff in favour of the preferred country. The latter is the method which. I should support, but the other is the method that honorable senators of different fiscal views from myself would adopt. That, however, has been disposed of altogether by what Senator Drake has said. ' Without elaborating, I wish to emphasize the remarks of that honorable senator, to the effect that under the present Tariff we may, in certain directions, attack the importation of agricultural machinery, which I repeat is the origin or cause of this Bill. There may or may not be a higher Tariff imposed on such machinery this session, but. whatever the Tariff may be. there will always be this Bill superadded. Bv the Tariff we seek to keep out the goods of other countries, either wholly or in part; and if the Tariff is not enough there will be this Bill, which will give the same kind of protection, but, it may be, to a greater extent, and altogether prohibit importation. Senator Drake has made it perfectly plain that this, in a sense, is a Tariff Bill - a Bill to prohibit imports. The only difference between it and a prohibitive Tariff is that there is introduced the element of injury to some particular local industry. But every importation, to a certain extent, injures local industry. The kind of injury is not defined, and it may be the same which it is sought to prevent by the Tariff. As Senator Drake. has put it, this is essentially a Bill in which we can give effect to the principle of preference if we sincerely believe in that principle; and that is what I ask the Committee and the Government to do. I am not now advocating preference as against those who think there should be no preference; all I say is that those who believe in preference have no reason to say that this is not an opportune time to give effect to the principle. The Minister of Defence and Senator Trenwith advanced the most extraordinary argument I ever heard.

Senator Styles - No doubt.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I know Senator Styles' views on protection, and I respect him for the assiduity with which, in season and out of season, he seeks to give effect to them. I felt sure, however, that he would agree with me as to the extraordinary character of the argument that this amendment, if carried, would insult Great Britain. Why should the ' amendment insult Great Britain? It is an insult to pass a. Bill directed against Great Britain as well as against foreign nations, when we are not able to cite one single instance of the importation of English manufactures with the intent to injure or destroy Australian industry. This Bill is a gross insult to England. My amendment is simply a declaration that we in this Parliament believe that nothing of the kind was ever done, or ever will be done, by England. It is all very well for the Minister of Defence to laugh. We at present keep English manufactures out by means of the Tariff, and I ask why we should insult England by saying that the Tariff is not sufficient - that the manufacturers of the mother country will send their goods here with the intent to destroy or injure the manufactures of Australia? English manufacturers send their goods here in order to sell them, and in the process of selling other manufacturers have, of course, to take their chance. The object of protection is to equalize the chances; but this Bill is introduced in order to prevent what is said to be a mischievous kind of importation of agricultural implements and, of course, other goods from America, Canada, or other places. Why, then, should we include England? If instances could be shown in England similar to that of the harvester combine, or the Standard Oil Trust, there would be some justification for the Bill; but the Minister candidly and frankly says that he is unable to give any such instance.

Senator Playford - There would most likely be instances if the matter were. leftopen.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Why should my honorable friend insult English manufacturers by saying that?

Senator McGregor - Does Senator Symon say that such instances are not known on the part of England?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - So far as I know, there are not.

Senator McGregor - Then I shall' give some instances when the honorable senator has finished.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I know that Senator McGregor is an encyclopaedia of knowledge of wicked things known to none of us. The fact is that legislation of this kind' gives Australia and Australian legislation a bad flavour in England. I do not agree with those who " run down" Australia, or take advantage of bad legislation to do so. I scorn people who are guilty of that kind of thing ; but I have sense enough! to know what is said, and what will be said, if we continue to pass measures such as the Immigration Restriction Act. Such legislation simply gives a handle to the enemy. From what I observe now, it is quite evident that the Minister of Defence and Senator McGregor have " made it up." It is not now Senator Millen, but Senator McGregor, who is called to the aid of the Ministry ; and I am quite sure we shall not have a count out to-night.

Senator McGregor - I thought the honorable senator would have rejoiced over our " making it up."

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I do; I like to see the honorable senator and the

Minister of Defence throwing themselves on each other's necks in this affectionate way. I was pointing out that if we pass legislation of this kind we give a weapon to the enemy.

Senator Playford - If we pass the amendment we shall give a weapon to the enemy.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - What enemy ?

Senator Playford - Foreign countries, who would import to Australia through Great Britain.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - As the Minister knows, that is not an original remark, because it was made by Senator Henderson a few minutes ago. At present I desire to call honorable senators' attention to the fact that the Bill, in its present form, will give a handle to those who are hostile to Australia, and only too willing to be adverse critics of this country and its legislation. The newspaper quoted by Senator Pulsford is, I know, regarded in England as, to a large extent, the exponent of Australian feeling. It will be seen that there was an impression, when this Bill was introduced, that it was an instalment of preference, for the purpose of defeating the accursed foreigner, and keeping his goods out of Australia for the benefit of Australian and British manufacturers.

Senator Trenwith - Hear, hear ! that is so 1

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Then why should Senator Trenwith not support my amendment?

Senator Trenwith - The amendment would allow English manufacturers, if they so desired, to introduce their goods into Australia! in an unfair way - a way which I do not contemplate they desire to take.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - What the Bill says is that English manufacturers threaten to do what Senator Trenwith has indicated. If we pass the amendment, and English manufacturers resort to nefarious practices, we can have fresh legislation. It is much better in legislation of this kind, which imposes penalties, to say that we do not mean England, against which country we have no complaint. Senator McGregor says that he is going to cite some instances ; but there is no complaint to be made now, and we do not believe that England would do such an unkind and monstrous thing as to send goods here with the intention to destroy or injure our industries. The reasons which have been offered from that standpoint against the amendment have no strength or substance.

Senator Trenwith - The amendment is a declaration that we expect English manufacturers to do those things, and it offers to exempt them if they do.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Surely that is a far-fetched assumption.

Senator Trenwith - The amendment is capable of no other reading.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - The amendment means the very opposite. It declares that there are no instances of the kind, and that we do not believe English manufacturers would be guilty of such a thing. But I am sure that it is hopeless to attempt to convince Senator Trenwith. If an angel came down from heaven, it could not offer any inducement to Senator Trenwith to change his mind, so wedded is he to this particular measure. At the same time, the position appears perfectly plain from the point of view of those who think that this legislation has been introduced in the interests of British and Australian manufacturers as against foreign manufacturers ; but when the Bill is thoroughly understood, we shall have very different articles in the British-Australasian and other newspapers, and we shall scarcely be entitled to complain if our legislation meets with still further hostile criticism.

Senator Stewart - What have they to do with our legislation ?

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - The honorable senator knows, I am sure, that I am not likely to be influenced in my legislative work by such articles. But when we condemn the critics we ought to remember that we have given them "the material on which, they base their criticism. I now come to the point raised by Senator Henderson, and referred to by Senator Playford by way of interjection, as to the possibility, in practical working, of foreign goods' being imported through England to Australia.

Senator Playford - All the goods would not be from foreign countries; a part would go to England, and have a little done to them before being exported to Australia.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - That is another phase.

Seantor Playford. - That is one way of dumping.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - But that could be done under the Tariff.

Senator Playford - The Tariff does not discriminate between foreign and British goods.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - If we had a preferential Tariff, exactly the same sort of thing would happen.

Senator Playford - Very possibly.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - That is as large an admission as I am entitled to ask for, and it shows that exactly the same arguments and reasons which apply as against my amendment, would apply to a preferential Tariff, which is advocated, and rightly so, from the point of view of my honorable friend, and those who think with him in the matter of protection. The practical difficulty being indentical in both cases, there is no reason against the passing of my amendment. If honorable senators were against preference under proper circumstances and conditions, the objection would be right enough, but if they are not against preference it is clear that my proposal is quite as much entitled to support as a preferential Tariff would be.

Suggest corrections