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Wednesday, 3 October 1906

Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales) . - This is not by any means the first time that I have risen to address thu Senate on the subject of the stripperharvester. I am sorry to say that the position grows in seriousness. I am surprised at such proposals as are contained in this Bill being allowed to remain before the Parliament so long as they have been. I do not believe that, so far, in the history of the Commonwealth, anything has been so calculated to shock the public sense of justice as' the action in connexion: with the stripper-harvesters. The Bills on the subject before the Senate are of a most extraordinary character. For the first time we have the prices of an article fixed in a measure. That is a monstrous and unheard-of thing. Just as well might we presume to regulate how wind should blow ! How the provision is to be carried out I should like to know. Are the various prices to be regarded as net or gross prices, as cash or booking prices? The whole scope of this Bill is ludicrous in that respect. It is provided that the stripperharvester must be sold at a price not exceeding £80, otherwise certain consequences may ensue, but it is not stated whether or not that is to be a cash price, The sellers may say, " Our price is £80 cash, but if you take time to pay then, according to previous arrangements, certain charges will be added. You will have to pay so much for accommodation." In that way the cost may be brought up from £80 to £90. All the evidence relative to the stripper-harvester which has been brought before the Senate, or supplied to the TarifF Commission, has pointed in one direction, and that is that it can be made in Australia at about ^40 or a little more. Yet we are asked to pass a Bill in which, on the understanding that certain duties are imposed, it is provided that a price ranging from ^70 to £80 may be charged. This is put forward as a great gain to the farming industry. Surely the farmers are not so weakminded, so easily gulled, as to be led to believe that the provisions of the Bill are at all necessary ! I wish to draw attention to some remarks made by Senator Trenwith when the Australian Industries Preservation Bill was introduced, and it must always be remembered that we owed that measure to the harvester agitation. When the honorable senator was speaking about harvesters he spoke about a chain of evidence as if the harvester industry of Australia were the object of a conspiracy-

Senator Findley - I rise to a point of order. On last Thursday afternoon, sir, when I desired to quote from a speech made bv Senator Symon on the Australian Industries Preservation Bill, and bearing on the Bill then under discussion, you ruled that I was out of order. I understand that Senator Pulsford now intends to quote from a speech made in that debate.

The PRESIDENT - I did not hear the remark of Senator Pulsford, but if he intends to quote from a previous debate of the current session he will be out of order.

Senator PULSFORD - What I propose to do, sir, is to refer to certain remarks made by Senator Trenwith relative to statements made before the Tariff Commission by Mr. McKay and others.

The PRESIDENT - On this Bill?

Senator PULSFORD - No.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator cannot refer to any remarks which were made in a previous debate of this session and on another Bill.

Senator PULSFORD - I shall be able to do it without-

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator cannot do it either directly or indirectly. It is my duty to administer the standing order.

Senator PULSFORD - Do you, sir, rule that I cannot read anything which was said in a previous debate?

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator must not even refer to a previous debate of this session. The standing order says -

No senator shall allude to any debate of the same session upon a question or Bill not being then under discussion.

Senator PULSFORD - It has been stated that there was practically something like a conspiracy to injure the harvesting industry, and that harvesters bearing McKay's mark and brand were bought and sold under cost purposely with a view to injuring his industry. I desire to quote from the evidence put before the Tariff Commission to show how unfair that statement was. At page 1748 of the volume dealing with metals and machinery I find the following evidence: - 175. Massey-HarrisSelling "Sunshines." - Considerable capital has been made out of the allegation of unfair competition on the part of the importers, and much of the simulated fear of annihilation has been based on this ground. The instance of the " Sunshine " harvesters sold to Mr. Claridge, Crystal Brook, South Australia, was made a great deal of by Mr. McKay (see queries 17249 to 17299), as a proof of this unfair competition by Massey-Harris Co. Ltd. The following letter from Messrs. Clutterbuck Bros., the agents of Massey-Harris Co. Ltd., South Australia, deals with this matter. I can produce the original letter to the Commission if desired, as well as letters from the farmers referred to therein, which completely refute Mr. McKay'sallegation that these customers were approached by Clutterbuck Bros. 176. The letter reads as under : - "Adelaide, 29th May, 1905." " Messrs. Massey-Harris Co. Ltd., Melbourne. "Dear Sirs, - H. V. McKay, of the 'Sunshine' Harvester Company, in his evidence before the Tariff Commission, reported in the Age of April 29th, has seen fit to drag into prominence the name of Mr. Burford, one of the partners of our firm, and to single us out for censure in respect to the unfairness of our business methods in the competition of this State for the stripper harvester trade. "In justice to ourselves, ' as well as to your company, we wish to refute the statements made by Mr. McKay, and to say that he has not accurately placed before the Commission the facts. " Mr. McKay asserts that we in 1904 endeavoured to undermine his business by purchasing 'Sunshine' harvesters at£90 each from farmers, who had placed orders with his firm, that we afterwards hawked them round the country offering to sell them for £80 apiece, and finally disposed of them to Mr. Claridge at£75 each. " We say emphatically that Mr. McKay's evidence in regard to our making overtures for the purchase of these harvesters is not correct, and the facts are as under : - " 1. Having been approached in four instances by farmers who had ordered from McKay, we exchanged four Massey-Harris harvesters for ' Sunshines' ; the customers in each instance, after ordering the 'Sunshine' machines, and expressing themselves as not satisfied with the McKay combination, indicated to us that in the event of our finding outlets for the Sunshines,' they would be prepared to exchange them for our machine, and pay for ours the price they had agreed to pay the 'Sunshine' people. We concluded deals with out friends on these lines, i.e., these farmers paid us the full 'Sunshine' prices for the Massey machines ; these prices being several pounds in excess of the Massey ordinary selling rates. Consequently the farmers lost on these transactions, and not ourselves. "a. The four McKay machines abovementioned were taken from-

J.   Walter Kelly. Riverton ;

Thos. Camac, Riverton ;

T.   J. Ellery.Rhynie;

Uriah Smith, Laura.

These clients can prove that they first approached us regarding the ex changes, and that we did not endeavour to get hold of McKay's harvesters to do his business injury, or use unfair methods in order to obtain possession of them. In fact, we may say that in two instances we did our utmost to induce the parlies to stand by their bookings with McKay, and keep the machines. " 3. In regard to Mr. McKay's contention that these machines were hawked about and eventually sold to Claridge at£75 each, we five you below the names of the parties with whom we placed them, and the prices we obtained for them : -

M.   Walsh, Yarcowie, 1 machine (3 terms), £96;

J.   Pollard, Jamestown, 1 machine (cash), £80;

Claridge Bros., Crystal Brook, 2 machines (cash), £75 each.

Messrs. Claridge Bros, bought from us four harvesters, i.e., two MasseyHarris and two 'Sunshines,' with the right to an agency commission, thereby netting the machines down to £75 each ; our quotation to them being for four machines, with a right to two extra Massey-Harris, making six harvesters in all. At which price we would have been prepared to treat on a net cash basis with any of our agents for that number of machines. " Briefly, these are the facts concerning the transactions referred to by Mr. McKay in his evidence before the Commission, but he omitted to say, while endeavouring to injure our reputation for honest trading, that he, in 1903, purchased from customers of ours in the Mallala district of South Australia (Messrs. Nairn Brothers), a Massey-Harris harvester, and, to use his own term, 'hawked' it over South Australia, the machine eventually finding a buyer in Mr. W. B. Davis, of Riverton, who purchased it for £60. " Mr. McKay has, therefore, only himself to blame if his unfair and unbusinesslike methods have forced his competitors to adopt tactics which, under ordinary conditions, they would not be compelled to do. "(Signed) Clutterbuck Bros."

Thus, although Mr. McKay was making bitter complaint in his evidence about the "Sunshine " machines sold to Claridge, and which has been fully answered by Messrs. Clutterbucks' letter, he failed to mention the fact that he had in the previous year bought a MasseyHarris harvester from Nairn Bros., Mallala, S.A., and after "hawking" it about the State eventually sold it for £60 to Mr. W. B. Davis, of Riverton.

That is the true answer to the statement frequently made that attempts were made to injure Mr. McKay and other local makers of machines, and warranted special legislation. Statements, have also been made with regard to another manufacturer, Mr. Mitchell, and a witness before the Tariff Commission, Mr. Cowles, was ex- amined with regard to it. I find his evidence on page 1807 -

A statement was made to the Commission the other day by Mr. Mitchell, who produced an affidavit of one of his employes, in regard to certain transactions of your company. Have you had an opportunity of seeing that statement? - I have not. I have written to Mr. Mitchell, and he informs me he did not keep a copy of the affidavit. I received a letter from him this morning, and he gave me the name of the party, and stated it referred to a plough and pointed out that our assistant manager for Victoria, Mr. Alder, knew the circumstances. Mr. Alder is out of town at present, otherwise I should probably know what was referred to. We are taking pains to try and get posted about it, because we have no knowledge of ever having sold anybody's goods, representing them to be made by any person other than the actual maker.

Mr. Mitchellput in his evidence an affidavit by a person named G. Carter. Will you please read that affidavit for yourself. Having read it, do you know anything of the circumstances of your own knowledge? - Absolutely nothing.

Have you handled any. of Mitchell's goods at all? - As faras I know, none.

That rebuts the evidence given by the manager oft he harvester company as to efforts made to discredit the Australian makers. I think it is desirable, in view of the statements, repeatedly made on this subject, that the truth should be known. As regards the price of machines, I find that Mr. Martin, of South Australia, gave some evidence which is reported on page 17 16. He was asked a question about something which had appeared in the Kafunda Herald, and the examination went on -

Then the net price to any farmers taking the three machines among them would be £66 10s. ? - I do not think the advertisement offers 5 per cent, of£70. Perhaps you have the paper there.

I have ? -If that is stated in the Kafunda Herald, I suppose it is correct.

I understand that was in December last year ? - Yes.

Further on, the evidence relates -

Did you not tell me it was probably advertised by your people in December last that, for the season 1904-5, your price would be £70, less 5 per cent. for cash for three machines? - I will sell you ten machines now at £60 each. The price advertised in the Kafunda Herald, without seeing it, would be the reduced price of £10 on the machines left over from the previous year.

I do not think that there is much room after evidence like that for the Government to boast that they are doing anything for the farmers. Mr. Martin was asked a further question -

But I suppose that without these special considerations, and with an average run of trade, £70 would give you a fair trade ? - I think it would pay us, but would not give a very large profit.

Those statements appear to me to be absolutely conclusive, added to the statements which have appeared from time to time from all sorts of quarters, indicating how cheaply these machines can be made. The Senate by this time is very well aware that the cost of manufacturing them is very largely added to before they reach the hands of the farmers, by the system under which they have to be sold, and that the price contains very considerable amounts of what may be called conditions for tuition, for repairs and so on. All these factors have been purposely ignored, and the price has been stated to have been what it was not. The public have been gulled. The more the facts relating to this matter are looked into the more obvious it becomes that the Minister of Trade and Customs has largely exceeded the demands of justice, that he has taken arbitrary steps, that he has done things that were not called for, and that either by mistake or by design we now have before us measures for adding to the statute-book duties which are not required, and which can only be described as an imposition.

Senator Lt.Col.GOULD (New South Wales) [3.54] - I feel that it is very unfortunate that we are driven into the discussion of a matter like the one before us at the fag end of a session, when honorable senators are desirous to get away quickly, instead of giving proper care and attention to the subject. It would have been much better had the Government seen its way to allow proposals for amending the Tariff to be dealt with when there was ample time to consider the report of the Tariff Commission, and after we had had an opportunity to consult the electors. I am perfectly sure that the subject would be dealt with much more satisfactorily after mature consideration than at a time when the coming dissolution is so rapidly approaching. However, we have to take matters as they are. The Government has paid more attention to individual cases than to the Tariff generally. Quite recently, we had before us a question of Excise, in which the predominant influence of a Victorian firm was manifest. That influence seemed to have affected Ministers, and induced them to submit proposals for legislation that were not justified or required, either in the interests of the persons immediately concerned, or of the Commonwealth at large. In dealing with harvesters, we find that another 'prominent Victorian firm is especially interested. When we look through the report of the Tariff Commission, we cannot fail to be impressed with the idea that the industry is certainly not in a failing or miserable condition. We have always been told that one of the great objects of imposing protective duties was to enable an industry to struggle through its early stages, so as to be able to equip itself in the fight for life that industries, as well as communities have to endure. But we find that, as time passes, industries established under protection depend more and more upon artificial support, and to an increasing degree come to Parliament for assistance. Instead of being in a position to say, after some years of protection, " We have been able to make our position assured, and are now prepared to fight against all competition, no matter whence it comes," we find that demands are made for increased duties. 'But in the case that we are now dealing with,, we discover that the industry has been increasing. The advantages it enjoys over its foreign competitors in the way of freights, agency charges, and other expenses have enabled it to become prosperous. If the industry had been in a languishing condition. I could have understood protectionists saying, " If it is destroyed a number of men will be thrown out of employment, and, therefore, it is necessary for the Commonwealth to come to its assistance." But even Senator Trenwith has admitted that the harvester-makers are in a lucrative position, that their business is considerable, and their profits large. I find, from a return presented to the other branch of the Legislature on the motion of Mr. Kelly as to the number of stripper-harvesters imported from Canada and other countries, that the figures are as follows: - In 1904, there were no particulars available. In 1905 there were approximately 1,000 stripper-harvesters imported from Canada, and 730 from elsewhere; but there were no imports during the first five months of

T906. The same return shows that in 1905 the approximate number of stripperharvesters made in Australia was 2,700. and that the manufacture was increasing ; and, further, that during igo; there were 418 exported, and 484 during the first seven months of this vear. I am sure that if any honorable senator, in addressing an audience, desired to point out the prosperity of this particular industry, he could not have much better statistics than these, which show that since the beginning of this year Australia has produced all the stripperharvesters required in the country. It would be interesting to know whether there have been any importations since the end of May of this year, but the fair presumption is that there have not. On the contrary, if there had been any, we may depend upon it that the Minister of Trade and Customs would have taken precious good care to have the fact made known, not only in the House of Representatives, but in the Senate. During 1905 there were 389 stripper-harvesters exported to Argentina, and the number exported in the first seven months of 1906 was 455. The exportation to other places is only small, but I find that there were twenty stripperharvesters sent to Uruguay during the first seven months of this year. If honorable senators turn to the evidence, thev will see that in Argentina big prices were paid for these machines. The argument has been used that it is a good thing to have a place to dump surplus stocks, and certainly the exporters of stripper-harvesters have found a happy dumping-ground in Argentina. Mr. McKay, when before the Tariff Commission, said that the Sunshine harvester which was sold retail in Australia at £8i was sold in Argentina at £140. All I can say is that a manufacturer who can find a dumping place where nearly double the home price can be obtained must be doing particularly well. Mr. McKay declined to give the exact price at which he invoiced the machine, and sold them wholesale in Argentina, but said that he had a better article and got a better price in that country than in Australia. He was asked for the invoice price of the machines exported to Buenos Ayres, but he replied that he did not think it was a fair question, though he subsequently gave the information to the Commission in strict confidence. But is that' a reasonable way in which to deal with a question of this kind? The members of the Commission had this information given to them in confidence; and yet we find that four protectionist members report one .way and four free-trade members another. " The presumption is that the information given to the Commission was not such as to seriously weigh in the minds of the free-trade members.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - The protectionist members of the Commission reported in the same way as did the freetrade members, excepting that the former recommended the additional duty on con- ditions.

Senator Lt Col NEILD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Col. GOULD.-The protectionist members suggested that certain conditions should be observed if there had to be an increase of duty. But are those conditions anything beyond what the workmen of Australia expect in the way of fair wages and conditions of employment? Evidence was taken by the Commission as to the probable cost of manufacturing stripper-harvesters. There seems to have been a good deal of difficulty in obtaining information on this point, but some evidence was given by an overseer in Mr. McKay's works, and this seems to have led to other witnesses following his example. The conclusion at which the Commission arrived was that stripper-harvesters could be produced in Australia for £41, as against a cost of production by the MasseyHarris Company of £$8 os. 3d.. In the case of the Massey-Harris machines, however, there were importing expenses amounting to £22, bringing the cost to £61, as against £41- in the case of the locally-made article. Here we have a difference of something like £20, quite apart from the duties, and agency and other expenses. Yet the Government coolly ask us to pass a Bill under which, after the 1st February, 1907, the prices of these machines shall range from £70 to £80, according to size. It is quite true that twelve months later they are to reduce the price by something ke £5 ; but, under the most favorable conditions, it will be seen that the price will range from £61 to ^75 for a machine which costs £a.T. to produce. It is all very well for honorable senators to say that such prices should be permitted for the purpose of encouraging and strengthening local industries. But those local industries, however valuable, represent but a small fraction of the people who are interested in having cheap machines of this character. These stripper-harvesters were formerly sold at a less price than that proposed by the Government, and it is possible that the industry did not then pay very well ; but it is a mistake to attempt to handicap our farmers by additional duties and charges in every direction. Where the primary producers' are to reap any advantage under this Bill, I am at a loss to see. The Government propose to do something in the way of bonuses for the encouragement of products which they think may be acclimatized in this country ; .but how are the wheat producers to benefit under this legislation? These producers have already proved that a certain agricultural industry can be carried on in this country with profit to themselves and advantage to -the community. But the prices of their products are regulated by the prices in the free-trade markets of the world ; and nothing that we can do by way of legislation can increase their profits. . Why should these men be handicapped, simply in order to keep a few manufacturers employed in producing an article which the farmers are bound to possess, no matter what the price may be?

Senator Col Neild - Is not that the whole principle of protection - to compel the primary producer to pay for the secondary producer?

Senator Lt Col NEILD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Col. GOULD.- I recognise that the Bill comes from a protectionist Government, in consequence of a number of protectionist recommendations. But we cannot cease pointing out how cruelly and unfairly such legislation bears on certain classes of the community. There are many occupations which can receive no benefit whatever from protection ; and yet the people engaged in those occupations have to pay enhanced prices in order to swell the profits of certain manufacturers. The three great primary industries of agriculture, pastoral pursuits, and mining can reap no advantage from the increased duties, which are being piled on year after year in the interests of a handful of manufacturers.

Senator Stewart - The machinery is cheaper now than ever it was.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- Does the honorable senator contend that this Bill will make machinery cheaper? It has never been the policy of the Commonwealth Government, in the whole course of its history, to assist the people of the country who might justly have expected a helping hand. On the contrary, one hindrance after another has been placed in the way ; and instead of being a free people, left to carry on our vocations for our own advantage, we are being placed in fetters. It is now sought to regulate the price of agricultural implements; but possibly the policy may extend further until, under extraordinary legislation of this kind, we may find ourselves hampered by all sorts -of conditions. In some of the States there have been established Arbitration Courts, and in Victoria there are Wages Boards. With what object? With the object of seeing that employes are fairly paid, and of dealing with any difficulties which may arise in an industry. Under this Bill, however, the Minister of Trade and Customs is to be endowed with all sorts of powers as to the regulation of wages and conditions of work. If we turn to the Bill providing for duties of Excise, we shall find all sorts of conditions set out, and it is provided that-- this Act shall not apply to goods manufactured by any person in any part of the Commonwealth under conditions as to the remuneration of labour which -

(a)   are declared by resolution of both Houses of the Parliament to be fair and reasonable ; or

(b)   are in accordance with an industrial award under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904; or

(c)   are in accordance with the terms of an industrial agreement filed under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 : or

(d)   are in accordance with terms which, in the opinion of the Minister, are fair and reasonable.

While we are professing to charge certain duties of Excise we insert a proviso that they are not to apply in the case of a manufacturer who carries on his business under conditions as to the remuneration of labour which are declared by resolution of both Houses of Parliament to be fair and reasonable. Is Parliament the proper place in which to consider and decide such a question? There might be a prolonged debate in which over a hundred members of the Parliament would have the right to take part, and, no doubt, all sorts of diverse views would be expressed.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - They would have to take evidence.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - How would they take evidence? Would they appoint a special committee, or have witnesses called to the bar of each Chamber? We could understand such matters being dealt with by persons who are able to consider such questions judicially, but we know that Parliament is prone to deal with questions from a political, and not from a judicial stand-point. While some members of Parliament might deal with such questions judicially, the majority would view them from a political stand-point, not through any desire to be unjust, but because they would be unable to free themselves from certain preconceived political ideas. Again, there are to be no duties of Excise imposed if the conditions as to the remuneration of labour are in accord with terms which, in the opinion of the Minister, are fair and reasonable. Could anything be imagined more likely to bring about corruption, or the suspicion of corruption, than to leave the decision as to whether the terms are fair and reasonable to a politician dependent for his support, and for the support of the Government of which he is a member, on the votes of persons holding, particular political opinions? We know how serious it would be if in this community we were day after day confronted with charges of corruption against Ministers. In some parts of the world we are often told that Parliament and Ministers are corrupt. Surely we do not desire that people should be given the opportunity to say that our Ministers or Parliament are corrupt. We should prefer to have it said that corruption is most exceptional rather than customary in the political life of Australia. It has been the boast of many in Australia that, at all events, until within, very recent years, there have not been in. this country any of the great public political scandals which from time to time we hear of as arising in other parts of the world. It should be the object of our peopleto place Ministers in such a position that no opportunity would be afforded to make charges of political corruption, against them. We have no right to put any such duty upon a Minister. He will have a number of responsible duties which he must necessarily perform, and we should not add to them duties which might bring him into conflict with various people, and leave him open to charges of corruption. Conditions of labour and wages should not be decided by Parliament, but by Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards. It will be. time enough to ask Parliament to in terfere in such matters when it is shown that Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards are incapable of dealing with them. Even then Parliament should not be asked to deal with such matters in the way provided in this Bill, but should be able to appoint a competent Board to ascertain what would? be proper conditions, and to submit a report which, if satisfactory, might be accepted- I shall always raise my voice against any attempt to give undue consideration to manufacturers who are already doing well and making money, merely in order that they may do still better. I suppose that some honorable senators have made up their mind to support this Bill, whether it is debated or not. We should like to hear from them some good reasons for supporting the measure, and it is not sufficient for them to say that, as the session is drawing to a close, they must go away to their constituents, and must, therefore, hurry the business of the Senate along in order to get into recess as soon as possible. I trust that whatever the ultimate result of the measure may be, it will not be what, apparently, the Government desire. If it is, I hope that it will not be long before an opportunity will be given to Parliament to reconsider this and other measures which have recently been debated in a common-sense way. However, if one desired to undo all that has been clone by this Parliament . which in the interests of the community ought not to have been done, he would have a very hard and difficult task to perform.

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