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Wednesday, 9 July 1930

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator has exhausted his time.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW (Queensland) [4.44]. - With other honorable senators on this side of the chamber I congratulate Senator Colebatch upon bringing this subject under the notice of the Senate. One of the most important functions of government is . to see that the channels of trade are kept as free as possible. While we sympathize with the Government in its difficulties in attempting to adjust the trade balance, we realize that by placing embargoes and p'artial embargoes upon the products from other countries, our own export trade will be seriously affected. The Minister (Senator Daly) said that embargoes had been placed upon the importation of certain goods from other countries in order to reduce importations, and in that way to assist in adjusting the trade balance ; but if in doing so we should offend nations which are our customers and reduce the value and volume of our exports the last stage may be worse than the first.

Senator Daly - That is not the position with respect to Belgium.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - It is in connexion with the product I am discussing, as I shall show the Minister. I was pleased to hear the Minister say that the embargoes which are at present imposed will either be removed or modified when our trade position justifies it. That . is the first ministerial statement we have had to that effect. Senator Colebatch has dealt with this subject from the view-point of Western Australia. It is also of vital importance to Queensland, which is the principal beef-exporting State, that the producers of frozen beef should be able to get a market for their surplus production, the export of which should be encouraged. . The beef produced in the northern part of Queensland is similar to that produced in the Wyndham dis trict. As the Darwin meat works are now closed, a large proportion of the cattle reared on the eastern side of the Barkly Tableland are marketed in Queensland, where they are slaughtered, frozen, and shipped. Certain circumstances have had a depressing effect upon the beef market since the beginning of the year and have resulted in stock dropping in price by over £2 a head. To-day the price of cattle at the Townsville meat works is 20s. per 100 lb., which is equivalent to a reduction of £2 a head on the price received at the end of last season. In 1921, 1922 and 1923 the price of cattle was below the cost of production; but since then the market has gradually improved, and during the last two years, in consequence of the reduced number of cattle in the country and of the improved condition of the market in Great Britain and on the continent, payable prices have been realized. The Belgian and German markets are important to Australian meat producers, because they absorb a large proportion of our second-grade beef, which, although of a lower standard, is good meat. This lean beef is suitable for continental markets.

Senator Daly - It is better than horse flesh.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - It is quite wholesome and excellent beef and I am rather surprised that the honorable senator should compare it with horse flesh. The continental markets take the lower-grade beef; they do not want fat beef; and the first-grade beef is absorbed by the English market. If the continental markets were not available for the lean beef, and it had to be marketed in Loudon, the only other place available, the effect would be to depreciate the market for our firstgrade beef. Senator Daly said that the Government's action in connexion with these embargoes was not in the direction of discriminating against any European countries, but when a tariff is increased or an embargo is placed upon goods in the production of which certain countries specialize, it certainly has the appearance of discriminating against those countries. At any rate, that is the effect the embargo or the increased tariff is likely to have upon the people in those countries, just as we should regard it as discriminating agaiust Australia, if Belgium and Germany increased their tariffs on the second-grade beef we send to them. I hope that the Government when placing embargoes or increasing the duties upon commodities produced in foreign countries will have some regard for the effect its action is likely to have on some of our primary products. Beef gets no Government assistance in Australia, and every effort should be made to remove any hindrances there may be to getting' it on to the best market. I hope that as soon as possible the Government will remove the embargoes or partial embargoes which have had the effect of offending certain of our excellent customers on the continent of Europe and elsewhere, and thus enable Australian products to get on the markets of those countries.

SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [4.55]. - I am not one of those who can on this occasion see their way to congratulate Senator Colebatch on bringing forward this motion, for the simple reason that it appears to me that it has brought about a position in which every honorable senator opposite, whetherhe approves of a high tariff, or admits one may be necessary in order to permit Australia to meet its adverse trade balance, wants something to be exempted. If all the wishes of honorable senators were fulfilled there would be no tariff at all. One wants Borsalino hats admitted free from Italy and another 3-oz. woollen goods from Belgium and so forth right down the list even to Japanese oak. Every honorable senator has some favourite commodity he wishes to be imported free of duty or nearly so. The whole tariff would be broken down if the Government acceded to all demands. I should be exceedingly glad if there were freetrade between every country. It would be an ideal condition of things, but retaliation is the very essence of tariffs. There is no fundamental principle involved in tariff legislation; excluding the use of customs duties for purely revenue purposes, it is almost entirely a matter of retaliation. Honorable senators opposite are apparently afraid that the result of the Commonwealth tariff will he that Japan will refuse to buy our wool and wheat, Germany will turn down our apples, France will not buy our butter and Belgium will not buy our meat. And it may be possible that Australians themselves, tens of thousands of whom are at present out of work and half-starved, will be compelled to eat the commodities they produce and wear woollen goods made by themselves from wool Australia produces. Such a calamitous state of affairs would break the hearts of our freetrade friends opposite! It is shocking that some honorable senators opposite seem to be filled with the idea that the only way in which a country can progress is to send away everything it produces of first-class quality and live itself on food of second-class quality. As I listened to Senator Chapman reciting the fact that certain nations in Europe are considering reciprocal tariffs and trade agreements it occurred to me that most of the European nations produce the same primary commodities.

Senator Chapman - Some of the agreements have already been signed.

SenatorRAE. - I have not heard of anything more than pious aspirations in that direction, except . to a very limited extent. I am sure that honorable senators must have read, as I have read, that there has been a great tendency in recent years for nearly every country in the world to increase its tariff on many imports, and become as self-contained as possible, so that there is a practical danger of the world becoming a sort of series of watertight compartments.

Senator Chapman - According to the last report of the League of Nations, many of these agreements have already been signed.

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