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Thursday, 13 November 1930

Senator O'HALLORAN (South Australia) . - I have no fault to find with the spirit or objective of the motion submitted by Senator Carroll. I agree, also, in the main with what Senator R. D. Elliott has just said in support of it, although I disagree with some of his arguments. The genesis of the motion lies in the desire, on the part of the mover and its supporters, to increase the volume of inter-Empire trade. In discussing this subject we should consider what steps we can take to improve our own position by fostering trade within the Empire along the lines suggested. To this end we should ascertain what our present production is and to what extent it, is likely to be developed by the adoption of this scheme. In my judgment, the policy most likely to benefit the people of Australia is that which considers first the requirements of the home market. Although Senator R. D. Elliott did not make a direct charge he appeared to indicate that Commonwealth legislation to maintain and improve the standard of the workers of this country was not in the best interests of the nation. I have some knowledge of primary production and of the difficulties encountered by farmers in the marketing of their products, and my experience has taught me that the secret of success lies in aiming at variety in production. If we turn to New Zealand we find that the rapid progress of the dominion in recent years has been due to the greater attention paid by her primary producers to the development of what I may term small farm production.

Senator Guthrie - The climatic conditions in New Zealand help the farmer? there tremendously.

Senator O'HALLORAN - That is so: but even in those parts of Australia where the soil and climate lend themselves to small farm production we do not find the same enthusiasm for this class of farming as in New Zealand. Most honorable senators will agree that South Australia should produce sufficient dairy products to supply the home market, but it does not. In the peak period of the season we export a small quantity of butter or cheese, but for the other eight or nine months of the year we have to depend on importations from the other States to provide those commodities for our own people, our total imports, in round figures, amounting to about £400,000 in excess of exports. We also import from 12,000 to 14,000 cattle and roughly 40,000 sheep to meet the needs of the local market.

Our present difficulty is, I think, due to our failure to develop a type of peasantry distinctly inclined to earn its living from the land. In past years, heavy expenditure of loan moneys on railways, water schemes and other public works have enhanced the value of land over and above the natural increase in value due to the work of settlers who occupy their holdings. For several years more money has been made from the sale of land than has been received from the actual production of the soil. But conditions are changing and, I am glad to say, for the better. Following the example of the people of New Zealand there now appears to be a desire on the part of our farmers to engage in the production of a greater variety of small farm products, for which the home market is undoubtedly the best market. Before the development of our arbitration system our farmers had to accept very low prices indeed for all farm by-products. If the standard of the Australian worker is reduced our primary producers will suffer owing to the diminished purchasing power of the Australian consumer, and because of the low prices ruling for wheat and wool, primary producers will, in future, have to depend more and more upon the sale of their byproducts in the Australian market. This is a phase of the problem that should receive earnest consideration at the hands of all those who claim to have at heart the welfare of the man on the land. Our object should be to increase the absorptive capacity of the local market by maintaining the standard of the Australian worker. Anything which this Parliament can do along these lines should have the support of all honorable senators. If we cannot keep our money in Australia, wc should try to keep it in the family.

I look upon the British Commonwealth of Nations as a family. The figures relating to our overseas trade indicate that it is capable of development along the lines suggested in the motion. In 1928-29, the last year for which I have been aide to obtain the figures, Australian imports totalled approximately £120,000,000, and exports were valued at £123,000,000. Our imports from the United Kingdom are valued at £57,000,000, and the value of our export trade to the United Kingdom is £55,000,000. . From the United States of America we import goods valued at £35,000,000. but our export trade to' that country does not exceed £5,750,000. It is interesting to see how the £35,000,000 is made up and the opportunity there is for improving intra-Empire trade. I see no reason why we should not harvest sufficient fish from our own waters; but. up to date, we have not done so, and in the meantime why should not Australia's requirements in fish be supplied from the United Kingdom? It is well able to furnish us with all the fish we require. Why in the name of commonsense we have to import from America preserved and dried fruits to the value of £200,000 I do hot know. Wc import from the United States of America, boots and shoes to the value of £124,000, socks and stockings to the value of £478,000, and yarns to the value of £348,000. Surely we could get these goods from Great Britain ! But the biggest items of our import trade from the United States of America are motor cars, bodies, &c, £7,132,000, and machinery £5,449,000. There is no reason why practically the whole of these motor cars and machinery could not be supplied from the Old Country. If Great Britain were supplying Australia with all the articles I have mentioned, it would lead to a tremendous increase in the employing capacity of the industries of that country, and also to an increased market for Australian primary products which the American people do not buy from us. In view of a suggestion which has been made, I ask leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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