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Tuesday, 10 July 1906

Mr KELLY (Wentworth) .- We were first of all informed that the Minister would give us some information with respect to dumping In the next place, the honorable gentleman refused obdurately to give the information he had promised to give, and then, when he found that honorable members were determined 'to get it, he endeavoured to carry out his promise, and I am afraid that he lamentably failed, I am glad that even at the eleventh hour the honorable gentleman should have recognised the political, if not the moral, necessity of keeping his word. Otherwise, the country would have found yet another basic difference between the parties who in this House have been responsible for recent legislation, and. for that which is now before us. One of those parties is known as the party that signs a pledge, and if the Minister of Trade and Customs had not spoken this afternoon, the other party would probably have been known as the party that never keeps one. I think that the honorable gentleman was acting in his own interests when, at the eleventh hour, he decided to keep his word in this regard.

The CHAIRMAN - Is the honorable member discussing the question' of dumping?

Mr KELLY - I am afraid that I was discussing the Minister's refusal to give an explanation as to what dumping is carried cn. Part III. of the Bill will be improved by the amendments which have been proposed in it, and even with those amendments, it will place the Minister largely in the position which Parliament occupied in the past, because it will remove the consideration of fiscal alterations from this the people's House, to the Ministerial sanctum or - the Board-rooms of those great companies where these matters, if this Bill be passed, can be adjusted over cigars and1 in congenial surroundings. When we consider the enormous discretionary powers proposed under this Bill to be conferred on the Minister, we shall find that it vests in him personally powers which formerly belonged exclusively to Parliament.

Mr Isaacs - Of course the honorable member is aware that the Minister, under this Bill, has not anything like the power which is given to the Minister of Trade, and Customs in Canada, who has power to put on a special Tariff.

Mr KELLY - The Minister of' Trade and Customs in Canada has to act in accordance with an expression of the will of Parliament.

Sir William Lyne - What the AttorneyGeneral says is that he has the power to increase duties.

Mr Isaacs - The Minister in Canada can come to certain findings on the facts, and then the special Customs Tariff goes on. The honorable member may read the section.

Mr KELLY - I am rather at a disadvantage in quoting from the text of the Act, But I remember that in the precis of legislation of this kind with which the AttorneyGeneral provided honorable mem.bers, it is stated that the method adopted in Canada is for the Comptroller-General of Customs to decide when dumping has taken place. Whenever it appears to the satisfaction of the Minister of Customs that the export price, or the actual selling price to the importer in Canada of any imported dutiable articles, of a class or kind made or produced there, is less than the fair market value as determined according to the basis of value for duty, the article, in addition to the duty otherwise established, is subject to a special duty "equal to the difference between such fair market value and such selling price." In Canada it has to be proved to the satisfaction of the Minister of Trade and Customs that dumping is going on.

Mr Isaacs - The Minister decides finally.

Mr KELLY - The Minister first of all decides that dumping is going on, and then, as I understand it, the article is subject to the special duty I have just mentioned.

Mr Isaacs - I only interpose to say that the Minister has all the power in Canada.

Mr KELLY - The Minister in Canada has power to do what Parliament tells him, it having been decided that it is necessary to do something. According to the Bill before us, however, it is the Minister who has to decide what has to be done.

Sir William Lyne - In Canada, the Minister has only to refer to some one else.

Mr KELLY - I can assure the Minister that I am not stretching the interpretation in the least. Here it has to be proved to the satisfaction of the Minister that dumping is going on, and then the Minister, who is the same as the Comptroller-General, has to refer to somebody else. Also, under the Bill the Minister has the large discretionary power of waiving any judgment given by the local Court in the direction of mercy.

Sir William Lyne - That must go before Parliament.

Mr Isaacs - The honorable member for Wentworth does not complain of that?

Mr KELLY - That is not the point. I am now alluding to the large discretionary power vested in the Minister, and pointing out the expediency for the fullest explanation of the necessity.

Mr Isaacs - The Minister has no power to stop goods coming in. He may mitigate the penalty if circumstances arise, just as may 'be done in an ordinary case. If an offence be committed and sentence passed, the Executive may mitigate that sentence, but not increase it ; the power of the Crown is preserved.

Sir William Lyne - That is done through the Executive, and by proclamation.

Mr KELLY - The Cabinet, I think, is usually guided by the Minister.

Sir William Lyne - Very often that is so.

Mr Isaacs - Still there is a check.

Mr KELLY - No doubt there is a check. I think these clauses as amended are better than they were before, but still I do not think any free-trader could possibly go half-way to meet such proposals.

Mr Isaacs - If the principle is once established, I think the provision fairly meets all practical difficulty.

Mr KELLY - I do not think that the Minister succeeded in showing the Committee any instances of dumping to the detriment of Australian industries.

Sir William Lyne - I think the evidence as to the iron industry in America is most conclusive.

Mr KELLY - The Minister gave a number of facts and figures in regard to New Zealand.

Sir William Lyne - What I spoke of was a report obtained by an officer, appointed by the late Mr. Seddon, as to the effect of exports from America to New Zealand.

Mr KELLY - That is what I am saying. The Minister gave us information as to the export trade from America to New Zealand, but I do not think he can ask us to accept off-hand an assumption that the same sort of importation is going on into Australia.

Sir William Lyne - It is, absolutely.

Mr KELLY - I have no doubt that the Minister believes that to be true.

Sir William Lyne - I know it.

Mr KELLY - But the Committee is in the position of giving a verdict, and honorable members ought to be shown .evidence of dumping in Australia before they are asked to vote. The Minister gives a new definition to " dumping " - a definition I never heard before. I notice that, in the discussions in England and elsewhere, " dumping " is usually held to be the selling of imported goods at less than the cost of production in the country of origin. The Minister has, however, extended that definition, and holds that, not only shall imported goods not be sold at less than, the cost of production, but that goods shall not be landed if thev are to be sold here at a price less than that which retailers in_ the country o'f importation are able to obtain. That is a most extraordinary and farreaching proposal. If that is what the Minister means by " dumping," his proposal, if carried, would affect probably nine-tenths of the import trade of the country.

Sir William Lyne - Such importing would have to be done in a very large way before it was touched.

Mr KELLY - The Minister will see that, in many cases, where goods are bought after the season in other parts of the world, and sent to Australia in time for the season here, those goods are procured at less than, the actual ordinary selling price.

Mr Isaacs - Obtained from whom?

Mr KELLY - Obtained in open market.

Mr Isaacs - There are some suggested amendments limiting the purchases to purchases from the manufacturer, or some person representing the manufacturer.

Mr KELLY - But the Minister of Trade and Customs goes further than that..

Sir William Lyne - No.

Mr KELLY - - If the Minister has made a mistake, I shall say nothing further on the point.

Sir William Lyne - There is no mistake.

Mr KELLY - The Minister this afternoon told us that his proposal was to prevent such goods being landed here.

Sir William Lyne - I was giving my idea of dumping.

Mr KELLY - Then the Minister does not propose to penalize what is dumping according to his idea, but only what is set forth as dumping in the Bill ?

Sir William Lyne - In the Bill.

Mr KELLY - If the Minister is not going to put his idea into force-

Mr Isaacs - Yes, the Minister is; but he does not propose to go back on the proposed amendments.

Sir William Lyne - Not at all ; the amendments were drawn up at my instance.

Mr KELLY - In that case, I accept the assurance that the Bill will not touch goods purchased under the conditions whichI have just indicated.

Mr Isaacs - The honorable member had better wait until we reach the clause dealing with that matter.

Mr KELLY - I think the Minister is justified in making that suggestion. Thereis one other point with which I should like to deal. This Bill affects our primary producers almost as much as .it affects the importing classes. That the Bill affects the importing classes is easily shown by the widespread fear of the results of the legislation. But the primary producers are vitally interested in gettingtheir goods to market as cheaply as possible, and those markets are at the otherend of the world. Those producers, sofar as oversea freights are concerned, are already at a serious geographicaldisad vantage as compared with competing countries ; and they will be at a still further disadvantage if this Bill be enforced as it might be enforced. We should then have fewer good's coming to Australia, and, of course, fewer ships in which the productions of Australia could be taken to other parts of the world. That would mean less competition in freights outward, and, of course, higher charges for the great producing interests. This Bill therefore vitally affects the producing interests on which the prosperity of the country is based, and absolutely depends. The producing interests are almost as vitally affected by the Bill as are indent merchants, and the great importing community of Australia. The Minister, in the course of his speech this afternoon, held up the indent merchants to execration.

Sir William Lyne - I do not believe in indent merchants.

Mr KELLY - The Minister does not believe in anybody who does not support him. but indent merchants have a right to live. I dare say that the Minister, if he only knew it, is indebted to the importing community to a very considerable extent. The honorable gentleman is at this moment writing with a pencil which, I dare say, was not made in the British Dominions, and he is wearing clothes which probably came from abroad.

Sir William Lyne - My clothes were made at Marrickville, in Svdney.

Mr KELLY - All the honorable gentleman's clothes ?

Sir William Lyne -Nearly all of them.

Mr KELLY - The honorable gentleman hedges even on the sacred question of Australian tweeds.

Sir William Lyne - I get all the clothes possible made in Australia.

Mr KELLY - Even on the sacred question of tweeds, the Minister cannot be wholly consistent. The honorable gentleman, I dare say, also wears imported spectacles, which enable him to take an intelligent interest in the Bill.

Mr Isaacs - The Minister of Trade andi Customs looks at all these matters through Australian spectacles.

Mr KELLY - Is at seriously suggested that the honorable gentleman's spectacles do not come from abroad? However, as I was saying, the importing community have as much right to live as has the Minister himself. Although importers are not supporters of the honorable gentle man, he ought to recognise their right to exist, just) as they are prepared to recognise his right.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Some of the importations are necessary for Australian manufactures.

Mr KELLY - That is so. If piece goods, for instance, were excluded, what would become of the slop-clothing industry in Australia? Parliament has already declared its will in this connexion, by deciding to admit piece good's at a lower rate of duty than that imposed on made-up articles. That:, I think, shows that the clothing industry is worth protecting.

Sir William Lyne - That is done under the Tariff.

Mr KELLY - But the Minister may depart from the Tariff under the powers bestowed by the Bill. A Judge, acting arbitrarily, without consulting the people, might go quite contrary to the intentions as expressed in the Tariff Act ; and that is a serious position. The Judge may decide that piece goods are being bought at less than the ordinary sale price in the country of origin, and, in certain contingencies, .exclude them from Australia. Under the Bill it would be possible to go right behind the intentions of the people of Australia as expressed in the Tariff Act. ,

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Bill might affect the supply of raw material.

Mr KELLY - The Bill might prove absolutely subversive of the principles of the Tariff Act, which, in almost every section, declares that the object of the Australian people is to get raw material as cheaply as possible.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.30 p.m.

Mr KELLY - The Minister this afternoon told us that we had not necessarily to regard the Tariff Commission as the depository of all wisdom. He added that the Customs Department was, in his opinion, quite as capable of judging these matters as the Commission. If the Customs Department has this knowledge, why cannot the Minister give it to the Committee? Surely it is very unfair that a Minister, who is in such a fortunate position as to know everything connected with dumping, should keep that information entirely to himself. Either from inability or from unwillingness, he has withheld the information from honorable members. I have no hesitation in saying that up to the present time, we have not had the slightest proof on which we can hang, such proposals as those before us. The Minister has recognised the necessity to endeavour to give some cause for this drastic change from all our previous methods - a change which puts at the sole discretion o'f the Minister what hitherto has rested entirely within the prerogative of this Parliament. The honorable gentleman has introduced to this Chamber a modest cake of soap ! He has not asked the Committee to wash its hands of its privileges, but he has produced this small tablet of soap as the only inducement he has to offer as to why the Committee should follow his lead !

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