[Editor: This article, by W. R. Bagnall, was published in The Kyogle Examiner and Upper Richmond Advocate (Kyogle, NSW), 22 June 1928.]
(By W. R. Bagnall, Director, “Australian-Made” Preference League.)
All trade is not advantageous trade, even though it may show a cash profit.
There is a whole lot of difference, for instance, between “complementary” and “competitive” trade. If the foreigner sends us goods which we do not and cannot produce in Australia, and we, in return, send him goods which are not produced in his country, this is complementary trade. But, if he sells goods in this market which we are able to produce ourselves, this is competitive trade, and in proportion to its extent, it retards the development of our own industries, and reduces the local demand for labour.
Let us take one or two examples. We manufacture in Australia apparel and textiles to the value of about £69,000,000 annually. But we import similar goods to the value of £39,000, 000. We manufacture paper and stationery to the value of £19,000,000, and import them to the value of £7,000,000. We make drugs and chemicals valued at £10,713,898, and rely upon foreign supplies to the tune of £4,300,000. Australian industries concerned with the manufacture of metals and machinery have an output valued at over £80,000,000, but goods of the same category costing another £45,000,000 are imported annually.
It isn’t necessary to multiply instances indefinitely. We might go through most classes of the tariff with similar results. It is only in the primary industries that this competitive element ceases to obtrude itself. Owing to cost of production, our exports of manufactured goods are very small, and we rely almost wholly upon primary produce for such entree as we have to external markets. It follows from this that our export trade is almost wholly complementary, whereas our import trade is very largely competitive. The advantage is unmixed on one side only. Obviously, it is not good policy from an Australian point of view to encourage competitive imports.
Bearing this in mind, let us look at our trade with our two great neighbors in the Pacific, — the United States and Japan.
Our imports from the United States are valued at some £37,000,000, and consist for the most part of motor chassis and bodies, undressed timber, petroleum and shale spirit, unmanufactured tobacco, and rubber goods. Most of this is competitive. The United States supply us with 24.62 per cent. of our total exports, and of this 20.66, according to official figures, is competitive at any rate with Imperial trade. On the other hand, we send wool, gold, hides, and skins, pearl and tin to the United States to the value of about £13,000,000. There is, it will be seen, a heavily adverse trade balance. It has been heavily adverse for many years.
Our imports from Japan are valued at a little over £4,000,000, and they consist for the most part of piece goods of silk, cotton and linen goods, undressed timber, china and porcelain ware, glass and glassware, fancy goods, brushware, apparel and attire, and oils. If we consider competitive classes only, Japan commands 3.38 per cent of our import trade, and this proportion has increased steadily since 1913 when it was only 1.24 per cent. On the other hand, we send wool, wheat, zinc, tallow, pig lead, milk and cream, and fertilisers to Japan, valued at over £11,000,000. In this case, the trade balance is favorable to Australia, and so it always has been.
Now, irrespective of volume, it might be argued from the details furnished above, that our trade with Japan is much more satisfactory in its nature than our trade with the United States. But is it? We are not here concerned with the question whether our trade with the United States is satisfactory in itself. Obviously it is not. But we do contend that our trade with Japan, for wholly different reasons, is even more unsatisfactory.
It will be noticed that our exports are raw materials. In other words, they indicate the transition of Japan from an agricultural to a manufacturing nation. Our imports from Japan consist wholly of manufactured goods. By supplying Japan with foodstuffs and raw materials, we are facilitating and encouraging competitive trade from that direction. Is it right to do so?
In a recent issue of the “Economic Review”, Professor B. Condliffe directs attention to the industrial revolution which is surely, if slowly, proceeding in the Far East, in Japan, in India, and in China, — and he asks what are likely to be the consequences “when the vast swarms of human beings who inhabit the Asiatic continent are thoroughly industrialised, and the Feast of Lanterns is celebrated with electric bulbs.” The industrial dislocation which must necessarily ensue would necessarily be attended by very profound economic consequences.
It is not part of the purpose of this article to discuss them here. But enough has been said to show that all trade is not profitable even though money be made out of it. To encourage the manufacturing industries of other countries at the expense of our own is bad enough, but to encourage the growth of new industrial nations is pure and simple folly. We don’t want Japanese manufactures, and we ought not to supply Japanese industrials with raw materials — not because we entertain any ill-feeling towards Japan, but because the development of our own country is our first concern. If we buy foreign goods at the expense of Australian industry, we are putting a rod in pickle for our own backs.
The Kyogle Examiner and Upper Richmond Advocate (Kyogle, NSW), 22 June 1928, p. 6
Also published in various other newspapers, including:
The Northern Star and Richmond and Tweed Rivers Advocate (Lismore, NSW), 23 June 1928, p. 13
The Gundagai Independent and Pastoral, Agricultural, and Mining Advocate (Gundagai, NSW), 25 June 1928, p. 1 [under the title “Are you true blue Australians”]
The National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW), 27 June 1928, p. 4
brushware = brushes, brooms, and similar items constructed with bristles (e.g. nail brushes, scrubbing brushes, sweeping brushes, etc.), designed to be used for cleaning, grooming, painting, polishing, etc.
entree = an alternative form of “entrée” (French): enter; entrance; the right (or permission) to enter, to access, or to be admitted into an area, building, field of operation, social event, social setting, or a certain environment; can also refer to an appetiser, small dish, or starter served before (as an “entrance” to) the main course of a meal, or before a principal course of a meal
Far East = East Asia or Southeast Asia (China, Japan, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, etc.), distinct from the Middle East (West Asia and North-East Africa), the term being one created from a British or European point of view; in an Australian context, the “Far East” has also been referred to as the “Near North”
Feast of Lanterns = an annual Japanese Buddhist festival, during which ancestral spirits are welcomed to household altars, and lanterns are floated on rivers at dusk to honour the souls of one’s ancestors; the event marks the end of the Buddhist festival “O-bon” (or “Bon”); it is also known as “the Lantern Festival”, “the Festival of Lanterns”, “the Festival of the Lanterns”, and “the Festival of Toro Nagashi” (“the Festival of Floating Lanterns”)
Imperial = in the context of early Australia, regarding the British Empire
obtrude = to push out, to thrust out, to extrude; to unduly interfere or interrupt, especially in an undesirable manner; to impose oneself (or to force or impose or push one’s beliefs, ideas, etc., upon others) without being asked to do so (especially in an unasked, unwanted, or unwelcome fashion or manner)
per cent. = an abbreviation of “per centum” (Latin, meaning “by a hundred”), i.e. an amount, number, or ratio expressed as a fraction of 100; also rendered as “per cent” (without a full stop), “percent”, “pct”, “pc”, “p/c”, or “%” (per cent sign)
rod in pickle = a punishment, penalty, retaliation, rebuke, or scolding which has been kept aside, or held in reserve, to use in the future; a reference to a rod, or switch (commonly made from narrow tree branches), used to punish naughty children or offenders (by hitting them with it), with the rod being stored in salted water or brine (sea water) so as to keep it supple (to stop the rod from becoming brittle and fragile)
See: 1) Joseph Swain (artist), “The rod still in pickle”, Getty Images [historical cartoon, showing a teacher (William Gladstone, Prime Minister of Great Britain) addressing a group of school boys (political leaders), with a switch stored beside him in a large jar, using an implied threat, “I am glad my young Irish friends have not forced me to adopt — ahem! — extreme measures!!”]
2) “Truant School Boys returning to their Duty!!, The British Museum [historical cartoon (1797), showing a teacher (William Pitt the Younger, Prime Minister of Great Britain) threatening some school boys (political leaders) with a switch, saying “I’ve had a Rod in pickle for you [for] some time”]
3) “A rod in pickle”, Sydney Punch (Sydney, NSW), 12 May 1877, p. 323 (5th page of that issue) [historical cartoon (1877), showing a teacher (Miss New South Wales) threatening a school boy (Henry Parkes, Premier of NSW), with a switch held behind her back]
shale spirit = (also known as: shale motor spirit, or shale naphtha) a spirit manufactured by refining shale (a mineral from which oil can be made), used as an alternative to turpentine, and as a motor spirit
[Editor: Removed the quotation mark after “Preference League”. Changed “Bangnall” to “Bagnall”; “10,713,898 ,” to “10,713,898,” (removed the space); “24.62 per cent,” to “24.62 per cent.”; “been heailvy adverse” to “been heavily adverse”; “11,000,000” to “11,000,000.” (added a full stop); “Obvously” to “Obviously”; “In a recent ssue” to “In a recent issue”; “if slowly” to “if slowly,” (added a comma); “It is no part” to “It is not part”.]