30

10th September, 1925

PRIVATE & CONFIDENTIAL

Dear Mr. Bruce,

NEW AUSTRALIAN TARIFF PROPOSALS [1]

The new proposals are of a very interesting nature and I think you will be glad to know how the British press comments, which up to the moment have been very favourable, were arranged.

Last Friday the Customs Department at Australia House issued a full statement of the items in which changes were proposed to the press. It was, however, impossible for any newspaper office to comprehend the changes without going through each item and referring back to the previous tariff rates. This, I imagined, few (if any) of the daily papers would have taken the trouble to do. I therefore anticipated that there would be no informed newspaper comment but that British industries that felt themselves handicapped by the various increases in the tariff would sooner or later have squeaked in the press and that the public and politicians would have gradually come to the conclusion that Australia had increased her tariff wall against Great Britain.

The cables from Melbourne to the press had laid particular emphasis on the increases on woollen goods and engineering products and, although they had mentioned the maintenance of British preference, they had not drawn special attention to the marked improvement in preference on a number of important items. I therefore decided to get busy. I saw the 'Times' first and worked until 12 o'clock writing an article for them on the new proposals.

Having arranged this with the 'Times', I also got into touch with the 'Morning Post', 'Daily Telegraph' and the 'Daily Mail'. As a result, the 'Morning Post' and the 'Daily Telegraph' published leading articles on Saturday last drawing attention to the way in which a number of British industries would be helped by the Australian Government's tariff proposals. [2] The 'Times' published my article on Monday and on Tuesday commented on it in a leading article. [3] I think I have arranged with the 'Daily Mail' to make a special feature of the way in which the British motor industry will be helped by the new tariff but nothing has yet appeared in that quarter.

I want to rather particularly draw your attention to the last two paragraphs of the article in the 'Times' which I have marked with a blue line. I hope that I was on the right track in making this suggestion. If I was, perhaps you would feel inclined to shew this article and the other cuttings which I enclose to Mr. Pratten. [4] I attach a spare copy for this purpose.

This morning's 'Daily Express' had an article attacking the protection proposal on Cotton Tweeds and quoting an official of the Federation of British Industries on the subject. I have been in touch with the Federation and pointed out to them how stupid it is of them to attack a small item like this when, on really important industries, the tariff may be expected to be of so much benefit. I think that, as a result, they will take an opportunity of putting this right. I am also communicating to the 'Daily Express' information which should enable them to write intelligently about the position.

COMMODITY PRICES

With reference to the comments in my previous letters about commodity price levels, I enclose some further figures which shew the great change in the relation of manufactured goods to foodstuffs. The figures in the third column refer to textiles and here it must be remembered the high price level in 1925 is due not to the value added by process of manufacture but to the high price of cotton and wool.

Yours sincerely, F. L. MCDOUGALL

1 See note 3 to Letter 29.

2 Daily Telegraph, Morning Post, 5 September.

3 McDougall's article, 'New Australian Tariff-Protection and Preference', was published under the byline 'From a Correspondent' on 7 September. The leading article dealt sympathetically with the tariff increases.

4 H. E. Pratten, Minister for Trade and Customs in the Bruce-Page Government. McDougall suggested that the new duties were designed to give increased preference to industries which the British Government had recently recognised as needing protection.