Full text: Borrowing and business in Australia

I1. Freight, Insurance, and Tourist Expenditures. 
Services of various kinds function equally with commodity 
imports as items in the balance of indebtedness. Freight and 
insurance upon imports are the most important of these charges 
to Australia; and, in order to calculate Australia’s capacity 
to borrow, the amount chargeable from year to year upon these 
‘invisible imports’ must be computed. No continuous estimate 
of the cost to the Commonwealth of freight and insurance for 
the period under discussion was known to the writer; and in the 
face of the perennial controversies as to the fairness or otherwise 
of shipping charges, and the total dependence of Australia upon 
other countries for overseas carrying services, the lack of interest 
in the matter is as surprising as the lack of data. 
Because of the geographical isolation, the close integration of 
shipping services, and the custom by which all shipping charges 
are met by the Australian importer, the problem of estimating 
the annual charge for freight is not to be compared for difficulty 
with that of other countries such as Canada. Nevertheless the 
task of making an accurate estimate of the cost of inward 
carriage is one of extraordinary complexity. Goods arrive 
mainly by regular ‘liners’ of two distinct types, viz. the cabin- 
cargo or passenger vessels, and the purely cargo vessels trading 
on regular or irregular schedules. The kind of cargo carried in 
each type of vessel differs to some extent; and the chief diffi- 
culties in calculation arise from the differing rates of freight for 
the various groups of commodities. Imports consist broadly of 
two classes, viz. bulky, light articles such as textiles, and heavy 
articles varying greatly in value such as machinery and metal 
goods. Shipowners distinguish to some extent between the two 
classes of goods by a twofold system of freight charges, i.e. by 
weight and by measurement ; but thereis no ready meansof estab- 
lishing a basis for computing the gross cost of ocean carriage. 
"This difficulty is not by any means the only barrier in the way 
of correct estimates. No statistical connexion between the value 
of the cargo and the charge for freight upon that cargo is made 
in the Australian returns. Ships’ manifests contain entries 
which are merely descriptions of packages. Invoice values of 
imported goods are declared for customs purposes by each 
importer ; and thus, while the freight paid is known to the ship- 
owner, the value of the cargo scarcely concerns him. Insurance

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