10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator theHon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Non-payment of Accounts by Residents.
– Is the Minister aware that serious complaints are being made by traders in Queanbeyan regarding the non-payment of accounts duc to them by residents of the Federal Capital area? Further, is he aware that there is no power to enforce payment of these accounts ?
– Until Senator Duncan and the honorable member representing the Eden-Monaro electorate in another place fMr. Perkins) brought this matter under my notice, I was not aware of the state of affairs said to exist at Queanbeyan. I am, however, having inquiries made, and if it is found that the facts are as stated, tbe Government will fake steps to remedy tbe existing conditions.
The following papers were presented: -
New Guinea- Ordinance No.13 of 1926 - Expropriation.
Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1926, No. 64.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator,&c. - Nos. 8’ and 9’ of 1926 - Fourth Division Officers’ . Association of the Trade and Customs Department and the Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia.
Territory for the Seat of Government - Ordinance No. 6 of 1926- Rates.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Oil Agreement Bill.
New Guinea Bill.
Northern Australia Bill.
Aliens Registration Act Suspension Bill.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to close or dispose of the Commonwealth Clothing Factory ?
In committee (Consideration resumed from 4th June, vide page 2663).
Divisionvi. Metals and Machinery.
By omitting the whole item and inserting in its stead the following item: - “ 143. Scrap iron and Steel; Materials for use as scrap iron, as prescribed by departmental by-laws, per ton, 20s. British, 30s. intermediate, 40s. general.
Upon which Senator Thompson had moved the following request: -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the item “free.
– I cannot accept the request moved by Senator Thompson, because it would seriously affect the production of pig iron in Australia. During recentyears large quantities of scrap iron have entered the Commonwealth, the quantity last year being approximately 25,000 tons. It consisted chiefly of old railway chairs, most of which came from Belgium. Senator Thompson advocates this reduction of duty in the interests of the copper mining industry; but he has given the committee no information, regarding the quantity of scrap iron used in winning the copper obtained in Australia. We must not lose sight of the fact that another branch of the Australian mining industry is affected. A large number of men are employed in winning the necessary iron ore, coal, and the various fluxes needed in the process of smelting. If this request be agreed to, it will not only reduce the quantity of iron and steel produced in Australia, but will also throw a large number of men out of employment. Imported scrap iron comes here chiefly as ships’ ballast, on which no freight is paid. I submit that the duty proposed in the schedule is reasonable. In making the duty the same on both pig iron and scrap iron, the Government is following the example of the United States of America, Canada, and France. To lower the duty, as proposed by Senator Thompson, would not be fair to the Australian iron and steel industry. I therefore ask honorable senators to vote against the request.
– I am supporting the request made by Senator Thompson, in the belief that the importation of this commodity will not result, as the Minister would have us believe, in a curtailment of employment or interference with the Australian iron industry. For the information of honorable senators who look to the Tariff Board to guide them in these matters, I point out that, some time ago, the board recommended that scrap iron be permitted to enter free. Those who are objecting to this duty, which by the way is imposed for the first time, point out that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company in support of its application to the Tariff Board submitted figures designed to suit its own ends. That company took 1918 as its starting point. Importations in that year totalled 374 tons. We all know that shortly after the outbreak of war shipping services were so dislocated that it was impossible to import pig iron, the available shipping space being required for more important purposes.
– Did not the Minister say that it was imported as ballast ?
– Yes. I believe the Minister’s statement is correct, and as it is imported as ballast we are told it interferes with the sale of local scrap iron in the Commonwealth. The answer to that is that, during the war, the whole of the Commonwealth was ransacked for anything in the shape of scrap iron, so that there is hardly any left in Australia. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company advised the Tariff Board that importations of scrap iron were in an ascending scale from 1918, when they totalled 374 tons, until 1924-25, -when they were 17,000 tons. But that company, as I have stated, selected the most favorable period for its basis of comparison. I wish now to present the other side of the case, and to give figures dealing with importations over a much longer period. My information is that in 1906 our importations of this very necessary raw materia] totalled 16.097 tons - practically the same as last year. In 1907 they were 14,533 tons; in 1908, 14,781 tons; and so on, until the year before the war, when they were 22,554 tons. Then they fell away to 1,220 tons in 1916-17, to 146 tons in 1917-18, and rose again to 374 tons in 1918-19. The Tariff Board, being busy with various matters, I presume, did not have time to examine the figures dealing with the imports over a longer period than that selected by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, and, therefore, the case for the duty on scrap iron was determined on an entirely false basis.
– In those earlier years there was practically no iron industry in this country at all.
– I am not so sure about that. Sixteen years ago, when I was in Lithgow, Messrs. Hoskins Ltd. were engaged on a fairly extensive scale in the manufacture of pigs and blooms, and other iron products.
– But manufacturing was only on a small scale then.
– If manufacturing is now on a larger scale, there should not be the same need for protection.
– I submit that the recommendation of the Tariff Board was not in the interests of the iron and all the other important allied industries mentioned by Senator Thompson. Manufacturers, we are told, must have this raw material, otherwise they will be obliged to smelt iron twice, in order to manufacture articles of the proper tensile strength, and this double process means higher manufacturing costs. The proposed duty is an unwarranted handicap on allied industries.
– Is scrap iron essential for Australian manufacturers ?
– In the interests of economy, yes; because, as I have stated, if they cannot get and command an adequate supply they will be obliged to smelt iron twice to get a raw material of the proper texture. As for the argument that the proposed duty will shut out importations, I have only to remind honorable senators that before the war the price of scrap iron was from £3 to £3 10s. a tori. It then rose to £14 and £15 a ton, with the result that manufacturers ransacked the Commonwealth for any kind of scrap iron that could be obtained. It was even good business to purchase old machinery plants and break them up for scrap iron. This should be conclusive proof that the proposed duty will not prevent importations. Its only effect will be to increase the price of the locally-manufactured articles to the user.
– The duty is not intended to prevent importations. It is merely a revenue-producing dodge.
– The proposed duty of £1 per ton will not keep it out. Is it likely that manufacturers will go to all the trouble and expense of smelting iron twice to avoid payment of this duty ? Have I not shown that during the war they were prepared to pay four times the pre-war price for this necessary raw material ?
– Move for an increase in the duty. That will help to prevent importations.
– The honorable senator is always prepared to see the duties mounting up almost to any level. In expressing these opinions I am endeavouring to enlist reason and equity.
– This, then, is penalizing local enterprise?
– Yes. The users will have this commodity irrespective of the duties imposed. Those honorable senators who have already proclaimed their willingness to tone down the tariff and to agree to reasonable adjustments between the two sections should now act up to their professions. In this instance I expect to have the support of Senator Barwell and several other honorable senators who have so freely expressed the opinion that many of the duties in the schedule are excessive. When will these honorable senators cease throwing sticks at the Government, toe the mark and square opinion and precept? It is about time they made a start. This industry is being handicapped without any reason whatever. I believe that scrap iron comes to Australia as ballast, as the Minister suggests,_ or, if not, at a nominal charge; but if it does, the ships bringing it out pick up return cargoes at lower rates, and thus primary producers are indirectly assisted.
– Does the honorable senator think we started right on the first item in the schedule?
– Yes, I believe we did. I am opposing this item because I think it is about time we started to assert our strength, and show that wc possess independent judgment. The time has arrived when the Senate should no longer be a body which merely revises the work of another place, but should be one in which independent opinions are expressed in the interests of the whole of the people. We should not accept everything that comes from another place as a preordained message that cannot be improved upon or departed from in any way. We should exercise our own judgment in the interests of the people who send us here. I am supporting the request moved by Senator Thompson, and hope that an effective step will now be taken to place the schedule on a commonsense basis.
– If there is in Australia one industry more than another which must be regarded as a key industry, it is that of the production of iron and steel. This is one direction in which protection is given to the Australian iron and steel industry which must live if the Commonwealth is to prosper. Every blow, however small, struck at this industry endangers our national existence. Senator Lynch has apparently gone to some trouble to obtain the figures relating to the importations of scrap iron and steel prior to 1914, but I submit that such figures have no bearing whatever upon the present position, as at that time the iron and steel industry in Australia was established in a comparatively small way. The works of Hoskins Limited at Lithgow were in existence, but they were not such a large concern as they are to-day, and the magnificent works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company at Newcastle were not then established. These two great concerns are now able to supply the whole of Australia with her requirements of iron and steel.
– Not yet.
– With a proper degree of protection they will be able to meet our requirements of pig iron.
Iron ore used in the manufacture of pig iron is obtained from Iron Knob, in South Australia, and Tasmania also benefits, because certain commodities used in the manufacture of that product are brought from that State. Other States also benefit in consequence of the establishment of the iron and steel industries at Newcastle and Lithgow. Senator Thompson said that, in order to enable the copper-mining industry to continue, scrap iron and steel should be permitted to come into the Commonwealth duty free. For the year 1924-5 Victoria, where there is no copper-mining industry at all, used 11,534 tons, or 53 per cent, of the total importations; and New South Wales, where there is a large copperrefining industry, imported only 3,154 tons, or 151 per cent, of the total. The copper industry in New South Wales was therefore able to carry on effectively without the importation of scrap iron from overseas.
– Most of the copper shows are. closed down to-day.
– The honorable senator was referring to the copper industry generally.
– I was referring to the production of raw copper.
– He referred to the use of scrap iron in the leaching process.
– Yes; the honorable senator is barking up the wrong tree.
– At any rate, it will be seen that it is unnecessary to import scrap iron and steel in order to assist the copper-mining industry. In Queensland, tie State to which I presume Senator Thompson was particularly referring, and where a good deal of work is done in producing raw copper, only 3,084 tons, or 14£ per cent, of the total imports, were used. It does not appear, therefore, that Queensland found it impossible to carry on the copper-mining industry in the absence of an unlimited supply of scrap iron.
– At that time the Chillagoe and other mines were closed down.
– Yes, and copper mines are closed to a greater extent today.
– That may be so. South Australia used 2,095 tons, or 9£ per cent. ; Western Australia, 1,356- tons, or 6£ per cent. ; and Tasmania, 246 tons, or 1 per cent., of the total imports. These figures show that the Government is justified in opposing the request moved by Senator Thompson. The industry in New South Wales, where copperrefining is extensively undertaken, has. not applied for the free admission of scrap iron and steel. I understand that Western Australia has raised some objection, but the quantity used in that State is only small, and consequently there is scarcely any room for complaint. South Australia has exported scrap iron in fairly large quantities, and consequently there can be no shortage in that State. The dismantling of many of the plants on Western Australian mines has resulted in a good deal of the machinery being broken up, and I am informed that there is more scrap iron available in that State than is required to meet local needs. In these circumstances, I do not think Western Australia is likely to suffer by the imposition of a duty such as the Government propose. As Tasmania uses very little scrap iron, it is not very much concerned in the proposed duty. All the facts are in favour of the proposals of the Government, and, seeing that we desire to maintain our great key industry on a sound basis and proper footing, I hope that all the duties in the schedule affecting the manufacture of iron and steel will be maintained, because they are absolutely essential if that industry is to become what we hope it will be.
– The admission of scrap iron free would not make the slightest difference to the great iron and steel industry, nor would it build up the copper-mining industry. I can pay a tribute to the iron and steel industry. To my own knowledge, Broken Hill structural steel has been sold in Queensland at £5 5s. a .ton. less than the landed cost of similar steel from overseas. This fact proves that a duty of £1 a ton on scrap iron will not make the slightest difference to the operations of the Broken Hill Proprietary’s iron and steel works. On the other hand, the admission of scrap iron free of duty would be of some slight assistance to the coppermining industry. Unfortunately, at die present time, most of the copper mines in Australia are closed down, but there are still some of them working, and they use a large quantity of scrap iron in leaching their copper. It is with a view to getting some slight assistance for them that I ask for this small reduction of duty. I do not think the Minister (Senator Crawford) was correct in stating that pig iron is brought to Australia freight free. Scrap iron may occasionally be brought here freight free, and I have my doubts on that point, but I have had to pay freight on pig iron.
– I think I said that it was carried at a very low freight.
– The request I make is a very small one. Although the reduction I propose would not make the slightest difference to the great iron and steel industry, it might be of some slight assistance to the copper-mining industry, which needs all the aid we can give to it.
.- I believe that the basic industry of producing iron and steel in Australia should be amply protected. We have the assurance of Senator Lynch that scrap iron is essentia] in the production of the highest class steel. There is no evidence in the Tariff Board’s report to that effect, but I should like to know from the Minister (Senator Crawford) if the Broken Hill and Lithgow works use scrap iron in the production of their steel, because, if so, one could understand a desire on their part to crush the smaller foundries, which are practically using nothing else but scrap iron. In the absence of that information, I feel inclined to support Senator Thompson’s request.
– The figures I have given show that those firms do not use scrap iron.
Question - That the request (Senator Thompson’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
By adding a new sub-item (c) as follows : - “C “ Zinc shavings, ad valorem, British free, intermediate free, general 10 per cent.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the item by inserting after the figures “ 144 “ the words “ By omitting sub-item (b) and inserting in lieu thereof the following sub-item : - “ (b) Sheet (plain) ; circles or ingots, bored or unbored, for cyanide gold process; zinc dust; zinc tubing; ad valorem, British 25 per cent., intermediate 35 per cent., general 40 per cent. and by making sub-item (c) read as follows : -
It is proposed to delete the words “ zinc blocks for marine boilers “ from sub-item b, and to insert them in sub-item c. These blocks are for use in marine boilers, and are” not produced in Australia. No benefit will accrue to any Australian industry from the retention of the duty. The effect of the proposal will be to take zinc blocks out of the present tariff and make them free.
– What is the source of supply of zinc dust and zinc shavings?
– I think that they come from Japan.
– In that case, I desire to strike out 10 per cent, in the “ general “ column. I do not favour a preferential duty if its effect is merely to increase the revenue instead of giving preference to British products.
– The sole object of the amendment is to take zinc blocks out of the tariff and make them duty free.
– Thus placing them on the same basis as zinc shavings?
– Yes. They Were admitted, under item 174, free and 10 per cent., from 18th April, 1923, until the Solicitor-General advised that zinc blocks of this kind were not eligible for admission under that item. They arc largely exported from Great Britain; but Continental countries are also producers. The blocks are necessary to en- able marine boilers to be used for an extended period to their utmost capacity.
Request agreed to.
Item agreed to, subject to requests.
Item 145 agreed to.
Item 152 -
By omitting the whole of sub-item (b) (twice occurring) and inserting in its stead the following sub-item: - “(b) Close jointed Iron or Steel Pipes and
Tubes; Cycle Tubing including Liners, Bent Tubing and Fork Sides, whether plated or brazed or not, but not including Cycle Frames partly or wholly finished; Wrought Iron and Steel Pipes, n.e.i., ad val British, 27½ per cent.; intermediate, 35 per cent.; general, 40 per cent.”
.- I move -
That the House of Representatives bc requested to make sub-item (B) read as follows: - “(b) (1) Close jointed Iron or Steel Pipes and Tubes, per 100 feet, British, ls. 3d.; intermediate, 2s. 3d.; general, 2s.9d. ; or ad val., British, 27½per cent.; intermediate, 35 per cent.; general, 40 per cent.; whichever rate returns the higher duty.
Cycle Tubing including Liners, Bent Tubing and Fork Sides, whether plated or brazed or not, but not including Cycle Frames partly or wholly finished; Wrought Iron and Steel Pipes, n.e.i., ad val., British, 27½ per cent. ; intermediate, 35 per cent. ; general, 40 per cent.”
During the past few months large quantities of tubing made in Germany have entered Australia. This tubing has been sold at a price less than that at which tubing manufactured in Britain or in Australia can be disposed of. The result is that Germany ‘is capturing the trade. The effect of my request will be to leave the ad valorem duty unaltered, and to place a fixed duty upon German tubing.
– Is it proposed to increase the preference to Britain?
– Yes, by means of a fixed duty on the German article. The prices of tubing in the capital cities of Australia are as follows -
Honorable senators will see that the greatest cut in price is made in respect of-inch tubing, which represents about 90 per cent, of our total requirements. The tubing manufactured in Australia into conduit pipes for electric light and telephone services is imported in sheets. Acceptance of my request will not increase the cost of British tubing, but it will place a heavier duty on German tubing. As the price of Australian tubing is regulated by the price paid for ‘ the raw material imported from Great Britain, from which it is manufactured, honorable senators will . see that the Australian and the British industries are interdependent; that any loss in trade is felt by both countries. The quality of Australian-made tubing is recognized as at least equal to that of imported tubing. Moreover, existing Australian factories are capable of producing tubing sufficient to meet double our present requirements. The sum of £100,000 has been invested in plant for the manufacture of this tubing in Australia. If this trade is lost, that plant will be useless for any other purpose.
Request agreed to.
Item agreed to, subject to a request.
Item 155 agreed to.
By omitting the whole of the sub-item (b) and inserting in its stead the following subitem: -
B ( 1 ) Cream Separators, free.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make sub-item (b) (1) read : - “ Cream separators, free British, 5 per cent, intermediate, 10 per cent, general.”
In the previous tariff cream separators were free British, 5 per cent, intermediate, 10 per cent, general. This schedule removes the British preference, though in tariff matters our policy is to give Britain, if possible, a preference of 12½ per cent. When the schedule was framed, the only cream separators on the Australian market were of Swedish manufacture. Since then two British concerns have come on to the Australian market. One machine, known as the Lister cream separator, is a particularly good article, low in price, and well suited to Australian requirements.
– Is it not a fact that the Lister cream separator has been on the Australian market for two years?
– I did not know that it had been on the market for that length of time, but it is obvious that, when the schedule was framed, those responsible for the elimination of the British preference of 10 per cent, were not fully aware of the circumstances.
– Cannot the British manufacturers hold their own against foreign competitors?
– No. Britain is endeavouring to re-establish herself in the Australian market, and, wherever possible, we have consistently given British manufacturers a preference over foreign competitors. I understand that already orders for 200 of these British cream separators have been placed in Western Australia, and that several hundred have been ordered in the other States also. Since our policy is to give Britain a preference of 12½ per cent., we should, in this item, assist British manufacturers by restoring to them that measure of protection which they enjoyed prior to the introduction of this schedule.
– I am sorry that I cannot accept the honorable senator’s requested amendment, much as I sympathize with the policy of British preference. The effect of his request, if granted, would be to give British manufacturers a preference worth, on the figures for the last three years, about £700 per annum at a cost to the dairying industry in Australia of about £17,000.
– No; my proposal is to allow British separators to come in free.
– The Government’s proposal is to. remove the duties.
Last year our imports of British cream separators totalled £8,669, and of foreign separators £169,201. A duty of 10 per cent, on the latter figure would amount to over £16,000. The Government proposes to allow separators to be imported free. The honorable senator is asking to much of the committee in requesting that the item be amended in the manner proposed.
– If I thought that the facts were as stated by the Minister, I should not have submitted my requested amendment, and certainly should not press it. The Minister is assuming that the dairy farmers of Australia will continue to purchase cream separators of foreign manufacture in preference to the British article, and that, therefore, they will pay duties amounting to £17,000 a year.
– That is what the duties would amount to.
– It is impossible for the Minister to argue in that way, just as it is impossible for him to assume that future requirements can be estimated on the figures for the past two years. During the war British manufacturers had to go out of the Australian market altogether. They have now come on to the market again, and we are justified in believing that there will not, in the future, be the old frenzied desire to purchase Swedish cream separators as against the British machines. It is not fair to expect Britain to compete in the Australian market against Swedish manufacturers, who have practically had a monopoly of the business during the war. We can give this small preference to Britain without in any way prejudicing the interests of the local consumer. I do not think that the imposition of the general tariff will lead to an increase in the price of the machines. On the contrary, it is probable that, as British manufacturers will be in a better position to meet Swedish competition, they may be able to cut their prices. Possibly Swedish manufacturers will follow, and the Australian dairy farmers may get a cheaper machine.
– We are getting enlightenment in this matter. Senator Duncan has informed us that two British manufacturers of cream separators have placed their products on the Australian markets, and that they will be content with a preference of 10 per cent. Last week we were considering tariff protection for some British manufactures up to the dizzy limit. I am wondering now why the manufacturers of these cream separators are to be left out in the cold, so to speak, whilst their fellow manufacturers are being treated so favorably. Another interesting feature is that, as far as I am aware, these British manufacturers have not approached any other honorable senator with a request for this preference.
– I have been written to.
– We now learn that two honorable senators have been approached. I have some of these machines on my place, and I am thoroughly satisfied with them, but I have no knowledge of having been asked at any time to vote for tariff protection against foreign competitors. From this it would almost appear to be an inspiration on the part of Senator Duncan to ask tariff favours for people who have not gone to the trouble of approaching other members of the Senate. My experience is that, if a manufacturer wishes to get any tariff protection, about the first thing he does is to write to some one in authority. Obviously, the British manufacturers of cream separators must be satisfied with their prospects on the Australian market, or we should have heard from them. The Minister has told us that he cannot accept Senator Duncan’s proposal, and that the Government intends to expose the British manufacturers of these necessary machines to the fierce blast of foreign competition. This is not the Government’s attitude in respect of other items, which give British manufacturers a preference of from 15 per cent, to 20 per cent. In the circumstances, I should like to know why the manufacturers of cream separators in Britain can hold their own. By all the rules of the game, judging by our experience in other items, they should be in need of preferential treatment. And yet they have approached no one in this chamber except Senator Duncan and Senator Payne ! It is refreshing to know that some British manufacturers, at all events, cau hold their own, and that they regard a preferential tariff of 10 per cent, as adequate. We are about to con sider the tariff on mining machinery, in which, I should like honorable senators to note, the British manufacturers are given preferences reaching to 40 per cent. Apparently the dairying industry is to go scot free, whilst the mining industry, which is of equal if not greater importance to the Commonwealth, is to be penalized. It is about time we held the scales fairly between the different interests, and if the dairymen are to be allowed to import the implements they use free of duty, the tools of trade used in mining should also be admitted free.
– If the requested amendment is ag-reed to is it likely that the Swedish manufacturers will reduce their prices?
– I do not know that they would. They would have to increase their prices to overcome the British preferential rate.
– They have been paying the extra duty.
– Will they reduce their prices if the Government’s proposal is agreed to 1
– I do not know. We cannot now enter into an intricate economic argument as to the effect of duties upon prices. One set of economists contends that lower duties result in reduced prices, and another that they have the opposite effect. I am inclined to support the latter contention. A preferential duty of 10 per cent., we are told, is sufficient.
– In this case it is.
– When submitting a bender a margin of 10 per cent, is always, an advantage, and if a British preferential duty of 10 Der cent, is allowed, as is now proposed, the British manufacturers should be satisfied. We have, however, to consider our own people. I am opposing the request moved by Senator Duncan, and for once arn supporting the Minister in his laudable endeavour to give this form of primary industry a chance, in the hope that he will adopt a similar statesmanlike attitude when the tools of trade required in the mining industry are under consideration.
.- Until recently the British manufacturers have been unable to place cream separators on I he Australian market at a price that enabled them to successfully compete with the Swedish machines; but during the last two years the Lister creamseparator has been successfully marketed in Australia, and is, I understand, giving entire satisfaction. Under the 1921 tariff British manufacturers received considerable preference, when the Government of the day contended that it was the duty of Parliament to recognize the fairness of giving Great Britain greater benefits over other countries. I am, therefore, surprised to find that the small degree of preference then afforded is to be eliminated. The introduction of the British separator has been beneficial to the Australian dairymen, and as the British product is of excellent quality it appears to me that if we remove the small degree of preference, competition will ‘be destroyed and prices raised. As Sweden does not purchase any of our butter, and Great Britain is one of our best customers, it is unfair to continue to handicap Great Britain by imposing heavy duties against her manufactures, and at the same time expect her to purchase our produce at the highest possible prices. Surelv it is reasonable to grant this degree of protection with the object of helping Great Britain to recover the trade she lost during the war when she gave up everything in order to assist the weaker nations.
– We could advertise “ Buy Australian butter made with British machines. “
– I wish the honorable senator was always so keenly desirous of helping British manufacturers. It is appalling to find such attempts being made to interfere with British industries. I trust the Minister will accept the request moved by Senator Duncan.
– I am rather surprised at the lack of consideration which certain honorable senators are showing those engaged in the dairying industry. The position would be entirely different if the preference would be of arty substantial advantage to British manufacturers. In 1919-20 the value of British cream separators imported was £12,654, and of other machines £90,862. Last year the value of British importations was £8,669, out of importations valued at £177,870. From these figures it will be seen that the British manufacturers of cream separators are not holding their own, notwithstanding a preference of 10 per cent. given under a previous tariff. To impose an additional charge of £17,000 upon dairymen for the benefit of British manufacturers is unreasonable.
– Is it not possible that the price of the Swedish machine has been reduced in consequence of the British machine being placed on the Australian market?
– The competition of the British machine has not been serious. In 1921-22 the value of the British machines imported was £11,435, and of other machines £285,483.
– Can the Minister give any assurance that the £17,000 mentioned will not be passed on to the dairymen ?
– I cannot give any such assurance. As there does not appear to be any possibility of cream separators being manufactured in Australia for some years, this is an effort on the part of the Government to assist primary producers by removing the preferential duty and making the item free. Senator Duncan and Senator Payne are asking the committee to impose upon dairymen apenalty which is altogether disproportionate to the benefit which British manufacturers would receive.
– In reply to Senator Elliott’s inquiry concerning the cost, I should like to say that all manufacturers add the duty to the cost of their machines, and when duties are decreased or removed prices are reduced accordingly. If the 10 per cent, preferential duty is removed as is suggested, the dairymen will benefit. In the past, Swedish manufacturers have produced a machine that is pre-eminently satisfactory, and naturally Australian dairymen are likely to continue using machines which have always given satisfaction. I yield to no one in my desire to assist British manufacturers, but we have also to consider the interests of Australian dairvmen. I believe that the Minister is correct in saying that the dairymen will benefit under this proposal, and in this instance I intend to support the Government.
Item agreed to.
Item 174 (Machine tools and appliances for use in connexion therewith).
– This item provides that on and after 27th March, 1926, machine tools and appliances for use in connexion therewith are to be British, free ; intermediate, 5 per cent.; and general, 10 per cent. I should like to know what duties are to apply to all the articles mentioned in sub-items a, b, and c, many of which were to be admitted free, prior to the alteration of 27th March, 1926.
– They are all included in a new item 415a. The alteration is made for the purpose of making the administration easier.
– Will they still be free under the alteration ?
Item agreed to.
Item 175 agreed to.
By omitting the whole of sub-items (b) and (c), and inserting in their stead the following sub-items : -
British, 40 per cent. ; intermediate, 50 per cent.; general, 55 per cent.
– When this item was before another place, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) moved to reduce the British rate on road-making and stone-crushing machinery, in sub-item d, from 35 per cent, to 30 per cent., but next day he changed his mind and allowed the rate to remain unaltered. It is my purpose to ask the Senate to agree to a request that the British preferential duty on road-making and stone-crushing machinery be 27½ per cent.
– I cannot understand Senator Needham moving for a reduction.
– When I spoke on the second reading, I did not commit myself to every increase in the schedule. The proposed duty on stone-crushing and road-making machinery will seriously affect Western Australia.
– The Minister (Senator Crawford) has notified his intention of submitting a request relating to sub-item d.
– I shall be pleased to give way to the Minister.
Senator CRAWFORD (Queensland-
Honorary Minister) [4.40]. - I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make sub-item (d) read as follows : - “ (d) Cement-making machines, n.e.i.; road-making machines, n.e.i.; stonecrushing machines; aerial ropeways, exclusive of cable; travelling and portable cranes, hand operated; coal conveyors and ash-handling plant, exclusive of motive power equipment, ad val., British, 35 per cent. ; intermediate, 45 per cent. ; general, 50 per cent.”
The alteration proposed is merely to shorten the verbiage of the sub-item, to embrace all stone-crushers with jaws of any size, and to add the letters n.e.i. after “ road-making machines.”
– I move -
That the request be amended by leaving out the figures “ 35 “, British preferential tariff, and inserting in lieu thereof the figures “ 27½ “.
The alteration proposed by the Minister does not altogether meet my wishes. The Britishpreferential duty of 35 per cenv.. would still remain the same. It would handicap not only Western Australia, but also Queensland and South Australia, whose road development is not as advanced as that of Victoria and New South Wales. In another place the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), who is the mouthpiece of the Government in tariff matters, and the member of the Cabinet most in touch with the Tariff Board, determined, apparently, after learning the view of that board, that the British duty should be 30 per cent., although next day he reverted to the higher rate. I think we ought to realize the effect this heavy duty is likely to have on the development of the States I have named. The Commonwealth proposes to advance £20,000,000 to the States to enable them to proceed with a policy of road development. It is a policy upon which the Western Australian Government embarked many years ago. It was inaugurated by the Mitchell Government, and is being ; ontinued by the Collier Government, vhich is eager to take advantage of the assistance that will be afforded by the expenditure of the money, advanced by the Commonwealth. In carrying , out its policy it will need adequate roadmaking machinery. A protective duty of 27£ per cent, is, I think, quite sufficient for the local manufacturers of this class of machinery. I said on the second reading that I was not in favour of protection run mad, and I am sure that those who are protectionists at heart, and believe in the encouragement of Australian industries, must realize that it is a reasonable request to reduce the Brtish preferential duty on stone-crushing and road-making machines which are so essential to the road development policies of the States.
Senator GRANT (New South Wales) (“4.50] - The effect of Senator Needham’s amendment would be to reduce the duty, so far as British imports are concerned, hy 7£ per cent., a mere trifle that is not worthy of mention. The Government has an overwhelming majority of supporters, and even the bulk of honorable senators on the Opposition side support it in its high tariff revenue policy. It seems, therefore, that it would be a waste of time to labour the subject. I am glad, however, to see a lifelong protectionist like Senator Needham receiving some of his own medicine. When this tariff is applied to Western Australia, he naturally squeals. But let him squeal as loudly as he likes. I am informed by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures ‘ of Australia that for the year ended the 30th June, 1924, there were 1,343 foundries and engineering works in Australia employing 33,052 hands, and paying iu wages £6,949,295. The value of the plant and buildings was £10,918,919, and the value of output £24,151,439. With reference to roadmaking machinery and plant, we are told that there are over twenty manufacturers specializing in this work and over 1,000 hands are employed; whilst from inquiries made it is found that prices have been reduced, and not increased, by the new duties. It is a matter of indifference to me whether the duty is 27^ per cent., 30 per cent., or 35 per cent. I do not know that I am prepared to adopt the view expressed by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures that a reduction in duty will lead to a reduction in prices. That may or may not be the case; it is evident that quantities of this machinery will still be imported into the Commonwealth. The Minister in charge of the bill assures us occasionally that the object of the measure is to assist local manufactures where it is commercially possible to produce particular articles in Australia, by penalizing by means of an import duty any goods that may arrive from abroad. It is useless to discuss the matter further, in view of the opinions held by honorable senators. We find that the Government can win on an important matter such as the increased tax on imported whisky, and even an ardent freetrader such as Senator Lynch supports them! L am pleased to hear the protest by Senator Needham, who assists in representing Western Australia, where it is alleged that many thousands of miles of road construction are required. The imposition of the increased duty will, no doubt, lead to an increase in the cost of production, and as soon as the workmen can reach the Arbitration Court they will certainly ask for an increase in wages. Next year, probably, the Minister will invite honorable senators to grant a duty of 50 per cent, or more on this machinery. The idea behind these duties is not to exclude foreign goods, but to produce revenue. Australia, however, cannot be made prosperous by the taxing of imported goods. Some time ago we saw the disgraceful exhibition of the various State Premiers quarrelling over the distribution of the Customs revenue. Next year, under this tariff, there will probably be £42,000,000 to divide between the Commonwealth and the States. We may as well support the schedule, and let the Minister have the bill.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL (South Australia) 14.54]. - I am glad that Senator Needham has been converted, and now recognizes the folly of unduly increasing the tariff. I agree with him that some protection is needed for an industry which, according to the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, has twenty factories specializing in the work and over 1,000 persons employed. But surely 27^ per cent, is sufficient. Any greater duty w.ould merely hamper production and retard the development of the resources of the country generally. It is universally recognized that the provision of good roads is of paramount importance to Australia. As Senator Needham remarked, the Commonwealth is setting aside £20,000,000 for that purpose. We know that the State Governments will be voting large sums in addition, but the money will not go very far because of the heavy, and I may say unduly heavy, cost of road making in Australia. We shall simply make that charge heavier still by increasing the duties on road-making machinery. Here is surely a case where proper discrimination should be shown by the Government. Apart from that phase of the subject, however, I should think that the industry could carry on with the protection it already has. If not, it points to either inefficiency or the suggestion that those carrying on the industry are anxious to make undue profits. In any case, surely the provision of good roads in Australia is of infinitely greater importance than the establishment and maintenance by artificial means of the industry of manufacturing road-making machinery. The Government, nevertheless, declares that these manufacturers must be bolstered up. For many years, firms in South Australia have been able to compete successfully with outside manufacturers with a duty very much less than that now in operation, and they should certainly be able to continue to do so. I suppose that every member of the committee has received protests from local governing bodies throughout Australia, and I do not wonder that they have complained, considering the heavy cost of road making and the fact that the proposed increase of duty will tend to make it more expensive than ever. These protests indicate that public opinion is becoming more enlightened on this subject. In the present case, I think that the Government ought to accept the amendment. We have a circular from the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, which simply sets out the number of employers and employees engaged in the industry. But there is no proof that further protection is necessary to maintain it. I very much doubt whether further protection is required, and in any case I claim that the provision of good roads is of infinitely greater importance than the maintenance of this industry.
– The honorable senator seems to think that the increased duty will increase the cost of road-making machinery.
– I have not the slightest doubt that it will.
– The Chambers of Manufactures state that prices have been reduced since the duty has been increased.
– I am not prepared to accept that statement. We know that the tendency of increased duties is to increase prices. At any rate, the Minister has put nothing before the committee to show that the proposed increase in duty is warranted to keep the industry going or develop it.
– I did not address the committee when this item was called on, because the general arguments that I used in my second-reading speech apply to practically the whole of the proposed increases. While wages’ have been falling in many other countries during the past two or three years, they have been rising in Australia. I am not one of those who think that high wages are an evil in any country.
– In what country have wages fallen?
– In Great Britain and elsewhere they have dropped considerably during the last two or three years, and that fact has given the manufacturers of machinery and other goods in Great Britain and other countries an advantage over the Australian manufacturer. This item includes, not only road-making machinery, but also machinery employed in the production of cement. They are included under the one heading, because the same machine that will break metal into the size required for road making is used in the manufacture of cement. A reduction in duty of 7£ per cent, would not have a substantial effect in reducing thu cost of road making.. It is not the price of machinery, but the rate of wages, that materially affects the cost of road making. Senator Barwell has told us that twenty firms in Australia are engaged in manufacturing the machinery covered by thu item. My information is that the number of firms is about 30.
– According to the Chamber of Manufactures there are twenty firms only.
– In any case, there will be sufficient local competition to keep down the price. Wherever twenty firms are in competition, that is the effect.
– I hope that the competition between these firms is different from that. between the distillers.
-This is a different matter. I am surprised that Senator McLachlan should be so concerned over the slight increase in the duty on whisky. I hope that the committee will not vote for the amendment moved by Senator Needham. The reduction would make no noticeable reduction in the cost of roadmaking, but it would have a serious effect upon an important Australian industry.
– If ever there was a philosopher among the members of the human family, it was the poet who wrote “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” What has been our experience hitherto ? Every effort to make this tariff schedule something like a reasonable and scientific instrument has been opposed by Senator Needham ; but on this occasion the honorable senator asks the committee to revert to the duty under the 1921 tariff. I do not suggest that he is actuated by any desire to please those bodies which have circulated their views among honorable senators. Unfortunately, I am too responsive to public opinion, and therefore I frequently find myself in an awkward position. I have received so many letters from local governing bodies regarding the duty on this class of machinery that I have been tempted to ask for additional pigeon-hole accommodation. These local bodies have besought me to urge a reduction of duty in respect of road-making machinery ; and being responsive to public opinion, with a high sense of public duty, I am found on this occasion supporting Senator Needham’s request, although by all the rules of the game he does not deserve my support. Hitherto, when I have tried to shape the tariff in the direction which he now suggests, he has given me no support. Now I am heaping coals of fire on his head. When necessary articles of wearing apparel - the caps, socks, and stockings worn by the poorer classes, when they can afford them - were under consideration I endeavoured to reduce the duty: but I received not even a lookor a sneeze of sympathy from Senator Needham. Yet he now asks me to support him in his request.
– Not having influenza, I was unable to sneeze.
– Realizing that sooner or later I must answer to the local authorities to which I have referred, I cannot turn a deaf ear to their request that I urge a reduction in the duty on this item. But, of course, Senator Needham is different ! It is a mere coincidence that he has taken the lead in this matter ! On this occasion also we have Senator Barwell agreeing with Senator Needham. I am glad to find that honorable senator squaring his actions with his public utterances. I shall endeavour to see that both honorable senators continue to follow the precedent which they have establishedin this instance. If a duty of 27½ per cent, is sufficient to protect the manufacturers of the machinery required for making our roads, it should be sufficient in other instances. I welcome Senators Needham and Barwell into the fold. I do so the more heartily because I realize that their action on this occasion has nothing whatever to do with the public clamour for reduced duties on road-making machinery ! I am the only one who might be expected to acquiesce in the demand made by an influential section of the community ! Because these honorable senators at the eleventh hour and 59th minute have seen the light, I rejoice. I should now like them to go further, and wipe out entirely the existing preference to Great Britain. That preference is not in favour of Great Britain; it is in the interests of the Commonwealth Treasury. That fact is evident when we realize that for the year 1923-24 our total importations of road-making machinery - and that heading covers a big list of machines - were valued at only £19,000. Nearly all that machinery came from the United States of America; that which came from Britain was valued at £47 only. During 1924-25 our importations of this class of machinery were valued at £7,000, British machines representing £18 only. Senator Needham having, in response to the call of duty, taken the first step, should go further, and remove entirely the preferential tariff. I shall support the Minister in any attempt to raise the duty on luxuries; but on essential articles of clothing, and for the machinery necessary to give Australia good roads, I shall not support higher duties merely for the sake of obtaining additional revenue. Most of the road-making machinery which comes here is made in the United States of America, where they have specialized in making good roads in new country. Britain, with her existing good roads, was not confronted with the same necessity for inventing this class of machinery. I ask the Senate to support the amendment of Senator Needham.
– Any honorable senator engaged, as I for some time have been, in an endeavour to discover some system in this protective tariff, would find sufficient in this item alone to discourage him. We have here one of the greatest anomalies in connexion with the tariff. First, we have the Federal Government expressing its intention to spend, during the next nineteen years, a large sum of money on road construction in Australia; and then we have the Tariff Board, or whoever is responsible, placing this obstacle in the way. To me it is utterly incomprehensible. Yet the Minister has given us no explanation. No evidence has been adduced to show that the people who are engaged in the manufacture of road-making machinery in Australia cannot carry on profitably with a duty of 27½ per cent. Nor has there been any evidence in support of a differentiation betwen this and other classes of machinery justifying an additional 7½ per cent, being added in this case. I have repeatedly endeavoured to ascertain the true meaning of the term “commercially manufactured in Australia,” but invariably those whom I have questioned have evaded a direct reply. It has not been shown that roadmaking machinery cannot be commercially manufactured in Australia. Personally, I believe that it can be made here on a commercial basis.
– There are 30 firms in Australia manufacturing this class of machinery.
– Then, why is it necessary to raise the duty? The Minister has destroyed his own argument.
– I have already pointed out that wages have decreased in Great Britain, whereas during the same period they have increased in Australia.
– I desireto refer to the honorary statistician to this Senate, a gentleman whose figures are always based upon the latest available records. I refer to Senator Lynch, who carries out his duties as statistician in a thorough and systematic manner, necessitating the burning of much midnight oil. He has pointed out that in one industry the wages paid in Great Britain are better than those paid in the same industry in Australia. They are better because the workers there put their heart into their work. If the policy now advocated is persisted in, we shall be told year after year that, for this industry to survive, increased duties will be necessary; and merely on the strength of a general statement the duties will, no doubt, be increased. This tariff is being put through on general statements. There has been no information relating specifically to the items under discussion. That is not good enough for me. I do not believe that road-making machinery cannot be commercially made in Australia under existing conditions. I believe that the action taken by the Tariff Board, or the Minister for Trade and Customs, is a contravention of the principle underlying the Government’s proposal to make money available for the construction of good roads, which it considers are essential to the proper development of Australia. Are the interests of the people who are employed in this industry to be compared with the interests of the hundreds of thousands of settlers on the land, who are really the backbone of the country, and on whom our future prosperity and advancement depend ? What are the interests of the few compared with the interests of the many for whom cheap road-making machinery is essential? There is not the slightest justification for differentiation between cement-making and roadmaking machinery. Judging from’ the experience of the United States of America, which of all countries has adopted the most scientific, method of road-making, the tendency is towards cement roads. Anything that will relieve the present position should be done. Furthermore, I do not believe for a moment, that this item, if carried in the present form, will benefit any people except employees in this particular industry. I do not want to make any suggestion as to why Senator Needham has moved his amendment.
– The honorable senator is very decent about the matter.’
-I hope I am, and that I shall always remain so. I unreservedly welcome the honorable senator’s amendment, and I think that what he has said should carry some weight; but when we find honorable gentlemen who have been so consistently protectionist, if, indeed, a protectionist can be consistent-
– I have heard the honorable senator himself advocating protection.
– I am a protectionist, but not in the sense suggested by the honorable senator. In this matter I am a protectionist to the extent of 27½ per cent., though I am aware that some Victorian protectionists favour duties of 50 per cent., 60 per cent., and even 100 per cent. But when an honorable senator of pronounced fiscal beliefs, such as Senator Needham, thinks it his duty to oppose the proposed increase, other considerations should be relegated to the background. I shall undoubtedly support Senator Needham’s amendment, and I should like, also, to take this opportunity to ask the Minister once more what is the definition of “commercially manufactured” in Australia. Up to the present I have never been able to get a satisfactory definition.
– I intend to support a reduction in the duties. Under the 1921 tariff the duties were 27½ per cent. British, 35 per cent, intermediate, and 40 per cent, general, and we have had the assurance that 30 firms have been successfully established in Australia under that tariff.
– They are not exclusively engaged in the manufacture of these machines.
– I am not saying that they are exclusively engaged in that work. But they are engaged in the manufacture of this class of machinery, and I think that most honorable senators will agree that 27½ per cent. British tariff is heavy enough. I have taken the trouble to inquire as to the freight charges on this class of machinery, and I find that it very closely approximates the amount of duty; in other words, that a tariff protection of 27½ per cent. British plus the natural protection in the shape of sea freights is equivalent to a protection of over 50 per cent. The freight charges on many commodities may be estimated from 10 per cent, to 12½ per cent.; but roadmaking machinery is in a different category. Very often the freight charges exceed the amount of duty. These machines are absolutely essential for the proper development of Australia. I happen to live in a State where, owing to the broken nature of the country, the cost of development is, I suppose, infinitely higher than elsewhere in the Commonwealth. I can remember the time when it was possible to make a decent macadamized road for £700 a mile. To-day the cost is double that sum.
– Very much more than double.
– I am referring, not to the wide roads met with in many of the mainland States, but to the ordinary 12-ft. metal road, which now costs anything from £1,400 to £15,000 a mile to construct.
– How much extra per mile will the work cost as the result of the additional 7½ per cent. British duty?
– I do not know; but I do know that because of the heavier traffic now passing over Australian roads it is absolutely essential that every local governing authority, and every State Government that is responsible for road construction, should be able to purchase as cheaply as possible all road-making machinery. Any attempt to increase the cost of these machines, by means of the tariff, should be resented by the people of Australia. If I thought that Australian manufacturers of this class of machinery could not carry on under the 1921 tariff, I should hesitate to object to the proposed increase; but I am satisfied that they are well able to continue the industry. I cannot estimate what the proposed increases will amount to in the aggregate. All I know is that the increased duties will add to the cost of these machines. For this reason, I intend to support Senator Needham’s amendment.
– I find myself troubled with the grouping of the various machines included in this sub-item, so I shall confine my remarks to cementmaking, road-making, and stonecrushing machines. In my opinion, handoperated travelling and portable cranes, coal conveyors, and ash -handling plant are in a different category. The question of the efficacy of this class of machinery made in Australia has been raised in this debate. It seems to me that we are in the transition stage from rail traction to road traction, and that every support should be given in the various State Parliaments, and also by this Parliament, to those charged with the responsibility of road-construction. If we are to judge the success of roadmaking machines manufactured in Australia by the condition of the roads, we find in my own State, and also in portions of New South Wales that I have visited, we can only come to the conclusion that we know very little, if anything, about the business. I have been in touch lately with some people from the United States of America, who take an intelligent and scientific interest in road-construction. They advise me that Australian methods are little short of lamentable ; that our roads will never stand up to the traffic that has to pass over them. Unfortunately, in outlying portions of the country, at all events, there appears to be an entire absence of the application of scientific principles to road construction. We are about to develop a new province in the Northern Territory. I do not know who is going to pay the duty on road-making machines that will be required for developmental work there - I notice that one illustrious member of another place has suggested that instead of building railways, the whole of the traction should be on roads to be constructed - but in view of all the facts, we should strongly oppose the imposition of any duties that may lead to an increase in their cost to Australian users. For this reason, I am supporting Senator Needham.
– Some of the roads in America cost more than the railways.
– And are worth more than railways, because of the useful purpose which they serve. I may mention that not long ago, a man brought wool from Nyrilco, a station property near Broken Hill, to Elder Smith and Company’s wool store in Adelaide, by motor traction, and returned with very little back loading, for less than the South Australian railways could take it from Broken Hill to Port Adelaide.
SenatorCrawford. - He did not do that over a road that cost £8,000 or £12,000 a mile.
– No; he travelled over what is probably one of the roughest roads in the Commonwealth - a road that is almost impassable after rain. Something must.be done for the development of our country areas, and road-making seems to me to be the most important. In much of our Mallee country, it is utterly impossible at certain times of the year, except under great difficulties, to do any carting, and very little stone is obtainable for road-making. We should approach the consideration of this item with an earnest desire to do our best for the development of our vast outlying areas. Road-making seems to be the best way to ensure it3 satisfactory development. In the circumstances, I feel that the 1921 tariff of 27½ per cent. British is the one which we should support. As far as I can learn, the industry seems to have made substantial headway. It has kept its head well above water. Whether the item is of such importance as to justify the circulation of a vast wealth of literature, to use Senator Lynch’s words, from municipal and other local governing bodies protesting against the increased duties, is another matter, but surely some attention should be paid to their needs.
– I have received no protest from my State.
-Probably that is because the people there know that the Minister’s slogan will be “ Stick to the bill,” and, in this respect, he is doing his duty as a member of the Ministry. We who represent the more benighted, and certainly the more neglected, portions of the Commonwealth, view these proposed increases differently. Surely those who purchase and use road-making and cement-making machines ought to know whether the proposed duties will be instrumental in increasing the cost. We should turn a deaf ear to those who say that higher duties will lead to reduced prices. As a protectionist, I cannot accept such a statement.
– It is part of the policy of protection.
– It may be the policy of some manufacturers to reduce their prices temporarily; but municipal bodies who have control of the roads in most of the States believe that the cost of road-making machinery will be increased by these duties. Why should we who are developing the cement-making industry in this country, and using the most suitable stone for cement-making to be found anywhere, simply rest on our oars and decline to encourage the introduction of machinery that will assist in the production of cement at an advantageous price, and provide us with better roads, cheaper traction, and more satisfactory development. I regret to find that, according to Senator Lynch, a great deal of the road-making machinery now coming into Australia is imported from America. That may be so. I know of no finer roads than those of old England.
– Made by the Romans.
– Those I have in mind were made, not by the Romans, but by Britons. They are bituminous roads scientifically constructed principally of Trinidad asphalt, which is a British product. Machinery is playing a more important part in the development of roads in the Old World than the Minister would haveus believe, but it may be that American machinery is more adaptable to the roads being constructed there. Our development is more likely to be in the direction of cement roads than is the case in America, although there are some in that country constructed entirely of cement. The development of Australian roads has not been altogether satisfactory, and, apart from Tasmania, I know of no State in which we can say we have even what are classified in England as B or second-grade roads. I do not intend to support reducing the preference to Britain, as suggested by Senator Payne, but will support the request moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham).
– I cordially agree with the opinions expressed by certain honorable senators that road construction is of paramount importance to the people of
Australia. Until a few years ago railways were chiefly used for the transport of goods and for handling a great deal of the passenger traffic, but to-day other rapid means of transport are provided, and consequently roads are becoming a greater necessity. I intend to support a reduction in the proposed duties, because the present roads should be con-. 8tructed aB efficiently and cheaply as possible. Some honorable senators who have questioned the methods of roadmaking at present adopted have blamed our engineers for faulty road construction; but with that I do not agree, as we have in Australia road engineers quite as capable as those in any other part of the world. It is a question of money; the more funds available, the better the road. The difficulties experienced in Australia have been due to the length of the roads, that it has been necessary to construct, the inferior quality of the material sometimes used, and the prohibitive cost of modern plant. In Tasmania, 400 or 500 road contracts are let every year; much of the work is necessarily undertaken by small municipalities with limited means, or by small gangs. In these circumstances, the use of modern appliances is impossible. Several municipalities in Tasmania - which are similar to the shire councils in Victoria - have endeavoured to obtain modern road-making machinery, but have found the cost prohibitiye. I visited one factory in Victoria where road-making plant is manufactured, and although I could find no fault with the machinery manufactured or the methods employed, I could easily understand that the price at which it Avas sold was far too high for many of those who desired to purchase it. Thousands of miles of roads in Australia have never been rolled at all. In thousands of places 12 inches of mud has been thrown aside, 9 inches of metal thrown in, and a small quantity of Windings placed over it, no attempt whatever being made to consolidate it, simply because the cost of road-rollers is too high. Australian industries should be protected, but, in my opinion, a duty of 27V per cent. should be sufficient, in this case, particularly when there is a heavy natural protection, which in the case of a road roller or tractor would be considerable. 1 believe in duties on items such as this being reduced to the lowest possible level, in order to assist road construction, which is so essential to Australian development. Visiting different parts of Australia, I have been brought into close contact with the difficulties experienced by settlers in the out-back country, who are put to considerable expense and inconvenience in transporting their produce over inferior roads. Good roads are a veritable godsend, and our primary producers, who are usually referred to as the backbone of the country, should be assisted by allowing local governing bodies to obtain modern road-making machinery at the lowest possible price.
.- Although Senator McLachlan said that it would be useless for the Queensland local governing bodies to approach the Minister with a request for reduced duties on road-making machinery, it is rather significant that I, as a representative of that State, which has just embarked on an extensive roads programme, have not received such a request. As a Protectionist, I realize that it is necessary to manufacture roadmaking and cement-making machinery in the Commonwealth, and at the same time to do everything possible to improve our Australian roads. After having travelled over many miles of Australian roads, I believe those in Queensland are worse than those in any. other part of the Commonwealth. A great deal has been said concerning the machinery employed in road-making ; but let us consider the facts. Many of the local governing bodies do not possess road rollers, which are most important in construction work. Since the higher protective duties have been in force the local manufacturers have reduced their prices. Imported road-making machinery can now be landed in Australia at 1^ per cent, above the price f.o.b. London. A good deal of the road-making plant in use in Queensland and Victoria is controlled by a Roads Board, or similar body, and as it can be moved from place to place it is employed throughout the year. According to the Chamber of Manufactures, there are 20 factories in Australia manufacturing road-making machinery in which over 1,000 men are employed, and the locallymade machinery is equal to any that is imported. From information in my possession it appears that the cost of road.rollers has been reduced by 7 per cent., and that of a small oil engine used in connexion with road-rollers by 10 to 15 per cent. One firm has designed a special machine which will reduce the working time of a certain operation bv 50 per cent. Prior to the introduction of the present tariff schedule the plant of this firm was working up to only 75 per cent, or its capacity, but is now working a night shift in order to complete its orders. Additions are also being made to the plant in order to cope with the business that is offering. Those conversant with the engineering trade in Great Britain know that owing to the shipbuilding slump engineers have been compelled to seek foi employment in other directions. The engineering trade in Great Britain is stagnant, but in Australia, owing to the protection “iven to our industries, it is flourishing. Senator Kingsmill, in his customary inquiring manner wished to know what was meant by “a class or kind not commercially manufactured in Australia.” The Tariff Board has been appointed to inquire into the capacity of Australian firms to commercially manufacture any article. It is quite an impersonal body, it has no interest in one firm or another, and its sole duty is to afford reasonable protection to Australian manufacturers. As part of its duties it is required to ascertain if those manufacturers can produce an article at a fair value to the people of Australia. I take that to be an answer to the question raised by Senator Kingsmill. The fact that, after making due inquiries, and after sifting the evidence placed before it, the board has recommended an increased duty ou roadmaking machines is sufficient for me. In another place an effort was made to have the duty reduced, but, after a long discussion, a proposal to reduce it was defeated by 30 votes to 20. This should not influence the decision of the Senate in any way, but do honorable senators imagine that we could persuade another place to go back on its previous decision in this respect ? In another place the question was discussed from a parochial stand-point, just as honorable senators have been discussing it.
– Does the honorable senator call road making a parochial matter.
– No. I am commenting on the parochial stand-point taken up by some protectionists. Because Senator Needham has been overwhelmed by correspondence from Western Australia to do a’ certain thing, he has set out to do it. That is approaching the consideration of the tariff from a parochial stand-point. I know that the local governing bodies in the States, like every one else who is pinched by the tariff, are quite keen in their effort to have the duty on roadmaking machines reduced. When considering Customs duties one cannot be logical or consistent. One must use common sense, and go ahead despite the consequence. In Queensland I am quite willing to stand the consequence if the proposed duty leads to an increase in the price of road-making machinery. But I do not think it will retard road-making. If I thought it would, I should vote to admit road-making machinery free, because one can hardly realize how great a part road-making plays in the development of Australia; but I cannot see how an extra 7½ per cent, duty will retard it. The principal cost is in the construction material used, metal and cement, and the labour employed. The machinery used lasts for years. An extra 7$ per cent, on a machine that will last for twenty years is not worth worrying about in calculating the cost of making a road. No State is so far behind in road development as Queensland, but I can support the Minister with a clear conscience. I shall vote against Senator Needham’s amendment because I do not think that even if the duty were reduced as he suggests it would make any difference to the development of the Commonwealth by road construction. I regret that gentle pressure has been brought to bear on the protectionist Leader of the Labour party in the Senate to induce him to ask for a reduction of the duties as recommended by the Tariff Board, after hearing all the evidence. Road-making machinery is being made in Australia, and is steadily being improved. With the competition of the twenty firms already in existence the price is likely to be reduced. I see no reason why we should not allow the inventive genius of Australians to be applied to the manufacture of improved machinery which will lead, not only to the speedier development of the Commonwealth, but also to a reduction in price.
– It is bad enough to have to listen to a lecture by Senator Lynch, but it is worse to hear Senator Reid saying that I am actuated by parochial motives in submitting my amendment to the Minister’s request. When I first submitted my amendment, I mentioned the necessities of Queensland and South Australia, as well as those of my own Stateof Western Australia. But I put aside for the moment the honorable senator’s reference to parochial stand-points to say that I have not heard any argument from the Minister in favour of the retention of the duty as set out in the schedule, or from Senator Reid against a reduction of the British preferential duty. I doubt if the honorable senator is correct in saying that the rates in the schedule are the considered opinion of the Tariff Board. If they are, why did the Minister for Trade and Customs, who must have been in possession of all the information supplied by the Tariff Board, move, in another place, to reduce the British preferential rate to 30 per cent? Senator Reid’s statement that we ought to be fearful because another place agreed to the item in the schedule by a certain majority, is no argument. In matters like this, we are entitled to submit arguments for or against certain duties. As a matter of fact, it is our duty to do so, and it is not right for any honorable senator to suggest that we should go in fear of what is likely to be done in another place. I have heard no argument from the Minister (Senator Crawford), or from Senator Reid to indicate that a reduction of the British preferential rate by 7½ per cent, would affect the road-making machinery industry. It would not mean the dismissal of one employee.
– Does the honorable senator think that a duty of 27½ per cent, would be sufficient to compensate for a difference of 100 per cent, in wages ?
– A rate of 27½ per cent, was considered ideal under the 1921 tariff, and no argument has been adduced by the Minister to prove the need for an additional 7½ per cent.
– I shall give a reason directly which should appeal to the honorable senator.
– I am waiting to hear arguments from the Minister. So far, he has not adduced a single one to substantiate his claim that the rate of duty should not be reduced . He has certainly referred to wages. But wages are not determined by a tariff ; they are determined by arbitration courts. We ought to separate questions . of wages and Customs duties. Can the Minister say that as the result of the 27^ per cent, duty under the tariff, wages have increased or decreased ?
– I have not suggested such a thing.
– The Minister talked of wages in connexion with the tariff and left the inference to be drawn that wages were affected by the tariff. If I have misrepresented him, it is unintentional. In a matter of this kind, the two things should be kept separate.
– It cannot be done.
– The industry has been able to carry on since 1921 under the old rate of duty, and no reason has been advanced for an increase of 7J per cent.
– The industry has done fairly well under the old duty.
– Yes; the indications are that it has made fair progress. It has been insinuated that although I am a protectionist, I am suggesting a reduction of duty in this sub-item. But surely there is a limit to the protection we are to be expected to afford to our own industries ? In submitting my amendment, I am not actuated by any appeal submitted to me from my own State - I put that suggestion on one side - I am doing so because, on the facts as they present themselves, I consider that a rate of 27£ per cent, is quite sufficient protection for the manufacturers of these machines. I have no intention of accepting the suggestion of Senator Lynch, endorsed by Senator Payne, that I should move a corresponding reduction in the intermediate and general rates. If I did so, it would not be consistent with my general attitude. I am asking for a reduction of the British preferential rate because the reduction I propose is quite consistent with my ideals as a protectionist. I think that at the present time a British preferential duty of 27 per cent is quite sufficient protection for the industry concerned.
– I am surprised that this amendment should be submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Labour party in the Senate, and I am even more surprised when the ‘ honorable senator suggests that we should entirely separate the wages question from any consideration of duties. Earlier this afternoon I said that an increased duty was needed, because since the 1921 tariff wages have decreased in Great Britain and increased in Australia. To bear this out, I shall now quote figures given in evidence before the Tariff Board. In June, 1921, the average weekly wage paid to skilled men in the United Kingdom was £& 8s., as against £6 in Australia. In June, 1921, the average weekly wage paid to unskilled labour in the United Kingdom was £2” 3s., as against £4s. 4s. in Australia. In December, 1924, the average weekly wage paid to skilled men in the United Kingdom was £2 16s. 6d., as against £5 8s. 6d. in Australia, and the average weekly wage paid to unskilled men in the United Kingdom was £2 Os. 2d., as against £4 5s. 3d. in Australia. Whereas in 1921 the average weekly wage for skilled labour was only 36.3 per cent, higher in Australia than in the United Kingdom, in 1924 it was 92 per cent higher. In 1921 the average weekly wage for unskilled labour was 95.35 per cent, higher in Australia than in the United Kingdom, but in 1924 the Australian rate was 112.2 higher than in the United Kingdom. The honorable senator must see that we cannot dissociate the wages question from , the consideration of the tariff. The position in Australia is now very different from what it was five years ago. As a matter of fact, when the present schedule became operative about twelve months ago, the road-making machinery industry was languishing. A great many men who had been employed in it had been dismissed, owing to the large importations. Senator Lynch has quoted some figures in regard to the importation of road-making machinery; but his figures included channel-making graders, road scoops and scrapers, scoops, stump extractors, horse road-rollers and machines, not one of which is included in the item we are now discussing.
– They are closely related.
– They are entirely different machines. Of course, scoops- are manufactured here; but I do not know that some of the others are made in Australia to any extent. Local firms, however, can make at a reasonable price a road-making machine that is in. every way suitable for Australian conditions. Senator McLachlan referred to the big responsibilities that the Commonwealth has regarding the Northern Territory, and he spoke as though the time were at hand when we should be building a considerable mileage of macadamized roads . in that part of Australia. My opinion is that before Australia is in a position to fully discharge her responsibilities in regard to the more remote parts of this country, she will have to increase her population and build up her industries. I fail to see how that can be done except under a policy of protection. The . figures that I have quoted from the report of the Tariff Board, I think most honorable senators will agree, show that the difference between the rates of wages in Australia and Great Britain is far greater to-day, compared with 1921, than is represented by the proposed increase in duty of 7$ per cent. Therefore I trust that the committee will support the Government in its proposal to afford effective protection to the manufacturers of the machinery mentioned in the item.
– I have listened with surprise to some of the remarks that have been made during this debate. It seems strange to me that certain honorable senators should ask how a reduction of 7$ per cent, in the duty on road-making machinery could affect the cost of a road. Senator McLachlan spoke of the class of roads made in the United States of America, and he and honorable senators generally have referred to the urgent necessity of constructing roads capable of withstanding the stresses imposed on them under modern traffic conditions. The “ roadmaking machinery “ used in Australia today comes largely within the category of the shovel, the fork, and the rake, with occasionally a roller. Practically no progress has been made in methods of construction.
– That remark does not apply to Queensland.
– No. In Queensland, after one has travelled by road for 50 miles or so, one wonders whether one’s head is still on one’s body.
– It depends on the head.
– It is a most unfortunate body that has to travel over Queensland roads. Vast strides are being made in the science of road-making. The road-making methods of a few years ago are practically valueless to-day, and in the near ‘future will; be of even less value. Any municipality or roadmaking contractor who depends on the old type of machinery will be completely behind the times. In the United States of America road-making machinery is constantly being replaced because of the invention of more up-to-date plants. As soon as an improvement is discovered the plant in use is scrapped, and the new scheme is put into operation. Australia will have to adopt similar methods. The latest machinery to-day may be obsolete a few months hence. It seems to me that Australia will demand better roads. This result can be achieved by improved plant and improved methods, but principally by improved machinery. Therefore, it is obvious that, with the constant change necessitated by continued improvements in machinery, the added duty might easily become a heavy burden. I support Senator Needham in his amendment. Something must be done to aid the local governing authorities and the roadmaking contractors to provide what modern means of transport demand. If this duty be imposed, contractors will naturally, as a matter of business, pass on the increased cost of construction that it will involve. The Minister, when asked why the tariff was being increased, said that it was largely because of the increase in wages. He explained that tariffs were ruled by wages; and of the truth of that statement we have had a fair illustration throughout the consideration of this schedule. Wherever it appears that wages have increased, extra duties are demanded. It seems to me, however, that the peg must he put in somewhere.
– The increase in wages has been general.
– Yes; but if manufacturers can go to the Tariff Board every time there is an increase in wages and obtain an increased duty, where is the line to bo drawn ?
SenatorReid. - Has the honorable senator any instance of that?
– We have it in the item under discussion. I am reminded of a little ditty that I read in the New York Life ‘some years ago. So far as my memory serves me, it runs -
The railway man he made a raid -
A dollar more the railroad paid;
The railroad then demanded aid -
More fares, more freight, the shipper paid.
The shipper “‘stung” the wholesale trade;
It kicked a bit, but still it paid.
The wholesale trade, tho’ sore dismayed,
Promptly bled the retail trade.
The retail trade, as best it can,
Collects it from the railroad man.
And so it goes - so wise are men -
The railroad man began again.
– What is wrong with that? That is all right.
– But a time will come when the people of Australia will say that a stop must be put to it - that this collusion must terminate.
– All things have an end.
– And bad things should have a quick end.
– The policy of protection has no end.
– In some respects it is becoming a romance.
– Economic forces will take a hand in the matter soon.
– They are beginning now to manifest themselves. The Government contends that it is essential to protect the manufacturers of roadmaking and other machinery, some of which is used in mines. The mining industry - one of the best that the Commonwealth ever had - has been almost strangled.
– Because of the cost of production.
– Largely owing to the tariff.
– It is not entirely due to the increased duty on machinery.
– I do not say that it is. But it is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. The tariff has unquestionably helped to strangle our one-time magnificent mining industry. Something must be done to stabilize it, and the desired result cannot bo achieved by increasing the cost of production. We aretold that some twenty factories are concerned in the manufacture of roadmaking and certain other machinery covered by this item, and that 1,000 men are employed in the industry. But many thousands of men have been affected by the throttling of the mining industry. Should not honorable senators consider how much it has meant to Australia? In many parts of this fair land we see the effects of mining activities having been abandoned, yet the representatives of such States as Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania are asked to assist industries at the cost of strangling the mining industry.
– The mining “ sharks “ strangled it.
– The mining “ shark “ com.es on the scene in the early stages - before the mine has started operations. His “ mine “ consists, as a rule, of a piece of stone carried in his hip pocket, andhe is often able to gull the public. But I am speaking of mines that were in full operation and paid dividends.
– Does the honorable senator think that the “ shark “ got out when dividends were beiug paid?
– He would get out . as the first robber.
– Watch the share lists.
– Nobody scans the share lists of mining companies to-day. Mining is too precarious. An increase in duty that will add in any degree to the cost of mining will do an irreparable wrong to this country.
– I support the proposed duty.I do not think Senator Needham moved his amendment from any selfish standpoint ; but as a “ whole-hogger “ protectionist I believe in building up Australian industries. I have supported every item in the schedule, and in one or two instances I should have supported even higher duties than those proposed. The letters from local governing bodies should not influence honorable senators in their attitude towards the schedule. I probably have received letters from those who have asked for a reduction of 7½ per cent., but I do not think that such a reduction would materially affeet either the cost of road work or the cost of the machinery. When manufacturers feel secure from foreign competition, they will bring their workshops up to date, and introduce more efficient methods, which mean cheaper work and better results. We all believe that good roads are necessary, but it will be a long time before we shall have good roads throughout this great continent, from north to south, and from east to west. The figures given by the Minister, showing that the wages paid in Australia are 92 per cent, higher than those paid in some other countries from which road-making machinery might be imported, are sufficient to convince us of the necessity for granting adequate protection to this and other industries.
– It might be better for Australia if some of them ceased to exist.
– I stand for the creation and maintenance of Australian industries. I prefer that the machinery which we require should be made by Australians, working under decent Australian conditions, than that it be imported from countries where the employees live in a semi-starved condition. Bather than send work to men in other countries I would have them come here and enjoy the conditions which obtain in Australian industries.
– But the honorable senator is opposed to immigration.
– I am not.
– Order ! The immigration policy may not be discussed under this item.
– Our secondary industries, if encouraged and developed, will be able to absorb men from other countries; and they, in turn, will assist to pay the taxes necessary to provide good roads throughout Australia. The best way to develop this country is to establish our industries on a sound footing. Our secondary industries can only be built up with the aid of a protective tariff.
– It is possible to build them up at the cost of our primary industries, which are more important.
– The best market for our primary products is the home market.
– But it is a limited market.
– Of course, it is. That is because our secondary industries are. limited. But let them be built up into vast industries, and there will be an improved home market. If some honorable senators had their way, there would be no secondary industries in Australia. I do uot know whether Senator Payne is an importer, but no barrister commanding a high fee could have presented a better case for the importers than he did. I have always been a protectionist, and, I claim, a consistent one. I regret that Senator Lynch, who also was at one time a protectionist, has forsaken the policy of protection; but I believe that he will see the error of his ways, and again advocate it. I hope that the item will be agreed to. The higher duties will not interfere with the cost of roadmaking. When, by their aid, our workshops have been established on a sound footing, road-making machinery will be made here at less cost than that at which it can be imported, and roadmaking in Australia will become cheaper.
.- The item before us is of great importance to Australia. In a new country, where a large proportion of the population is composed of primary producers, facilities must be provided to enable their produce to reach the markets. Those who oppose this item appear to have forgotten that, while it is necessary to provide roads along which our primary produce may be conveyed to market, it is equally essential that the country should be able to make the machinery to construct those roads. That road-making machinery is usually built for long service, and that local bodies do not require to renew it at frequent intervals appears to have been overlooked. The additional7½ per cent, dutv spread over the life of a machine would hardly be noticed. Is it not better to agree to this slightly increased duty, and thus enable the machines to be made here, providing employment for our own people, than that they should be conveyed thousands of miles by sea from Great Britain or the United States of America while our workmen roam the streets unemployed? Many of our shire councillors are tories whose only desire appears to bo to reduce wages. Rather than provide their own countrymen with employment at an additional 4d. a day they prefer to purchase their requirements from abroad, giving employment to the workers of other countries. They overlook the fact that lack of employment for Australian workmen is likely to adversely affect themselves. Australia certainly needs good roads; but it is just as important that* the machinery necessary to make those roads should be produced in this country, giving employment to our own people.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Like other honorable senators, I have received a considerable amount of correspondence on this subject, but I have not been impressed by it, because I believe that those responsible for it misunderstand the position which honorable senators should occupy on such an issue as this. It has been said during the debate that higher duties mean higher wages, and that a manufacturer who secures a high tariff immediately increases wages by twice the amount warranted, in the full knowledge that he can pass on the extra cost to his customers. I have not heard of any such increase of wages. There is a remedy for the exploitation of the public, but I tell honorable senators frankly that it cannot be applied by this legislature, because those who are against the Government on this item supported it when Labour appealed to the people for authority to be given to this Parliament to prevent any exploitation of the public. Therefore, our only alternative now is to do what may he possible to improve the position by a strong expression of public opinion. It is claimed that manufacturers of these road-making machines in other countries produce a better article than the Australian product. In most instances they enjoy an advantage in the form of cheaper labour, and certainly they have had much more experience in the organization of manufacturing enterprises. But if these considerations are to outweigh all others; if Australian manufacturers are to receive no encouragement; then we shall never have an opportunity to develop our secondary industries to their fullest extent. The truth of this is so patent to me that I marvel that any honorable senator can hold the contrary view. Suppose it does cost us a little more to manufacture these machines in Australia. Are we not providing increased employment for our own people and at the same time attracting population from overseas? Honorable senators supporting the Government aTe everlastingly trying to persuade the people that their great anxiety is to attract immigrants to Australia. What is the use of talking in that way if, by tariff reductions on certain items affecting secondary industries, they limit opportunities for employment in this country ? 1 have here two samples of shovels. Whilst they might not be in the same category as road-making machinery, they at all events serve a useful purpose in all road-making work. One is an imported article and the other an Australian-made shovel. The imported article is supposed to be hammered out, but it is not. The Australian shovel is hammered out, and although it might cost a little more it is well worth the difference. I am told by the experts who make them, that the Australian shovel will last twice -as long as the imported article. Both have the maker’s name on them. When I was a. navvy, the maker’s name, instead of being on the blade of the shovel, was nearly half way up the handle, and we were told always to fill them Tip to the maker’s name. If I am permitted to make any comment at all about these articles, i should say that there should be some restriction upon the size of the implement, but if I were buying one for some one else to use I would certainly buy the Australian shovel, because the manufacturer is doing something to provide employment for Austra-Hans and at the same time supplying a very necessary tool for the maintenance of our roads. All Australians should be patriotic enough to insist upon being supplied with articles made in Australia by our own work people. Only by doing this can we hope to populate this country with a desirable race of people. Honorable senators supporting the Government are never tired of declaiming on the hustings that no man wanting employment in Australia need be without it To that I reply that thousands of Britishers are ready to come to Australia ; . but they know, from the experience of others, that the best inducement offered to them on arrival will fee about £1 a week. It is this kind of treatment that prevents more Britishers from coming to Australia. High wages are not a deterrent, because, as a general rule, British immigrants do not enjoy high wages until they have been here long enough to wake up to the situation. I hope that the committee will not agree to the proposed reduction of the duties. I intend wholeheartedly to support the Government in the imposition of the highest duties possible to ensure the development of Australian industries. I am satisfied that members of the Tariff Board made the recommendation with a full knowledge pf all the facts.
– I had not intended to speak upon this item; but I feel it necessary to say a word or two to explain my stand in connexion with the schedule as a whole. I gather from the Minister’s remarks that the reduction proposed by Senator Needham will not materially affect the cost of road-making machinery, such as scarifiers, road rollers, scoops, and cement mixers. Western Australia is as much in need of good roads as any other State, and in my opinion concrete roads should, where possible, be laid down. Senator Millen referred to mining as a primary industry, and to the duties on mining machinery. He added that the proposed tariff was not calculated to assist that industry. I may state, for the honorable senator’s edification, that the Government which he supports, by its action in placing an embargo upon gold export during the war period, is responsible for the present position of the mining industry in Western Australia.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Newlands). Order! The honorable senator is going beyond the item now before the committee.
– You allowed other honorable senators to refer to the duties on mining machinery, Mr Chairman, so you should not prevent me from replying on similar lines.
– The honorable senator was speaking of the embargo on the export of gold.
– Other honorable senators who preceded me also mentioned the gold-mining industry, which, as I have stated, is in a languishing condition in Western Australia. On this item I intend to take the same stand as I have with regard to other items in the schedule. I intend to support the Government.
Amendment (Senator Needham’s) negatived.
Request agreed to.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make sub-item (e) read -
Mining machinery, n.e.i., ad valorem, British 27½ per cent., intermediate 50 per cent., general 55 per cent.
This sub-item deals solely with mining machinery. That industry, as honorable senators are aware, has been severely handicapped in recent years. Western Australia is the leading gold-producing State of the Commonwealth. A royal commission was appointed by this Government in 1925 to inquire into the financial position of Western Australia, as affected by. federation. Two of the three commissioners expressed the view that, whatever benefit federation might have conferred upon other States, it had not benefited Western Australia. As the Western Australian gold-mining industry is at present declining, additional imposts such as are now proposed will handicap it still further. The value of mining in Western Australia in 1901 was £7,458,000, in 1910 £6,522,000, in 1920 £4,110,000, and in 1923 £2,747,000. The value of the gold produced in 1901 was £7,235,000, in 1910 £6,246,000, in 1920 £3,475,000, and in 1923 £2,232,000.
– Can the honorable senator give the gold yield per ton of ore treated during those years?
– I have not the figures before me. The number of employees engaged in the gold-mining industry in Western Australia in 1910 was 17,711, in 1919, 8,346, and in 1923, 6,497. These figures clearly indicate the extent to which gold mining in Western Australia has declined during recent years. The decline is to some extent due to the fact- that the mines are now working on ore of a lower grade, which has increased the cost of production. The Western Australian Government is now conferring with the mining companies in that State in an endeavour to revive the industry, but up to the present I do not think the companies have expressed any opinion as to the feasibility of the scheme. It is reasonable, however, to assume that the imposition of higher Customs duties must further hamper the industry. Years ago, when the gold yield was greater and the industry generally more prosperous, duties such as are now proposed on mining machinery could have been paid without detrimentally affecting production. 1 quote the following from the annual report of the Tariff Board on the incidence of the tariff on Western Australia -
The significance of this oan be appreciated when it is learned that in the eastern States approximately50 per cent, of local primary products is consumed locally, whereas in Western Australia only 20 per ceut, at best, of some of their local primary products is consumed locally, and that in a number of cases this percentage falls to 10 per cent, and even lower. It is necessary to recollect in this connexion that the principal expnnsion in Western Australian industry is along the line of primary production, and that the cost of material and plant and tools has been greatly enhanced during the last decade, which adds considerably to their capital outlay in placing their settlers upon the land.
I have moved this request, not as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, but as a representative of Western Australia, and in doing so, have simply expressed my own views.
– To a certain extent I am in agreement with the opinions expressed by Senator Needham. I intend to ask the Government to go a little further than the honorable senator proposed, and to revert to the duties in force prior to the introduction of this schedule. The burden of my song will be to encourage the copper mining as well as the gold-mining industry, and, in fact, other metalliferous mines which are in need of assistance. It seems to me that’ the proposals of the Government are not designed to, in any way, assist the mining industry. Senator Needham quoted figures showing the extent to which gold mining in Western Australia has declined, and I too could quote interesting statistics showing the extent to which gold and copper production in Queensland has fallen off. Although large quantities of payable ore have been mined in Queensland, a much greater quantity would still be won if the conditions were more favorable. The cost of production has increased considerably during recent years, and if higher Customs duties are imposed on mining machinery, development will be further retarded. There was a time when 3,500 men were employed at the Mount Morgan mine - during that period a good deal of new construction was being undertaken - but, to-day, there are only 350. The future development of that mme largely depends upon the possibility of securing the necessary mining machinery at a reasonable price. A scheme is at present being tried out on a small scale, and if it can be shown that by means of it the ore can be commercially dealt with, a much larger project will be launched and fairly heavy expenditure on plant incurred. It is not now known whether the machinery it is proposed to purchase will be obtained in the United States of America, but, possibly, a good deal of it will come from that country.
– If similar machinery is not manufactured in Australia, it will be admitted free.
– My experience in connexion with the Rockhampton Harbour Board dredge compels me to regard such a suggestion rather sceptically. It would be preferable to revert to the duties in force prior to the introduction of this schedule, and I should be glad if Senator Needham would agree to such a proposal. I have received the following letter from the general manager of the Mount Morgan Goldmining Co. Ltd. -
I note that mining machinery, n.e.i., now carries 40 per cent. duty. Previously, the duty was 27½ per cent, under machines and machinery, n.e.i. The latter duty has been increased to 45 per cent., and mining machinery, n.e.i., listed separately at 40 per cent. There seems to be no good reason why the latter should carry a higher duty than ore-dressing machinery, rock-boring machinery, &c, 27½ per cent., or agricultural machines, n.e.i., 20 per cent, and no justification whatever for an increase from 27½ per cent, to 40 per cent. The foregoing are British preferential rates. If the increased duty is really put up for protective purposes, would it be possible to obtain a remission of duty paid by mining companies working at a loss ?
It would, I know, be impossible for the Government to give effect to the proposition mentioned in the concluding portion of the communication, and, apparently, the best way in which to assist the mining industry is to revert to the duties previously in force. If Senator Needham will amend his request accordingly, I shall support him, otherwise, I shall have to submit another request.
– What does the honorable senator suggest?
– I desire the British preferential rate to be reduced from 40 to 27 J per cent., the intermediate from 50 per cent., to 35 per cent., and the general from 55 to 40 per cent.
Senator CRAWFORD (Queensland- Honorary Minister) [8.301. - After hearing Senator Needham and Senator Thompson, one would imagine that the
Government had very little desire to assist the mining industry, and that the whole of the machinery and appliances used in mining carried very heavy import duties. So that honorable senators may know the exact position, I shall quote a schedule showing the machines, appliances, and materials used in connexion with this industry in Australia which are admitted either free or at a low rate of duty. Goods provided for in the tariff are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 June 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1926/19260608_senate_10_113/>.