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Tuesday, 23 August 1921


Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - In the course of the discussion it has occurred to me that those who favour a reduction of duties in some direction on agricultural machinery and implements, used almost exclusively by the man on the land, are entitled to be shown, if possible, at all events, some reasons for continuing a, comparatively speaking, high duty. Like Senator Thomas, I wish to deal as fairly as possible with all interests concerned in item 161, and the four or five similar succeeding items; but while doing that, I, as a convinced Protectionist, am not prepared to do anything to smash necessary secondary industries. If we are imposing an undue handicap on the men who are struggling on the land, I would prefer to see some legislation - some national backing for his primary products - in the direction, for example, of a guarantee should the world's parity be against him. I wish to be a consistent Protectionist, and, at the same time, to endeavour to play fairly by the primary producer. My mind has been searching for some way of solving the difficulty by way of a compromise; something which will not bear unduly harshly on the primary producer, while providing minimum safeguards for our secondary industries. The fact of having industries established in Australia has meant very considerable savings to the producer.It was pointed out in the course of debate last week that, in one direction alone, in New South Wales, some 4,000,000 bushels of rain-beaten wheat had been saved. That total represented the difference between the figures quoted by the State Minister for Agriculture as the possible loss and the loss actually incurred, thanks to the rapid. manufacture and distribution of an invention for the special purpose of saving the raindamaged crops. What reason is there for raising the rates of duty under the present schedule which was not applicable in 1914? I have endeavoured to analyze the importations of implements during 1919-20. In the course of that fiscal period the value of importations was more than £500,000. Those figures have to do with " churns, cream-separators, chaffcutters, corn-shellers, drills, harvesters, metal parts, mowers, testers, and n.e.i." - all implements concerned practically with agricultural activities. There has been a very serious diminution, however, in the output of agricultural machinery in Australia, and there has been a serious lack of employment. The Minister (Senator Pearce) said that there were more than 1,000 less workmen employed to-day than a few years ago.


Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - The number of those growing wheat to-day is also more; than 1,000 less.


Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If that is so, the position is actually worse than I had thought; for, according to figures just supplied to me, the value of the importations of agricultural and horticultural machinery for the year ended 30th June last amounted to no less than £918,000.


Senator Pearce - An increase of nearly 100 per cent.


Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes; but Senator Guthrie says there was a smaller area under cultivation.


Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Not this year ; therewas a big increase during this past year.


Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then, the honorable senator cannot have it both ways. No wonder that many hundreds of men are out of work, and that the output of local factories has diminished as a result of these huge importations. So far as I have been able to analyze the importations for 1919-20, they amounted to 25 per cent. British, 40 per cent. Canadian, 20 per cent. United States of America, 121/2 per cent. Swedish, and 21/2 per cent. from all other countries.


Senator Payne - Then the imposition.. of the duties has not affected imports.


Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Apparently not, seeing that the duties which, this Committee is now discussing have been in operation since March of last year. What is the National Parliament to do? On the one hand there is the insistent and righteous demand of the man on the land to be able to secure his implements at the lowest possible price; and, on the other, there is definite information that importations last year were twice the value of those for the preceding year, and that the output of Australian factories and the number of hands employed have considerably decreased. The value of the output for 3919-20, as compared with that for 1913, was 20 per cent, less, despite the higher prices charged in 1920 compared with those ruling in the earlier year. The volume of output, therefore, has very considerably shrunken. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) showed, also, that the value of the materials used during 1919-20, as compared with 1913, was more than 25 per cent. less. Some reduction of duty might be made, I think, so far as the British and intermediate rates are concerned. But, in view of the operations of the International Harvester Company, which is practically a huge American Combine seeking to get this continent as well as every other part of the world in its octopus grip; and, in view of the probably early renewal of trade with Germany, I shall not record any vote which may make it easier for the Combine to put its stranglehold on Australia, or for Germany to compete in this country with locally-manufactured goods, or with the products of British factories. Seeing, however, that there is a general consensus of opinion - in which I share - that the man on the land shall receive as fair a deal as Australia can afford, it might be well to reduce the ad valorem rates set out in the preferential and intermediate columns, particularly as Canada may some day enter into reciprocal arrangements with the Commonwealth. But the general Tariff, since it will apply again to Germany, and does, at this moment apply to the United States of America, should not be altered. It should not be forgotten that the Government of the latter Republic is not favorably inclined by word or 'deed to permit the importation of Australian products. If any Australian fruit is sent to America, the ten dency is at once, to proclaim some mysterious pest or disease, so that our products shall be prohibited from entering. ' If Australia desires to export wheat or wool to America, every effort ia made to block the intention. Americans want to sell to us as much as they can, and to buy from us as little as they possibly can. I have no desire to facilitate trade in the interests of the International Harvester Company, or to encourage the resumption of trade with Germany.







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