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Wednesday, 9 June 1926

Senator McLACHLAN (South Australia) . - No one disputes the desirability of making this country as self-supporting as possible; but I am not concerned with that at present. Nor am I concerned with " stinking fish," or the policy of the South Australian

Government, or whether the trucks used on the South Australian railways are sufficiently roomy. An expert in railway matters has been appointed Chief Commissioner of Railways in South Australia. Whether he is an engineer or not is of little importance, because he has at his disposal engineers as capable as some of those gentlemen in Victoria for whom Senator Findley has so much regard. Apparently the methods adopted by Mr. Webb in South Australia have commended themselves to an enlightened section of people in Victoria, because in 1924 Mr. Ashworth, Mr. Stamp, the Superintendent of Locomotives, and Mr. E. Dillon, the Superintendent of Locomotive Supplies in Victoria, were sent to America to study the latest developments in railway matters. On their return they reported that the United States of America was far ahead of other countries in railway matters, and that it was essential that in Victoria larger train loads should be drawn by the locomotives. The Minister might well say of Senator Duncan, " Save me from my ally," because that honorable senator raised again the argument that the reason for the imposition of higher duties was the better wages paid in Australia, fail to take into accouut the fact that, even allowing that 50 per cent, of the cost of these locomotives represents wages, and that Australian rates are double those paid elsewhere, there is still a large discrepancy between the prices asked for by the English manufacturer and those of the local tenderer. Realizing that the Minister, in this instance, has assumed that the difference is due to there being not sufficient work in Great Britain to keep the factories going, I point out that a reduction of duty on this item will interfere with no existing Australian industry, because no engineering establishment in Australia is capable of manufacturing the larger types of locomotives procured by the South Australian Government. Australian workshops will have to provide additional equipment if they are to cater for the growing necessities of railway traffic. Some honorable senators seem to think that, in assisting these State departments, we shall act detrimentally towards our secondary industries. I point out to them that Senator

Hoare, when speaking of the assistance which had been granted to our primary industries, referred to our railway services as a secondary industry. Senator Findley spoke in the same strain. In 1922-23 the South Australian railways handled a total freight tonnage of 3,284,360 tons. Of that, 2,378,411 tons, or approximately 73 per cent., represented primary products - wheat, manure, firewood, coal, 'coke, ores, wool, live stock, and so on. The balance of 27 per cent, probably represented manufactured goods. It will, therefore, be seen that the bulk of the revenue of the South Australian railways is derived from primary products.

Senator Lynch - And what about the requirements of the primary producers?

Senator McLACHLAN - They are also largely carried by the railways.

Senator Findley - The Australian consumer pays the freight on all the primary produce consumed in the home market.

Senator McLACHLAN - The primary producer cannot pass anything on. That is one difficulty which all protectionists encounter. Increased wages and protective duties can be passed on by those engaged in secondary industries, but the primary producer must take world's parity for his goods. I challenge the Minister to show that these heavier locomotives can be commercially produced in Australia.

Senator Crawford - Locomotives have been commercially produced in Australia for many years.

Senator McLACHLAN - Apart from these heavier locomotives, the Australian workshops now make all the locomotives required in Australia. But they cannot make locomotives of the type recently imported by South Australia. That is my whole case. That is why I urge the reduction of duty. I am not concerned with the nationality of the man who manages the South Australian railways, or of the men who were sent to examine the American railway system. But I am concerned that our State railways, which, in the future, will have to face even greater opposition from road carriage than that which at present, confronts them, should be loaded with this additional duty. I urge the committee to vote for the request which I have moved.

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