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Wednesday, 29 April 1936

Senator DEIN - There is no article of that nature in the agreement, and this fact was noted during the debate on the Ottawa Agreement, when we were assured that the powers of the parliament in relation to tariff making were not, by this instrument, being surrendered to the Tariff Board. I cannot accept the view that article 12 has any bearing whatever on the proposed new duty, which is lower than the previously existing duty. Under article 10 the Tariff Board was directed to compare the costs of manufacture in other countries with the cost of production in Australia; but no evidence whatever was tendered by British manufacturers. In the absence of such evidence how could the Tariff Board determine whether article 10 which deals with competitive costs was being implemented? Under article 11 the Government definitely undertook to review existing duties in accordance with article 10, and if necessary, to vary the duties. How can it be said that articles 10 or 11 have been infringed when no such evidence was tendered ? Further, it has been contended by some that articles 10, 11 or 12 have not been violated but that the spirit of the Ottawa agreement has been. What is the spirit of that agreement? I participated in the debate in the House of Representatives on the adoption of the agreement, and to me it appeared that the spirit of the agreement was the downward trend of our protective duties in order to allow competition from other countries of the Empire. Therefore, the action taken is not a violation of the spirit of the agreement, but is strictly in compliance with it. I supported the passage of the agreement in the House of Representatives, but I feel certain that when the cement duties are before this chamber I can vote either with the Government or against it, believing that whatever I do I shall not be supporting a breach of the agreement.

There are two factors which stand out prominently in connexion with the manufacture of cement or other goods. First, we must retain possession of the Australian market for the Australian manufacturer, and, secondly, the local manufacturer is entitled to the Australian market, but only if he is prepared to do the proper thing. According to the report of the Tariff Board and other information at my disposal, the cement companies have not played the game in the past. The Australian manufacturers should have a monopoly of the local market only if they are worthy of it. The cement manufacturing companies have not played the game, and have done exactly what a Labour Government encouraged them to do. This Government is doing the right thing, and in consequence of its fiscal policy generally, Australia is in a much better position to-day than it was when the Scullin Government was in office. I am not particularly interested in the cement duties and I propose to deal with them on their merits.

Senator Collings - Then we know which way the honorable senator proposes to vote.

Senator DEIN - I have an open mind on the subject. Reference has been made to the extent to which lobbying has been carried on in connexion with the duties on cement and other commodities. I have been approached by the representatives of importers and manufacturers. I realize that the representatives of all interests have the right to be heard. It was probably intended that the circular mentioned by Senator Foll, which is mere intimidation, should come into my hands, and I know that every alderman and councillor in local governing bodies in New South Wales has been urged to watch how the votes were cast. Some persons wish me to do a certain thing, but I hope to do what is right. That circular is a clear instance of intimidation, of which

I entirely disapprove. I shall follow the debate on the cement duties very closely, and the case which appears to have the greater merit will receive my support.

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