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Tuesday, 5 May 1936

Senator BADMAN - Yes, but I am prepared to say that of the importations of new cars not 5 per cent, are purchased by farmers, and most of the cars they own are ten or twelve years old. The farmers to-day are doing their best to repair their old models ; they are also doing their best to keep the obsolete machinery in commission, because they cannot afford to replace it. The Tariff Board has recommended that the duties be reduced by 20 per cent, and 25 per cent. I remind honorable senators that the Government has already voted between £12,000,000 and £15,000,000 during the past four or five years for the assistance of wheat-growers, because low prices and high tariffs have impoverished them. Surely this item affords them another opportunity for aiding the harassed man on the land. The Australian farmers are patriotic citizens ; very few of them do not use machinery manufactured in Australia. The Australian industrialists, knowing local conditions, are able to construct suitable machines, in accordance with the advice of their experts. Moreover the artisans who manufacture the machines put their best work into them ; in my opinion farm machinery manufactured in the United States of America is not equal to the Australian article. . I consider, however, that the Australian farmer should be given an opportunity to purchase his machinery at a cheaper price. The Leader of the Opposition is constantly harping on the subject of employment. I believe in providing as much employment as possible, and I consider that if the cost of producing these machines were reduced, as recommended by the Tariff Board - and the Government should have considered the matter from this angle- sales of them would advance, and employment would be considerably increased in the factories of H. Y. McKay and Company and others.

Senator Collings - Allowing cheaper machines to be imported is a peculiar way of increasing employment in Australian factories.

Senator BADMAN - The Australian farmer will not buy imported machinery if he can secure the Australian machine at a reasonable price. If the Australian manufacturer is obliged to compete with imported machinery, he must reduce his price, and that will be of benefit to the farmer. The increased demand, which I venture to say would follow, would give more employment in the factories. That is the desire of the Leader of the Opposition. Whenever there is a chance of a factory using greater quantities of raw materials grown in Australia the Leader of the Opposition advocates that Parliament should assist the primary producer. Last week we discussed maize as the raw material of glucose ; to-day we discussed cotton and cotton goods, and the Leader of the Opposition pleaded the case of the primary producer as a reason for maintaining a high tariff. An opportunity has now arisen for us to assist the primary producer as well as the manufacturing industry, and in addition, create more employment. No less an authority than the Tariff Board has recommended the adoption of the course pf action we are advocating. The Government has rejected the recommendation while insisting upon the acceptance of the recommendations of that body on other items. The Minister stated that only two countries, would benefit from the reduction of duties on farming machinery, and spare parts. Does he think that Australia would not benefit if our farmers could reduce their costs of production? The honorable gentleman omitted to mention the total imports of farm machinery from America during the last ten or twelve years. Senators E. B. Johnston and J. B. Hayes reminded us that Australian farmers have to compete with farmers of Canada and the United States of America, and it is therefore to our interest to help them to do so on an equal footing by enabling them to purchase their requirements at a reasonable price. They have to sell their products in the world's markets.

Senator Dein - That is why we have subsidized them in recent years.

Senator BADMAN - I wonder if Senator Dein has read the 1929 report of the Tariff Board. If not he should do so, because it contains some interesting information regarding the incidence of the tariff. It shows that the protection to our secondary industries costs the community not less than £5 a head.

Senator Collings - What is the cost to the community of financial assistance given to our primary industries?

Senator BADMAN - In the five or six years during which assistance has been given to our farmers, the total sum received by them has been nothing like the assistance given to our secondary industries in the form of tariff protection. It has not yet reached £20,000,000, but secondary industries have received a benefit of £30,000,000 per annum for a long period.

Senator Dein - Has the honorable senator endeavoured to work out what Australian consumers pay for the protection of our primary industries?

Senator Collings - There is 6d. per lb. on New Zealand butter to start with.

Senator BADMAN - .Surely Senator Dein will agree that consumers in Australia should pay for their primary products an amount equivalent to that paid by consumers in other countries? Economists who have examined the position are agreed that the consumer of wheat in Australia has an advantage of ls. a bushel over the consumer overseas, and that the Australian wheat-grower is entitled to receive that ls. a bushel on the wheat used for home consumption. We should remember also that, with the exception of the United States of America, Australian farmers have to pay higher wages than overseas competitors. A reduction of the duties on farm machinery is fully justified in order to give our producers a reasonable chance of competing in markets overseas. I admit that the larger manufacturing concerns stood loyally by our farmers during the distressful years of depression, and I know that many firms lost hundreds of thousands of pounds. No doubt they feel that it would not be unreasonable if they were permitted to enjoy a little longer the existing measure of protection in order to have a chance to recover their losses. But the interests of the users should be considered. If our farmers, through a lowering of the tariff on agricultural implements, can obtain their requirements at a more reasonable price and are thus able to cheapen their costs of production, the people generally will share in the benefit.

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