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Tuesday, 16 August 1921

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) . - I hope ' that Senator Drake-Brockman will nob persist in his amendment. In my opinion, the duties fixed by the House of Representatives give a fair and reasonable protection to the iron industry. I do not wish injustice to be done to that or to any other industry; but the House of Representatives has struck a happy medium in this instance, and, therefore, I should like to see the item remain unaltered. The Minister has drawn attention to a measure of legislation, the Anti-Dumping Bill, which, in my opinion, is likely to do more for the salvation of the industry than any increase of the protective duties.

Senator Buzacott - But the Government cannot get it through the other House.

Senator DE LARGIE - That will be seen later. It is the policy of the Government to prevent dumping. Nothing could be more easily dumped here than pig iron, rails, and other iron products. But I think that the Anti-Dumping Bill will prevent such dumping. I would remind those who ask for higher duties for the protection of the iron industry, that in Australia this industry gets its raw materials as reasonably as they can be obtained in any part of the world. Indeed, there is no country where iron ore can be obtained as good and as cheap as it can be obtained for the ironworks at Newcastle and Lithgow. The great Iron Knob in South Australia is a mountain of firstclass iron ore. In the Old Country iron ore is mined for in thin seams in th» bowels of the earth, but in South Australia good iron ore. is simply quarried out.

Senator Bolton - Has it not to be carried a long way?

Senator DE LARGIE - I understand that there is up-to-date transport, as is to be expected with men like Mr. Delprat at the head of the iron industry. At the same time, I would not reduce the duties. I do not look, upon our iron industry as a thing of the future; I regard it as already established, and I wish to maintain it. It will have to face keen competition within the next few years, and the Tariff is being fixed, not for one year only, but for a period. It is to be expected that the prices of iron material will come down. Therefore, to reduce the duties would be a wrong step. It is to those who ask for an increase of the duties that I have pointed out what good and cheap supplies of iron ore we have. We have also good and cheap coal. There are few countries with which we cannot compete successfully in regard to coal.

Senator Drake-Brockman - We send it to Sweden in competition with the coal of Great Britain.

Senator DE LARGIE - It is a mistake to think that the Old Country has everything athand for the manufacture of iron. On the contrary, she draws much of her raw material from other countries, and, as I have said, the seams of iron that are mined there are thin, and the ore inferior, containing phosphorus, to get rid of which special treatment is necessary. This Government can take great credit for what it has done for the Australian iron industry. Not only has the Commonwealth Parliament voted bounties for the manufacture of iron, and imposed high duties for the protection of the industry, but the Government has assisted by its purchases.

Senator Duncan - The Government bought a good deal of iron material from the local mills more cheaply than it could1 have got that material from other countries.

Senator DE LARGIE - When Mr. King O'Malley, then Minister for Works in the Fisher Government, contracted for a supply of iron rails from the Broken Hill Company, he was giving that company a preference, because, had he bought in the open market, he would have paid less.

Senator Duncan - But during the'war we got locally made rails more cheaply than rails could have been obtained from abroad.

Senator DE LARGIE - It is proposed to impose a duty of 40s. per ton in the general Tariff upon imported pig iron, and, as Senator Duncan knows, it is not many years since pig iron was being made at that price, even with out-of-date plants.

Senator Gardiner - What is pig iron worth now ?

Senator Russell - Belgian pig iron from £5 to £5 19s. a ton; that from the United States of America from £5 15s. to £6 5s.; and that from the United Kingdom from £6 15s. to £8 a ton.

Senator DE LARGIE - Those are very high prices, which we cannot expect to continue. In the Old Country iron workers are highly paid. At one time they were not well paid, but to-day they are better paid than ever before in the history of the industry. The iron workers of the United States of America are, perhaps, the most highly paid iron workers in the world. They are much better paid than our own iron workers.

Senator Gardiner - I saw a report a few years ago which stated that in the iron trades of the United States of America the men were working seven days a week.

Senator DE LARGIE - That must have been many years ago. If you read the speeches of Mr. Samuel Gompers, the United States Labour leader, you will find that the wages of the iron workers of that country have increased, though, at one time, when the price of iron products was very low all over the world, these men were not well paid.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The wages paid at Newcastle are much higher than those paid at Pittsburg.

Senator DE LARGIE - Then they will have to come down, because the iron industry in Australia cannot afford to pay more than is paid to-day by the iron industry of the United States of America.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.

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