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Tuesday, 16 August 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - I wish to say briefly that I intend to support Senator DrakeBrockman's request. I do not want my action to be interpreted as in any way unfriendly to this great industry. I am justified in saying this, because when I arrived in this Chamber some fourteen years ago, I supported a policy which some other members of the Senate then deliberately opposed. I am glad to think that in the whirligig of time, though I shall not refer to the causes operating upon them, those honorable senators have come to see that if Australia, in the familiar phrase, is to be self-contained and self-supporting, we must have protective duties. While admitting that, I am not going to the extreme of giving two doses to a patient when by all rules of common sense it is obvious that one would be sufficient.

I have heard the iron industry referred to as a key industry. I remind honorable senators that a key has a double significance. It may be used for locking just as effectively as for unlocking. To the unfortunate individual who is locked up on insufficient or false evidence, a key has a very sinister significance. I believe that many of the excessively high duties imposed by the Tariff will serve the purpose of very effectively locking up much of the latent wealth of this country. I would not willingly aim a blow at an industry like the iron industry. My speeches and votes in this Chamber prove the truth of that statement. But when I examine the claim put forward for increased duties on behalf of the industry, I consider it a positively weak one. I should like to say that, in regard to this and every other industry affected by the Tariff, wo sadly lack authoritative up-to-date information. We have evidence that was collected before the war, some seven years ago, in what may be regarded as normal times. We have evidence collected during the intervening period, which might be used, some for and some against, the imposition of high rates of duties. The last speaker told us that consumers of iron in Australia were saved £6,000,000 through the philanthropy of the Newcastle ironmasters, who permitted them to obtain iron at a much lower price than that at which they could have obtained it from other countries.

Senator Russell - I did not say anything about philanthropy. I said they had treated us fairly.

Senator LYNCH - We have been told that because of what the iron and steel masters of Australia did during the war the consumers of iron and steel in this country benefited to the extent of £6,000"000.

Senator Wilson - You are not disputing that statement, are you?

Senator LYNCH - I am inquiring into the why and wherefore of this remarkable statement, and I turn to that official document, issued by the Government but of which they take very little notice, namely, the return of imports and exports in relation to these particular commodities. I find at the beginning of the war period 1915-16, bur imports of bar, rod, and angle iron amounted in round figures to £938,000. In 1916-17 the figures rose to over £1,000,000; and in 1917-18 they dropped to £340,000; in 1918- 19 they rose to £373,000; and in 1919- 20 they rose to £5.00,000. But it should be remembered that this industry, which Ave are told is now languishing for want of more protection, was also exporting iron and steel pro-, ducts. I find that for the same quinquennial period, our exports of rod and angle iron of the same dimensions were - 1915-16, £12,000; 1916-17, £140,000;

3917-1S, £96,000; 191S-19, £272,000;

1919-20, £227,000. This was all native stuff, turned out in Australian factories.

Senator Russell - Mostly mining machinery.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Can you tell the Committee if your figures include machinery ?

Senator LYNCH - They include rod and hoop iron, ingots, and bar iron.

Senator Russell - Hoop iron is not made in Australia, so that item must represent re-exports.

Senator LYNCH - I have been particularly careful, in this matter, to see that my feet are on granite all the time. All the hoop iron exported could have been carried away in a dray, the. total being only £13,000 in value. The balance of exports, bar iron, ingots,, and such products, were being exported on an ascending scale during those .years, and the imports, as I have shown, were less than in 1915-16. I think, therefore, that we are justified in inquiring into the reason for this extra duty. I do not want to injure the industry. As a matter of fact, my vote has always been given to sustain it, and I intend to do the same on this occasion if it can be shown to me that it is in need of further protection. In this- matter, I prefer to accept the opinion of those interested in the industry at the time. They are coming forward now, at the eleventh hour, appealing for protection. I do not blame them. It is likely that they have been influenced by the manner in which the Tariff schedule was put through another place, where requests for duties of 40 per cent, and 55 per cent, were so readily acceded to. No doubt, these men said to themselves, " If these duties are being ladled out like this, might not we be in it too?" We have received a lot of correspondence on this particular subject from experts in the industry. I suppose I can consider myself five-sixths of an expert in the business, because for practically the whole of my life I have been not a " wheat-grower," as I am so often called, but a wheatsower, using the implements produced by our manufacturers in iron and steel. I am associated with an industry, to assist which I would go to the utmost limits consistent with conserving the public interest. In 19'15 Mr. Delprat, the mouthpiece of those concerned in the iron and steel in dustry, in his evidence before the InterState Commission said -

I had a Conversation with Mr. Hoskins with regard to these proposed duties. I have gone into these matters, but have not made any application for duty. One of the reasons why X did not is that when I started the industry I told people that if I could not live without any extra duty I would not go into it at all. It was after I had made my estimates I said that [ made my estimates on ordinary market conditions.

Mr. Delpratdid not go into the industry rashly. He would not have been where he is, on the topmost rung of the ladder, and recognised as a captain of industry in this country, if he had entered into any industrial operations rashly. During the debate in another place the Government were asked if a request was made by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company for additional protection, and the answer was an unqualified "no." Therefore, we are entitled to ask on what ground this duty is now being imposed if it has not been asked for by the people directly concerned, and who, we may assume, are the best judges as to whether it is required or not. The Government, apparently, acted in obedience to and in consonance with the generallyexpressed desire for a Protective policy. But it is putting an extreme and unwarranted construction on public opinion. That is not my policy. I do not feel disposed to support any Protective duty unless it is wanted. High Protective duties, if their effect is not to encourage those concerned in an industry to make the best use of their opportunities, may work lasting injury. The keynote to success in any industrial enterprise is healthy competition.

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