Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Tuesday, 16 August 1921

Senator SENIOR (South Australia) . - I appeal to honorable senators to approach the subject from the point of view of common sense. Between £6,000,000 and £8,000,000 has been invested in this industry in Australia. That money has not been advanced for fun. Its investment has proved beneficial, not merely to the parties immediately interested, but to the country at large. Its expenditure has been in the wholesome direction of exploiting Australia's raw materials; and, in respect of this latter consideration, South Australia has benefited.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Parochialism once more!

Senator SENIOR - When honorable senators consider the statement of Mr. Delprat to the effect that the industry could carry on without the assistance of protection, they should not forget that those words were uttered when the company's mining interests at Broken Hill were flourishing. As for the criticism of parochialism, there are probably between8,000 and 9,000 employees concerned in the investment of the £6,000,000 or £8,000,000 just mentioned. They are not engaged in one particular State, and they do not include those indirectly concerned, for example, in the transport of ore and mining for coal. The national character of the iron and steel industry is forcibly brought home to one whohas made himself, acquainted with progress in Germany compared with 'the state of the industry in Great Britain prior to the war. \ Again returning to the investment of capital in Australia and to the employment of thousands of wage-earners in different States, it should not be lost sight of that the annual wages bill amounts to at least £1,750,000. If such a sum were distributed among the workers of Australia through any other industry the latter would unquestionably be ranked among the staple enterprises of the Commonwealth. To-day the Broken Hill Proprietary Company and Hoskins Limited are able to supply the whole of Australia's iron and steel requirements. Is such an industry to- be permitted to languish ?

Senator Drake-Brockman - Nobody proposes that..

Senator SENIOR - In the course of the debate it has been remarked that Australia has no need to fear the output of Great Britain. Upon that point the following extract from the Argus of 6th August is illuminating: -

According to a report issued by the Midland Counties Wages Board,' since January the price of finished iron has fallen to the extent of £13 per ton, the effect of which should bc a reduction of 80 per cent, of the amount paid in excess of pre-war rates on the wages of ironworkers. The North-East Coast Arbitration Board has reduced the wages of puddlers, forge and mill workers, to the extent of 47 per cent, of the additions to pre-war rates.

That shows that- the wages of ironworkers" in Great Britain to-day are only 20 per cent, above pre-war rates. "Will Senator Drake-Brockman still argue that there is no danger? Japan is stated to. have discovered a method of smelting magnetic sand by which- pig iron can be produced for £2 lis. per ton. Is there no danger from that source?

Senator Drake-Brockman - If the honorable senator cares to request an increase of the general rate from 40s. to 60s. per ton I shall support him.

Senator SENIOR - America has a reserve of something like £700,000,000. Although it is illegal in that country for companies tq enter into combinations for the exploitation of the home market, a combination is permitted by the Webb Act for the exploitation of export trade; and if the iron concerns of the United States of America combine and use the surplus of which I have just spoken, they can destroy the Australian iron industry, unless the Commonwealth Parliament stands, by it. It would be a serious thing: to let an infant industry like this besmashed.

Senator Keating - It is proposed only to reduce the British preferential duty.

Senator SENIOR - But it must not be forgotten that prices are rising in Australia, and that this increases the cost of producing iron here. Wages have risen; harbor dues have risen.

Senator Keating - Any rise in harbor dues would equally affect imports.

Senator SENIOR - The price of coal has risen by 4s. per ton. All these increases handicap the local manufacture of pig iron. I hope that honorable senators will not allow an industry which has been of great benefit to Australia to be destroyed. For a considerable period the construction of the east-west railway was hindered by the want of steel rails, and the work was finished only because we were able to obtain rails made in Australia.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Would it have hurt us if in those days, before the local iron industry was started, iron rails had been dumped here for nothing?

Senator SENIOR - There is a possibility of dumping, despite the Tariff. I believe, with the Minister, that the duties in the schedule will not prevent dumping,, and that unless we pass the AntiDumping Bill, the iron industry and other industries will suffer.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - The honorable senator's time hasexpired.

Suggest corrections