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Tuesday, 16 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) .- In view of the fact that we are to meet to-morrow morning at 11 a.m., perhaps the Minister would agree to adjourn, at this stage.

Senator Russell - I think we should sit to at least 10.30 p.m. I have no desire to sit late,but we ought to come to a vote on this sub-item.

Senator GARDINER - The honorable senator should realize that some of us were travelling all last night.

Senator Russell -I think that the debate is practically finished.

Senator GARDINER - I have not spoken once on the sub-item so far.

Senator Russell - Some honorable senators have spoken four times.

Senator GARDINER - They are members of the Minister's own party, and, on behalf of my party, I am asking that progress should be reported. If we are to sit long hours, the schedule should be dealtwith correctly. I find that last year we imported into this country 178 tons of pig iron. As the duty proposed by the Government is £1 per ton, that would represent £178. Senator DrakeBrockman has submitted a request for a reduction of the duty by 5s. per ton. On last year's importations that would amount to a little more than £44, if all the pig iron came from Great Britain. If we have discussed for about six. hours a matter which involves a difference of only £44 to the iron industry in Australia, how long shall we take to deal with matters that count? I am personally rather glad that it was in New South Wales, under Free Trade, that the iron industry originally came into existence in this country. Struggling companies then showed that the iron industry established here could compete against the imported article, and then the Broken Hill Proprietary Company came into the business. Some honorable senators appear to have misunderstood Mr. Delprat's statement made when this company was going into the steel and iron industry that it could carry on without Government assistance or Customs duties. Although that Commission sat in 1914, it is probable that Mr. Delprat and the Broken Hill Proprietary people were considering, as far back as 1910, the conditions of the industry into which they proposed to invest their millions of money. I had an opportunity of coming closely in contact with Mr. Delprat during those years, and I am satisfied that before he made the statement quoted by Senator Lynch this afternoon - that the company could make good without Government assistance - every possible contingency had been provided for. Therefore, it is idle for the Minister now to quote international exchanges and a falling wage rate in Great Britain as reasons why this Protective duty should be imposed. All these matters, I venture to suggest, were taken into account by the shrewd business men who are prominently associated with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company. We need have no fear of any great dumping of iron and steel products in the near future.

Senator de Largie - Dumping has not commenced yet.

Senator GARDINER - And it isnot likely to commence. What would happen if the Labour Government in New South Wales and the Labour Government in Queensland were given millions of tons of iron and steel rails? There would be no interference with the Australian industry, but there would be a considerable stimulus in railway construction for the benefit of the primary producers of those States. I believe that we are going to have an AntiDumping Bill as soon as the Tariff schedule is out of the way, in order to prevent other countries from introducing valuable commodities into Australia. I could not help thinking, while listening to Senator Pratten, that he is losing faith in Protection, which, we have been told, would lead to the regeneration of the industrial workers, because Protection must now be buttressed by legislation to prevent dumping. I have witnessed two sad spectacles in Australia within the last two years. I have seen disabled returned soldiers begging in the streets of Sydney, and I have seen this big industry in New South Wales begging in this Senate for more protection ; taking the hat round, and asking the primary producers, who themselves have no protection against their competitors in the world's markets, to put a little in it for the assistance of this industry.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - And your party in another place fought for the proposal for several days.

Senator GARDINER - I realize that my party in another place and Senator Pratten think a good deal alike. And then, when I heard Senator Guthrie, of Protectionist Victoria, speaking, I could not help thinking that we are nearing the time when a. great number of people will realize that, just as we increase the Protectionist duties, so will we cripple the primary producers of the Commonwealth. My point is that Mr. Delprat, who, so far as this industry is concerned, is admittedly the ablest man in Australia, stated that it required no Customs duties and no Government assistance.

Senator Duncan - He has changed his mind, and is now asking for protection.

Senator GARDINER - Does Senator

Duncan say that Mr. Delprat is now asking for protection?

Senator Duncan - The company he represents is asking for these duties.

Senator GARDINER - I rely on Mr. Delprat's statement beforethe InterState Commission. If he has changed his mind since then, the Minister, who appears to have been pretty well prepared with his case for the duty on this item, should give . us the date when that happened. Judging by the balancesheets which Senator Lynch quoted this afternoon, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company are on a pretty good wicket, if they can pay 18 per cent., 19 per cent., and 22 per cent, in dividends, notwithstanding that they have not. yet completed the development of their plant and machinery.

Senator Lynch - The last dividend was on the production of iron alone.

Senator GARDINER - It is strange that honorable senators when talking about this industry should emphasize that production depends upon the labour employed. I have had an opportunity of looking over the plants, and I realize that production depends to a much greater extent upon the machinery employed. For six hours the Committee has been discussing a proposal to reduce, by 5s. per ton, the duty on pig iron, which is the raw material for manufacturing establishments throughout Australia. It is important to note that the New South Wales iron and steel works are not yet producing all the iron and steel required by the manufacturers in the various . States. Therefore, if we impose, duties to shut out importations we shall make it difficult for these various business concerns to get the quantity of the raw material required. With me, business is business, and sentiment is sentiment. It is, I think, to Australia's interest to buy and trade wheretrade is most profitable. If we do not operate upon these sound business lines, we can no more expect to succeed as a nation than an individual acting otherwise can expect to prosper in his business.

Senator Wilson - Would you buy labour in the same way ?

Senator GARDINER - Of course. The honorable senator may take it from me that there is hardly a business concern in Australia that does not operate upon the principle that as soon as a man's hair begins to turn grey, he must look elsewhere for employment.

Senator Wilson - If we acted on that principle, we would not have a White Australia.

Senator GARDINER - Nonsense ! The policy of a White Australia depends on the growth of our population and the selfreliance of our people. I am not, of course, referring to the self-reliance of industries that are begging this Senate for assistance. Take the Lithgow industries as an example. I asked a question the other day, and ascertained that the people of Australia had paid £209,000 by way of bonuses to the Lithgow iron and steel works. I think Lysaghts have also been paid about £23,000. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company did not require this' form of assistance, but I think they had an assurance that the ironmasters of the world would not be permitted to trespass upon their trading margins. The Minister knows that when we were obtaining rails for the east-west railway a good deal of information was obtained showing that, so far as the big firms are concerned, there is no danger of competition from outside with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company or any other large Australian corporation. If we want to make the Broken Hill Proprietary Company richer still we will, of course, go on increasing these duties. We will ask the people least able to bear the burden - the primary producers, who, by the way, produce most of the wealth of this country, and the wage-earners - to pay more. Senator Drake-Brockman took us back to the landing of Captain Cook in Australia. No one would have thought of attempting to establish the iron industry in Australia at that time, but when we have a population of millions the possibility of successfully conducting such an industry becomes apparent. In such circumstances industries grow naturally. It is the natural industries that we want. The " hothouse" industries which are constantly asking for assistance - assistance which has to be paid for by the workers of Australia - cannot expect to grow to the same extent. Those engaged in such industries constantly taunt the workers with " going slow." They tell them that they will not do a fair day's work, and that they are not like the men who used to work years ago. They are prepared to heap abuse on the workers, but when they are trying to squeeze a little more out of them - when they are asking the workers who send us here to give them more protection - they adopt a different attitude.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is the honorable senator opposed to all iron duties?

Senator GARDINER - I am not permitted to discuss the general question.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - Order! The honorable senator's time has expired:

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