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Wednesday, 17 August 1921

Senator DUNCAN (New South Vales) . - I move-

That the House of Representatives be re quested to make the duty, sub-itemc, general, per ton, 120s.

I do not propose to increase the duty against Great Britain, or that in the intermediate Tariff column. Yesterday, when we were discussing the duties provided for in sub-item a, certain honorable senators held strongly that it was not desirable to place upon the manufacturers of Great Britain a further handicap than that imposed by the schedule as it stands ; but the opinion was freely expressed, and I think rightly, that we should take all care, that German iron and steel should not come into this country.

Senator Bolton - Any duty on German importations affects American importations equally.

Senator DUNCAN - It is German importations that we have most to fear. If honorable senators will consult the statistics of imports before the war, and bear in mind the growth of the German iron and steel industry, they will realize that the danger we have to fear is the competition of German imports coming direct from that country, or through Belgium.

Senator Keating - Germany has not now the iron resources which she had before the war.

Senator DUNCAN - She still possesses huge iron resources, and, as figures which I quoted yesterday, which were accepted by honorable senators who were opposed to me then, clearly show, the cost of production is materially falling in. Belgium. The Committee has decided that pig iron shall be admitted at as low a rate as possible, and that no further restriction than that in the Tariff as it stands shall be placed on British imports of pig iron. But we should insure that our consumers, if they are not desirous of purchasing Australian iron, shall buy British iron. It is not the duty of the Committee to encourage the foreigner at the expense of the local manufacturer, or at the expense of the British manufacturer. We should see that our manufacturers are protected by proper duties, and our next consideration should be for those of the Homeland. It was pointed out yesterday by honorable senators that the iron trade of Great Britain is now passing through a period of depression, and that that depression is likely to be accentuated in the near future. It is from Great' Britain, therefore, that we are likely in the near future to draw our heaviest supplies of iron. We should, then, give that country a substantial preference by practically prohibiting importation from other countries, if we cannot supply our own requirements. I am confident that we shall be able to supply most of our own requirements, and the fact of British importations competing with the output of local manufacturers will insure to the local consumer reason able prices. Australians do not want to favour Japan. I pointed out yesterday that Japan has recently come into possession of a new system of producing the raw material which may revolutionize the market.

Senator Lynch - When does the honorable senator propose that this country should begin to trade with Germany?

Senator DUNCAN - -Not in the present connexion, at any rate; and not until finally driven to do so. It was due to Germany's vast resources, and to the huge industries which Australia, by heavy importations, had assisted that country to build, that our late enemy was able to hold out for so long during the recent war. The dreadful facts of that situation convinced me that I, at least, should never take any action to again assist Germany to rebuild her enterprises in order that she might once more, perhaps, embroil the world. The time is bound to come when, in certain directions, Australia must trade with Germany ; but, for the present, Australians should not be desirous of encouraging Germany to fegain her lost trade. "We should be far more ready to establish our own industries, and to assist Great Britain to readjust her industrial affairs after a period in which all her energies were devoted to war purposes. My request, if agreed to, will insure that, so far as our own requirements cannot be met by local manufacture, the necessary importations shall come from the Mother Country. If Great Britain is not able to furnish the demand- the time will then have arrived to seek elsewhere. Several Melbourne manufacturers waited on me only yesterday. They use the materials under consideration in their iron works, and they are as desirous as any one to give preference to British manufacturers. But they fear the competition of the foreigner with his cheap labour and, in many directions, his cheaper raw materials.

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