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Wednesday, 17 August 1921

Senator RUSSELL - No, it was held over. It may not be re-introduced in the same form, but it is the intention of the Government to bring down a measure at a later date.

Senator Bolton -That is the definite intention of the Government?

Senator RUSSELL - Yes; but I am not committing myself to the exact form. Conditions may not be normal for a year or two, and in the meantime we shall have to legislate accordingly, and, incidentally, to keep in view the difference in exchange. I am glad to be able to report that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company has now succeeded in producing more of these articles than we previously consumed. In 1913, a record year, we imported 2,633,847 cwt., and for the following years the figures were - 1914-15, 1,667,000 cwt.; 1915-16/1,728,000 cwt.; 1916-17, 1,329,000 cwt.; 1917-18, 293,000 cwt. ; 1918-19, 276,000 cwt. ; and 1919-20, 367,000 cwt. The production for Australia in 1920 was 2,264,666 cwt., as compared with 2,633,847 cwt. imported in 1913. Australia is to be congratulated on her production, which shows that the industry is now firmly established, and is able to meet the local demand. As I mentioned last night, the duties imposed on pig iron regulate to a large extent those which are to be levied on iron in manufactured form. In 1920 the Broken Hill Proprietary Company were charging £17 10s. to £21 for round and square iron, whilst the United Kingdom's price on 1st May, 1920, was £26 f.o.b., and the United States of America's price on 2nd March, 1920, was £21 13s. f . o.b.

Senator Lynch - And those are the countries against which you desire to protect the Australian industry.

Senator RUSSELL - It must bere- membered that the American Steel Trust is the strongest Combine in the world, and it would be an easy matter for it to reduce the price in order to capture the Australian market.

SenatorLynch.-I thought for the moment that it was Senator Gardiner who was. speaking.

Senator RUSSELL - Senator Gardinerand I. agree upon many questions. I believe with him that givena reasonable opportunity, and freedomfrom unfair or unnatural competition, Australia can produce iron and steel with any. other country in the world, and certainly our workers are well able to do their part. The price of angle iron in Australia was from £19 to £20 per ton, and in the United Kingdom £29. For tees the prices were respectively £23 and £29. per ton.. Conditions have changed in recent.times, and the alterations in the matter of exchange have revolutionized the position. That can be dealt with only by another measure. The object of the Tariff proposals is to, tide us over the transition to normal times. As a consequence of the. changing conditions, it may be found necessary to review the Tariff more often than has been the case in the past.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - How does exchange affect the matter?

SenatorRUSSELL. - It enables foreign countries exporting to Australia to undersell Australian productions by reason of the differences in the value of currency. I do not know whether the honorable senator wishes to sidetrack me into a discussion upon rates of exchange, but if so I am not prepared to follow his lead.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - We used to be told the' difficulty was dumping, but now we are told that it is exchange.

Senator RUSSELL - We. want to prevent dumping, which may be attempted by reason of the difference in rates of exchange. Taking the duties: on pig-iron as a basis, the proposed duties on bars, rods, and tees exceed the duties on pigiron by about 100 per cent. There is a sufficient reason for this. In August, 1914, American prices for basic pig-iron and steel bars at factory were respectively $13 and $26.43 - a difference of over 100 per cent: In January, 1919, the respective values were $30 for pig-iron and $60.48 for steel bars, representing again a difference of over 100 per cent. In March, 1920, the respective values at factory were $41.50 and $78.40, a difference of approximately 90 per cent. Honorable senators will see that' the duties proposed in the schedule are regulated by the difference in price in the world's market between pig-iron and' iron in more advanced, stages of manufacture. The difference in duties represents a fair adjustment in view of the difference in value of the articles covered by the twosubitems. The increased duties on this subitem represent a reward for the extra labour put into the more advanced manufacture.Onthe1stMay,1920, British small steelbarswere quoted at £26 per ton, and on this value, with the addition of the statutory 10 per cent. the rate of duty proposed, 44s. per ton, is equal to 8 per cent. Estimating that the price will fall by 50 per cent. within the next two or three years - which I regard as somewhat optimistic - the. proposed rate would be equal to only 16 per cent On the 2nd March, 1920, the American f . o.b. quotation for merchant' steel bars was $84.44, equalling £21 13s. at the rate of exchange on 17th June, 1920. On this price, after the addition of the statutory 10 per cent., the rate of duty proposed - 80s. - is equal to17 per cent. Honorable senators will see, therefore, that these duties are not very high.

SenatorDuncan. - They are not high compared with the duties which America imposes.

Senator RUSSELL - They are based on the work involved in each stage of manufacture. I ask the Senate not to attempt to meet the difference in exchange by any adjustment oftheseduties, because we purpose dealing with that matter as effectively aswecan in another measure. We have not yet got back to normal conditions of industry, and we must makesome provision for the transition stage. When normal conditions have been reached, it may. be found necessary to review many of these duties.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - We shall never have normal conditions under this Tariff.

Senator RUSSELL - That may be the opinion of the honorable senator, but it does not help the debate. I have given the reasons which have guided the Government in proposing these duties. It 11006 Customs Tariff [SENATE.] Bill. is believed that they will help to maintain an industry which was established by the courage of those engaged in it atthe most critical period of Australia's history.

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