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Wednesday, 17 August 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I do not intend to go back on my determination regardingthe great iron industry of Australia. So far as my vote is concerned, it shall be given fair protection against the cheap labour of foreign countries, and no dumping shall destroy it. The Tariff schedule of the United States of America, protecting the iron industry there, has been interesting to study. In volume,tonnage, strength, and world-wide ramifications,the iron 11014 Customs Tariff . [SENATE.] Bill. industry of the United States of America has attained a greater degree of production than that of any other country.

Senator Senior - Since the war. Germany was first before the war.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I will not argue concerning whether or not Germany was first, but during the past ten years the volume of iron produced in the United States of America has been greater than the production of any other country, and the progress of the industry's development has been extremely rapid. Forty or fifty years ago, the output of iron and iron products in the United States of America was negligible. In 1874 very heavy import duties were imposed, for the first time, upon iron.

Senator Drake-Brockman - What was the population about that period ?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Probably between 50,000,000 and 60,000,000 people.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Can a fair comparison be made with Australia, having a population of 5,000,000 ?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes ; but our distance from the world's markets, and our geographical position in relation to the Pacific, make it much more urgently Accessary for Australia to be selfcontained with respect to iron production than is the case with any other country. With respect to the duties decided upon by the United States Congress, in order to build up an industry which to-day is of vaster dimensions than that of any other nation, the rates imposed in 1890 upon iron of a value of from 3 to 4 cents. per lb., amounted to £7 9s. 4d. per ton. There was, in addition, a super duty of 1 cent per lb. - another £4 per ton. The Tariff imposed in 1909 on the same item was a reduction upon that of 1890. Still, however, the duty was equivalent to £5 2s. 8d. per ton. As the industry developed and became more self-supporting, Congress, in its wisdom, began to reduce the duties; until, to-day, America is an exporter against the whole world, and the imposition of duties would not help her for the reason that her iron industry requires no measure of fiscal encouragement.

Senator Lynch - If the honorable senator were to give particulars of the duties in the United States of America, when that country was as old as Australia now is. the comparison would be more intelligible.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have given particulars of the rates imposed before the iron industry had been established. It is obvious that by the imposition of duties the industry was created. And it has so flourished, meanwhile, that it has become self-contained. So far as my individual efforts may go, I desire to help Australia to follow that excellent example.

Senator Lynch - The honorable senator is not quoting existing duties in the United States of America.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have just pointed out that, as an outcome of the imposition of duties, the industry has grown so strong that no such form of encouragement is required to-day. With the materials which Nature has given to Australia, the iron industry can be developed in this land, and it may so expand within a decade or so that Australia should become, comparatively, as strong in relation to her iron industry as the United States of America. Of course, with a population of 6,000,000, the industry cannot be expected to grow so rapidly or to the dimensions existing in a country which has a population of more than 100,000,000. Something has been said with respect to the drift to cities. Such a thing is regrettable, but it is going on all over the world.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Why accelerate it ?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not at all sure that this Tariff will do so. The development which is taking place in regard to Australia's woollen industry is in the country and is spreading over the Continent. The iron industry is responsible for the formation of expanding centres outside of the big cities. There are numbers of other industries which will tend to decentralize the population as an outcome of the encouragement afforded by this Protective Tariff. All these factors will almost entirely counteract any drift to the cities which is now occurring owing to circumstances over which the Commonwealth Parliament has no control. I have certain fixed principles. One of them may be stated thus : I shall do everything in my power that will safeguard and develop the secondary industries of Australia. It is just as important to get a ton of iron out of Mother Earth as it is by grow a ton of wheat or wool upon Mother Earth.

Senator Rowell - But no one is asking for a duty of £4 per ton on wheat or wool.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If such a duty could be, it would be imposed. But what this Committee is now discussing is really the question of producing further wealth from the soil, and the undoubted fact is that the more we can produce the more independent shall we become, and the better will it be for Australia. In the course of dealing with items yet to be reached, I propose to set down in terms of pounds, shillings, and pence what the Tariff will mean to the farmer. And, if Parliament is found to be imposing undue burdens upon producers, I shall be agreeable to try to devise some means by which such imposition - it may be called an extra tax - can be reduced.

Senator Lynch - The farmers will have the honorable senator's sympathy, but not his votes.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - My votes shall be cast in the direction of giving fair play to the farmer. No country was ever1 great unless, besides its primary activities, lt possessed practically self-supporting secondary industries. No country ever became great by way of agriculture solely. While primary production amounts to the greater part of the total production of Australia, this Committee . will not be justified in " hitting up" every secondary industry, which also produces wealth from our own soil.

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