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Wednesday, 17 August 1921

Senator SENIOR (South Australia) . - Some important facts are being overlooked. Honorable senators declare that it is their desire to do that which is just; but, directly an industry begins to draw about it a group of individuals, a charge is laid that an unhealthy concentration of the population is, being encouraged, and the industry responsible is branded, as not being of a primary character. The production of iron is as much a primary industry as the production of apples, or wheat, or wool. It is the raw material upon which other industries depend, just as wheat is the raw material on which the miller and the baker must rely.

Senator de Largie - Then everything is primary, and nothing is secondary ?

Senator SENIOR - What is primary in one man's view is a finished product in the case of another. When coal mining was begun at Newcastle, the countryside was barren; few people lived in the neighbourhood. To-day, however, Newcastle is a city. When gold was discovered at Ballarat, there was no city of Ballarat. The population followed, and grouped around the industry. The effect of the inauguration of the iron industry has been to open up mining activities in Tasmania and South Australia; and if Western Australia should develop similar deposits of iron ore, and should there be coal discovered in that State, Western Australia would undoubtedly become a rival of the eastern States.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Waa not the Iron Knob deposit, in South Australia, worked before the opening of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company's steel works at Newcastle-?

Senator SENIOR - Yes, but not for the manufacture of iron. The deposits were drawn upon for flux. Iron Knob became material to the development of Broken Hill, and mining at Broken Hill was, and is, a primary industry. Senator Lynch has described what occurred in 1916, but he knows that4 the conditions ruling to-day are different from those which existed five years ago.

Senator de Largie - What is the difference?

Senator SENIOR - At present the cost of production in Belgium, Japan, and America has fallen considerably.

Senator de Largie - Has the honorable senator perused the prices?

Senator SENIOR - Yes. I have considered the cost at which these countries can land their products here, and I know what America is capable of doing.

Senator de Largie - What is the price of bars, angles, and tees?

Senator SENIOR - The American quotation is three or four dollars less than it was twelve months ago, which means that American manufacturers will be able to land their products in Australia more cheaply than they have been able to do in the past. I desire to see the Aus. tralian iron industry in a position to compete with outside manufacturers; but I do not wish it to be protected to such an extent that it will be able to raise its prices to the Australian consumers.

Senator de Largie - Are these articles cheaper to-day than they were in 1916?

Senator SENIOR - No; because in 1916, even if the prices had been exceptionally low, foreign manufacturers could not enter into competition with Australian manufacturers owing to the scarcity of freights. I have carefully considered the figures relating to our output, and as our production is within 300,000 tons of our consumption I do not think we are justified in increasing 11016 Customs.Tariff [SENATE..]. Bill. the duty. On the other hand, if we reduce the protection already provided we shall be placing foreign manufacturers in a position to dump. The Tariff will not prevent dumping to the extent that the proposed Anti-Dumping Bill will. America can land iron here cheaper than we can produce it, and in the absence of adequate protection to our' own iron industry we would be largely at the mercy of the producers in Japan and in America. I cannot support the request submitted by Senator Duncan, because. I do not believe increased duties are necessary, and I have yet to be convinced that it would be wise to reduce the proposed rate.. Reference has been made to the disabilities; experienced by primary producers in consequence of the duties imposed to protect local industries; but it must be remembered that owing to the improved methods of cultivating and harvesting the costs incurred by the primary producer are much less than they were some years ago. In addition to the advantages derived from the use of modern implements the primary producers have also benefited: by improved carrying and marketing facilities. Farmers have now gone further afield, and we have to seriously consider at this juncture whether, in imposing duties, we are to follow those who are developing country on the outer fringe. If such important undertakings as the iron industry are squeezed out of existence," others will follow, and we shall then be depending upon the products of foreigners, which, in effect, is the policy of Free Traders.

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