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Wednesday, 17 August 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) . - I am afraid Senator DrakeBrockman is labouring under a misapprehension in moving for an extension of two years. The time at which the proposed duties will come into operation ' depends upon when the manufacturers will be in a position to supply the Australian requirements. During the war period, when raw material of this type was particularly scarce, a representative of the firm of Lysaghts paid a visit to Australia to inquire into the conditions then prevailing. Prior to that time sheet iron had been selling at £15 and £16 per ton, and as large supplies were required for the erection of wheat sheds, and we could not obtain British iron, we had to purchase an inferior article from America at prices ranging from £55 to £60 per ton. When a representative of the British firm came to Australia, we gave him information concerning our requirements, and after fully considering the matter, and hearing representations from the Board of Trade, he submitted an estimate of the time required to produce plate and sheet iron. After further consultation and investigation, the firm expended £100,000 in estab lishing a plant in New South Wales, and commenced the manufacture of sheets for making galvanized and corrugated iron. When production commenced the Government granted a bonus based on shipping freights. When freights on black steel sheets were 50s. or under, we allowed a bonus of 30s. per ton, and when the freight exceeded 50s., a bonus of £1 10s. per ton v was paid, less the amount by which the freight exceeded 50s. per ton. When the freight on galvanized sheets was £2 10s. or under, we paid a bonus of £2 per ton, and when the freight exceeded 50s. per ton, a bonus of £2 per ton, less the amount by which the freight exceeded £2 10s. per ton.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - As the freights came down the bonus was increased?

Senator RUSSELL - Yes. Protection is based on the ruling freights. The firm is now producing a fair quantity of iron, and is, I believe, able to meet our ordinary requirements. When the proposed duties are imposed, the payment of bonuses will cease. I am informed that since the 1st May last the company has been in a position to supply the whole of our requirements of galvanized and corrugated iron. Senator Drake-Brockman has submitted a request to extend the period from 1922 to 1924, but the whole question is governed by the rapidity with which the firms' works can be completed. They failed to do what was promised within the period first suggested, but we saw that they were honestly endeavouring to carry out their undertaking. We have declined to put the duty into operation until they are in a position to meet Australian requirements.

Senator Lynch - The Minister is referring to the manufacturers of black sheets ?

Senator RUSSELL - Yes.

Senator Lynch - The honorable senator has been referring to galvanized iron, which is not covered by the item.

Senator RUSSELL - That is so; but the same firm has been making galvanized iron. It is proposed that the duties set out in the schedule shall come into operation on the 1st January, 1922. If the firm in question is not in a position to supply the reasonable requirements of Australia for this material, the duty will be further deferred.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Who will defer it?

Senator RUSSELL - The Minister for Trade and Customs. .

Senator Drake-Brockman - He cannot defer it.

Senator RUSSELL - Yes. "He "has the power to decide when the duty shall be brought into operation.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Where is he .given that power.?

Senator RUSSELL - The honorable senator will find that it is contained in clause 11 of the 'Customs Tariff Bill which w.e are now considering. That clause provides that -

If 'the Tariff Board certifies to the .Minister that any goods .in the schedule upon which a' deferred duty 'is imposed 'will 'not be 'made or produced in Australia in .reasonable quantities and of (satisfactory qualify, .on .or immediately after the date specified :in the schedule for the collection of the duty, the Minister .may, by notice published in ihe '^Gazette, < defer the duty from time to time until the date ' specified -by the Tariff Board as being the by which, in its opinion, .the goods will be .made or produced in Australia, in reasonable quantities and of satisfactory quality.

Senator Keating - Then it will depend on the Tariff Board. Surely the proposal with respect to the Tariff Board will not be given effect, in view of the way in which the Tariff Board Bill has been mutilated by the Senate.

Senator RUSSELL - I do not know that it was mutilated.

Senator Keating - One could scarcely recognise the Tariff Board after the mutilation of the Bill by the Senate, as that' provided for under the Bill as received by the Senate.

Senator RUSSELL - There was very little mutilation df the Tariff Board Bill by the Senate, although I admit that many attempts .to mutilate it were made. The measure still stands.

Senator Keating - It is a totally different Bill from that which was received from another- place.

Senator RUSSELL - I can assure senators that if the manufacturers are not ready to carry out the virtual contract which was .made with them, the operation of these duties will be suspended, if .not by .the intervention of the Tariff Board as provided for in this 'Bill, then "by some other means. If the "Tariff Board is not in a position to deal with the matter, the 'Government will accept the responsibility of deferring the operation of these duties if, in >order to do so, it may be necessary to submit the matter to Parliament. The firm to which I have referred is extending its buildings, and putting in a plant costing many thousands of pounds, and the Government will take no action which might lead to the destruction of an industry the establishment of which in Australia has been due to the encouragement they held out. We are glad to have this important industry established in Australia. If it had been established long before it was, we should have saved an immense amount of money which .had to be spent upon imported galvanized .iron during the war period. Under the Government proposal these materials were to be free from Great Britain and dutiable in the intermediate and general columns respectively at 5 and .10 per cent. 'On and after the 1st January, 1922, subject to the manufacturers complying with the condition to which J have referred, of ability to supply reasonable quantities, plates and sheets up to and including l-16th inch in thickness will be dutiable at - British, 65s. per ton; intermediate, '82s. 6d. per ton; and general, 100s. per ton. As the Tariff was first introduced, plates -and sheets exceeding l-16th inch in thickness were free from Great Britain, and dutiable in the intermediate and general columns at 5 "per cent, -and 10 per -cent, respectively; and on 'and after the 1st January, 1922, it is proposed that they shall be dutiable 'at, -per ton, British, 4'8s. ; intermediate, .68s. ; and general, 85s. 'We promised these people that if they established their industries here they would receive a bonus .during the transition period, and when they were in a position to supply these goods in reasonable quantities we would give them the protection of Tariff duties. Some honorable senators may suggest that that has the appearance pf .a prearranged -affair, but we were .compelled to make such arrangements during the war period in order to make provision for necessary supplies. I would not be prepared to support such arrangements in 'normal times, but we had. to do "many "things during the war period that -we' would not do under normal conditions. 'We. committed ourselves to a promise of "their -protection -if these people, established their industry here; Australia has greatly benefited by the introduction of the millions, of. capital that has followed upon the inducements offered to important British firms, to establish industries here. The firm to which I have referred has rendered very important service to Australia, and, whilst the Government will see that they do not secure the benefit of a duty until they are entitled to it under the conditions which have been agreed upon, we will keep our promise to these people by , a direct appeal to Parliament if we cannot do so under' this. Bill. On the 1st May, 192.0, British steel sheets were quoted for export at from £46 to £47 15s. per ton.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - The honorable senator's' time has expired.

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