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Wednesday, 17 August 1921

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) .- My honorable colleague from Western Australia (Senator Lynch) has a few more observations1 to offer, on this question,, and I am sure' we shall.' be glad to give him an opportunity to make them.

The CHAIRMAN - I ask the honorable senator not to make any allusion to a. desire on his part to hear further observations by any honorable senator who has just resumed his seat; but to address* himself to the question immediately before the Chair.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I have every intention of addressing myself solely to the question, immediately beforethe -Chair.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) -. - And fully?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - No, it is rather late ; and if. I were to set out once more to' speak for the man on the land, I should certainly be able, with- the assistance of Senator Lynch and Senator. Guthrie, who are equally well posted; on: the subject,, to keep the Committee going until the early hours of the morning. I am not going, to accept the challenge : of the Leader , of. the- Senate to-' tell- all I: know regarding, the lot of the- unfortunate man on. the land, and. the- effectwhich this wretched Tariff will have on him.. I confess* that I am rather interested in this question of fencing wire. I am, to a certain extent, a property owner, and my personal experience withregard to the purchase of wire since the war has not been a very happy one. Let me tell of one incident which occurred during my absence on active service, and. which serves to illustrate the gratitude of some people, at all events, to those who . do their duty to their country. I have a . small property in Western Australia, and. shortly before the war had. spent something like £2,000 on fencing, wire for it. I decided when I went on active service that, if I left the fences, where they stood, they would still be there when I came back. I made a mis- take. While I was . away, fencing wire became scarce and expensive, and when I returned I found hardly a yard of the £2,000 worth of fencing wire that I had put on my property. I still owned the property, and, as I wanted to do something with it, I began to inquire the price of wire to replace . that which I had lost. And whereas before the war it had cost me about £16 per ton . to purchasethe wire and have it 'delivered on . my property, which was some way . out, . I found that . it would cost me . £65 per ton in Perth beforeIstarted to shift it. . That was my experience . on my 'return from active service. With respect toportion of this land, I have done what Senator Guthrie has done with some of his property - I have got rid of it, and have left it to some other " mug " to pay the enorrnous prices involved in fencing the property in order to bring it into use. 'The wire which I bought in Perth before the "war cost me about £12 per ton there, whereas in 1920the price was £65 per ton, I believe that in Perth to-day it is about £40 per ton. Western Australia, from an agricultural point of view, is less developed than any other State, and it is in the interests of Australia that it should bo developed. It is impossible, however, to develop it, having regard to the absurd prices that we have to pay for all commodities - tools of trade, fencing wire, machinery, and everything else required by the man on the land to-day. The State which I have the honour to assist in representing is a very considerable producer of wheat, and it is a conservative estimate that it will produce at least 100,000,000 bushels of wheat per annum.

Senator Lynch - Ninety million bushels is the official estimate.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - Yes ; and that, I am assured, is a very conservative estimate. Western Australia is not yet producing, anythinglike that quantity, and unless the encouragement given to the man on theland is greater than that which has been given up to date - unless we alter this Tariff very considerably - that estimate will neverbe realized. I am sure that the prophecies ofSenator Guthrie with regard to what is going to happen to those on the land within the next two or three yearsare well founded. Insteadof encou raging the use of our vacant land, we are making it more difficult. We pay attention to our secondary industries, . and sacrifice our primary industries. -There is a great deal . of tails . about key industries, which are said . to be . absolutely essential if we are to make this country great. Is it not much more-necessary -to get people into the Common-wealth if we are to retain it? .

Senator Plain - What will you do with the immigrants" when "you get them here?

SenatorDRAKE-BROCKMAN.- We will put them to the work of making proper use of the country.

Senator Plain - In what directions?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - In the production of wheat, wool, and meat, and in the working of our mines. We have in this country some of the greatest mineral areas in the world; but the protective duties we keep on. adding to all the items required in mining operations, and all the commodities consumed by those who are- engaged in working in mines, have made the cost of mining so' increasingly great that,, as an industry, it . is ceasing to exist in Australia. The gold mines of Western Australia are on the verge of ceasing to exist for this reason.

Senator Bolton - Principally on account of the industrial -question ?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - Not principally, only partly. It was the last straw that broke the camel's back. Why should we apply the last straw by loading our primary industries with that little extra burden which makes it impossible for them to carry on? It is said that we cannot possibly reduce the duty on this item, because we have already fixed the duty on the raw material at 44s. It is to be regretted that we were so foolish as to agree to that rate of duty, but because we have made a mistake already, are "we to make another mistake now? Senator Guthrie's request is exceedingly moderate. I would 'have supported a reduction to30s., or even a proposal to wipe out the duty altogether.

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