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Thursday, 18 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) .- The Minister (Senator Russell) tells us that there is being established in Sydney a factory which will be able to produce these goods and on that ground he asks us to agree to a request that, although the item has hitherto been free, the goods covered by it shall, from a certain date, be dutiable at the rate of 25 per cent, ad valorem under the British preferential Tariff. I venture to say that this is a wholly unreasonable proposal. If there is any metal which of recent years has come into more general use than others it is aluminium. The growth of its use has been remarkable. I do not know of the extent of the factory that is commencing operations in Sydney, but I think that we should at least impose the condition that these duties shall not come -into operation until that factory is, or others are, in a position to supply the whole of Australia's requirements in this respect. Why should the people of Western Australia, for instance, have to pay a duty of 25 per cent, on imports of these materials from Great Britain merely because of a desire to protect one factory in New South Wales which is about to commence operations. No one will say that this one factory will be able to supply the whole of Australia's requirements, nor with quite a number of such factories, shall we be able to meet the local demand for some time to come. Here we have another illustration of the way in which wellorganized sections of industry can reach the ears of the Ministry. I can conceive of no more pernicious principle than that . under which ' the Legislature gives power to a Minister to say when a duty shall come into operation. Such a system may place the responsible Minister quite unjustly under suspicion. The Parliament alone should impose or. remove duties. In the good old days of which some people love to talk there were men who would have been delighted to have such a power as we are giving to the Minister in this case.. The principle is utterly wrong.

Senator Senior - Does not the honorable senator think it would be better to encourage the industry in its initial stages hy means1 of a bounty?

Senator GARDINER - A bounty would be the lesser evil. I prefer bounties rather than Protectionist duties. In a widespread community such as ours it would be better to assist a growing industry by means of a bounty than by the imposition of protective duties since, until the industry so protected is able to supply the whole of our requirements, people are forced to purchase imported goods, and to pay the duties levied upon them. I know that members of the present Government are quite above suspicion - I make that statement in all seriousness - but I do not think any Minister should be exposed to such a temptation as this system offers. There might come a time when a Minister would make use of such a power as this to his own advantage. I have read quite a number of articles on the corruption which the Tariff of the United States of America has produced. I do not believe that there is any more corruption in the United States of America than there is in Great Britain or Australia, but American writers would -lead those unacquainted with American people to believe that almost every American is a lobbyist looking for concessions and ready, if necessary, to pay for them. If we give power to the Minister for Trade and Customs to impose or withhold duties the lobbyists will be in perpetual employment.

Senator Keating - Not the lobbyists, but the departmental trotters.

Senator GARDINER - Yes," we shall have departmental trotters wearing out the carpet on the back stairs to the Minister's room. We know that there are lobbyists watching the passage of the Tariff through the Parliament, and who desire to see it shaped to suit certain industries. They do not approach me, because they know what my fiscal views are. I know of no body other than the Parliament itself which could exercise the power of withholding or imposing duties without being open to suspicion. Under such a system as is to be provided for in this case we might have trade rivals saying that the Government give advantages to some and disadvantages to others. This pernicious system will give rise to a suspicion against our governing authorities whoever they may be. I do not think we shall ever have other than a Protectionist Government in power in the Commonwealth, and it should be left to the Government of the day to submit to Parliament the duties which they consider necessary to protect our manufacturers. I should like to ask the Minister whether these deferred duties will come into force when the Sydney factory starts to produce these goods, or whether it will be withheld until the local industry is capable of supplying the whole of our requirements.

Senator RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - These duties will not come into operation until there is a commercial supply for Australia. We must be reasonably sure of a full supply of goods for the Commonwealth. There may be a dozen factories.

Senator GARDINER - I should like the Minister to give some facts and figures showing what factories he anticipates will be established by the date fixed, lie capacity of such factories, the number of hands likely to be employed, and the amount of material likely to be turned out.

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