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Thursday, 18 August 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I am sorry that Senator Lynch was not present when I moved my request. Had he been here at the time he would not have made the extraordinary, misleading, and untrue statements that he has made.

Senator Gardiner - Is that in order?

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - Order! An honorable senator has taken exception to the statement which has been made, and it is certainly not in order.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I will say the extraordinary, misleading, and incorrect statement that I proposed a duty of £17 per ton, or even of £10 per ton. In submitting my request I mentioned the fact that I have in my hand a quotation, dated 14th July, for galvanized iron at £32 15s. per ton, 8-feet lengths, 26- gauge, and £28 15s. per ton for ordinary lengths of 24-gauge.

Senator Gardiner - The honorable senator does not mean to say that those are correct quotations of values ?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am referring to a copy of an absolute quotation made by C. W. McLeod and Son, manufacturers' brokers and agents,Home Journal House, Kent-street, Sydney.

Senator Gardiner - Does the honorable senator say that galvanized iron can be obtained at that price in Sydney ?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am saying that this is a quotation for galvanized iron for indent, dated 14th July of this year.

Senator Lynch - F.o.b. London.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think so. I also mentioned that later, when there was a slump in the market 'and prices had fallen, on .the '3rd August another firm of brokers in Sydney quoted galvanized iron, cold rolled, close annealed, soft working up quality, as before the war - this was plain galvanized iron - :18-gauge, at £17 , per ton, -with variations in price according to .gauge, up to 24-igauge .at £19 per ton, c-i.f. and e., main Australian ports, sight draft basis. Now that he has heard these figures, Senator Lynch will absolve me from taking up what I admit would have been an extreme attitude, and asking for a duty of £17, or even of £10, per ton on galvanized iron. He will see -by the last figures I have quoted that on those prices .a duty of "25 per cent, would represent practically '£5 per ton. -Senator Lynch. - What would the iron quoted at £33 per ton cost, landed, including charges?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It would depend entirely on the freight, and of course the freight would put some pounds per ton on to the price. I remind the honorable senator that recently prices fell so rapidly in England that within three or four weeks after the first quotation there was another quotation for a different brand of iron, which was equal to 40 per cent, less than the first.

Senator Earle - r-The last quotation given by the honorable senator was " c.i.f .", and therefore included freight.


Senator Lynch - But for- a different quality of iron.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Tes, plain galvanized iron, not corrugated.

Senator Gardiner - The duties the honorable senator proposes would apply to corrugated galvanized iron, the selling price Of which is to-day practically £50 per ton.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is not a question of the selling price to-day, but of what this firm, owing to future developments, will have to put up with in the way of overseas competition. After my explanation, Senator Lynch .will see that the duty I propose would represent round about £5 per ton, and not the figures he indicated. I want to say that, so far .as wages are -concerned, I am -informed on irrefutable 'authority that -wages in this industry to-day are '25 (per -cent, higher than in England. I '.may add :that :the wages in England are on a sliding scale, and increase or -decrease with the price of the sheets. It is obvious that wages in England have been rapidly decreasing, in view of the rapid decrease in the price of the article, whilst wages here -have 'remained at an average level and have not been reduced.

Senator Lynch - How does the honorable senator explain away the evidence ;of Mr. Lysaght?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am talking of the year 1921, and of a period after .a world cataclysm, after a war which has upended not only economic theories, but a good many industrial .conditions .all' over the world. I should like to read to the Committee a letter which might have some influence upon honorable senators, or upon the Government. I quote it as showing the. actual position from the stand-point of the managing director of this company. He writes .to me under date 15th August, to this effect -

As . you have been good enough to interest yourself in the duty on galvanized iron, I am writing to let you know that after carefully going into our costs at Newcastle we find that the proposed duty of £3 12s. per ton will not be ^sufficient to enable us to profitably carry on the industry, and unless a higher duty .is imposed we shall, most reluctantly, be compelled to shut down our works. It should be sufficient, I think, to mention .that to-day's price for English sheet bars is £8 per ton, and spelter, £25 10s per ton, ' while we pay £14 15s. 6d. per ton, and £35 per ton respectively for these -materials. In addition, wages, acid, muriate, water, and rolls are also considerably higher here' than in England. At the time we decided to put down our works here, the slump in metal prices in England, on the Continent, and in America, was never anticipated, nor the fact that wages in these places would be . so drastically reduced. Had we considered this likely to come about, we should have deferred taking any steps until we had received assurance that an adequate duty would be imposed.

I .submit these facts to the Committee. My reference to .my honorable friend Senator Lynch is made more in sorrow than in anger. The position of the industry is a. most acute one, and I hope the Government will see their way clear to do something, .because the industry must .be preserved .and developed. There is a moral obligation on the Government to see it does not go under ;as a result of dumping competition.

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