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Thursday, 18 August 1921


Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) . - With all due respect to the Minister I cannot quite agree with him when he says that these articles are all made in Australia. All we use are not made here, as is proved by the fact that the Fremantle municipality recently required some rails, and as these could not be obtained from Newcastle;, they had to be imported from Great Britain. The class of rails required by the municipality is not the class regarded by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company as that which Fremantle ought to use. The particular class of rail that is required is not manufactured in Australia, but the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, with all the arrogance of monopolists, have, as I say, laid down what they consider the standard that should be adopted. The class of rail required is the grooved, which is the British rail. It is perfectly true that when it was discovered by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) that this particular class of rail is not made in Australia, he allowed, as a matter of grace, a consignment to come in free of duty. There is, however, no guarantee that he will do likewise on every occasion, nor is there any guarantee that as sane a Minister will always be in charge of the Department. I am not sug gesting that the Minister for Trade and Customs is altogether sane in submitting these extremely high duties, but on that particular occasion he did take a reasonable attitude. What we require in Australia is the opening up of the country, and an absolute essential for this is railways. The more cheaply we can construct railways the better, as I am sure honorable senators, including even Senators Pratten and Duncan, the high priests of high Protection, will agree. There has been an increase in this duty from 17s. 6d. per ton, in the case of Great Britain, to 35s., or 100 per cent., and in the general Tariff there has been an increase from 25s. to 75s., or 300 per cent. This means another tax on the development of Australia. If these high duties were serving any useful purpose there might be something in the arguments of the high Protectionist. But in the case of a recent tender, the price submitted by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company was £20 10s. per ton, and the freight from Newcastle to Fremantle added another £3, making the total price £23 10s. per ton, while the price of the successful tenderer in Great Britain was £16 7s. 6d. per- ton, plus £1 15s. duty, making the total price £18 2s. 6d. per ton. We have not, therefore, afforded that protection to our Australian industry which some honorable senators desire. All we have succeeded in doing is to make it more expensive for Governments and private companies to construct railways for developmental purposes. That being so, what is the object of this duty? I am sure the Government do not desire to obtain revenue from the States in this way. These duties are imposed, I presume, to protect an Australian industry; but, according to the most recentcontracts let, they have completely failed to do so. In order to afford that protection to the Australian company which some honorable senators consider necessary, the British preferential duty would have to be increased to83s. per ton, and I do not think that any one contemplates doing that. As the proposed duty of 35s. per ton is useless for the purpose for which it is imposed, I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, per ton, British, 17s. 6d.

I' shall subsequently1 move1- to reduce the other- rates proportionately.

SenatorPAYNE (Tasmania) [5.481,.- The Committee should' very carefully consider this item, because rail's and railway material have a very great bearing on the future development of Australia. As Senator Drake-Brockman has said, development in many parts of the Commonwealth has been retarded owing to the excessive cost of rails used for railways and', tramways,, which are necessary for developing certain areas. A few weeks ago, when evidence was being taken by the Tasmanian, Public Works Committee while inquiring- into the advisableness of connecting a very rich agricultural area with the main- line by a light line of railway,, the Engineer-in-Chief of the State put the whole position in a nutshell when he said -

The cost of 40-lb. rails before the war was f6. 10s. per ton,, f.o.b. English port; and today rails from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company cost f 17 per ton at port of shipment.

The difference between the two prices proves conclusively that the development of Australia is being retarded. The activities of State Governments are controlled by the funds at their disposal, and in Tasmania, where the contour of the country is such that railway construction is expensive, development has been hampered owing to the excessive cost of steel rails. The 40-lb. rail has been used extensively in Tasmania; but on some of the more important lines the lighter rails have now been replaced by those of a heavier weight. The development of our timber areas has also been retarded; because light rails are also required there for tramways. By the duties proposed in the Tariff, those portions of the Commonwealth in which light rails can be. successfully used will be penalized because the higher duty is imposed on the lighter rails. I do not think I can go as far as. Senator Drake-Brockman, who advocates a reduction of the British duty to 17s. 6d. per ton,' because we have to consider the industry which has already-been established on a firm basis. We must afford protection to a certain point.


Senator Drake-Brockman - I quoted figures to show that recent contracts disclosed that the British rate now imposed does not give any protection at all.

Senator- PAYNE.- If tine Australian manufacturers are unable to compete with manufacturers abroad because the protection is inadequate, the position is altered.


Senator Drake-Brockman - T.o enable them to compete, the duty would have to be. increased' from 35s. to 83s. Why should' the development, of the country be interfered, with?







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