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Thursday, 18 August 1921

Senator EARLE (Tasmania.) ?. - I cannot support Senator Drake-Brock-mE.n, who has submitted a request for a very drastic reduction in the- British preferential duty.

Senator Drake-Brockman - The increase is drastic.

Senator- EARLE.- It is. It is useless to> quote1 prewar duties and the prices which, prevailed prior to the establishment of .the industry in Australia, because the- costs of manufacture have increased' by from 75 per cent, to- 100: per cent:

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) -brockman.- But what about this year's contract's?'

Senator EARLE -.- It is possible to arrange contracts overseas, including dutyand freight, at prices lower than those ruling here; but that has nothing to do with our efforts to establish the industry in Australia-. I cannot understand1 the speeches delivered- by some Protectionists in this chamber. Many of them would be . all right if delivered by Senator Gardiner. I have heard Senators Guthrie, Lynch, and one or two others whipping themselves into a fury about increased duties, and protesting that the full amount of the ,duty is passed on as -an -extra charge to the consumer.

Senator Wilson - -"So it is, always.

Senator EARLE - It may be for a time; but the object of Protective duties is to secure the establishment of industries in Australia, and when they are established here we can control them. Honorable senators should recognise that if they destroy an Australian industry, those who use its products will have to depend on foreign manufactures for their supplies, and we have no control over foreign manufacturers. If 'honorablesenators destroy the Australian industry for the manufacture of steel rails, our State Governments, private contractors, and mine-owners will have to depend upon some foreign manufacturer, over whom we have no control, for the steel rails theyrequire. Our people can control the local manufacturer, and if they do not do so the fault is their own. If local manufacturers charge exorbitant prices, it is within the power of Parliament to control their prices. I want to see all these industries established in Australia. I am optimistic ' enough to believe that before very long the people of the Commonwealth will insist upon having the power - and so long as they had it they would never need to exercise it - to prevent the exploitation of the consumer by local manufacturers because of the advantage given to them by protection against importers.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Has not every State Parliament that power? :Senator EARLE. - Yes; 'but the honorable senator overlooks the fact that, in some matters, it would be difficult for the State Governments to exercise the power. The manufacture of steel rails, for instance, is confined to New South Wales, and 'Governments of other States would probably find it very difficult to control prices charged by a New South Wales company. I am assured by a Customs officer that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company is prepared to .manufacture the lighter steel rails.

Senator Duncan - They turned out 55,000 tons of them last year.

Senator EARLE - - The honorable senator is referring to the total output. I -am speaking of rails under 50 lbs. in weight. I am1 most concerned about rails of 25 lbs. weight. ' They are generally used, though some mining propositions use 1'2-lb. rails. The 25-ib. rail is very much used for mining and timber-getting. If the company has the machinery installed, and is in 'a position to undertake the manufacture df these light rails, I am prepared to ask the users of the rails, for the present, to make some sacrifices in order to build up the industry. I have no hope that these steel rails will be manufactured m Tasmania', but I contend that if the New, South Wales works are closed up, Tasmania will have to depend -upon some one in Great Britain, America, or somewhere else, to manufacture the rails she requires. I do not desire to see Tasmania or Australia placed in such a position. I am prepared to ask the people of my own 'State to pay a little more if necessary at the present time for the steel rails they require in order that this Australian industry may be maintained, in the full hope that the time will come when these rails will be manufactured in plenty in Australia, and at a reasonable price.

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