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Thursday, 18 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I listened with pleasure, until I was unfortunately called out of the chamber, to Senator Wilson, who was pointing out, for Senator Earle's benefit, that the Government proposal would mean an increased cost upon the particular kind of rail so largely used in Tasmania. Honorable senators are naturally solicitous about the interests of their own State. I am watching New South Wales' interests. In my State we use, and are the sole manufacturers of, the big heavy rail. Therefore I intend to support Senator Drake-Brockman's amendment, which is the nearest approach to my Free Trade ideal. If that is defeated or withdrawn, I shall support Senator Wilson's proposal to impose the same amount of duty on all classes of rails. What surprises me as much as anything else is that the Queensland senators, who have been so earnest in advocating high duties upon cane sugar and the other commodities produced in that State, are not equally alert to see that this item might possibly affect Queensland's producing interests, because the class of rail mentioned in it is, I should imagine, used extensively in the cane fields of the State for the purpose of conveying the cane to the sugar mills. But, of course, I have no right to complain if they are prepared to pay a higher rate of duty on rails. Is it necessary, in this item, to impose a higher duty than is levied on the raw material?

Is any more labour required for the manufacture of a light than a heavy rail? Up to the time that the metal reaches the furnaces, at any rate, the labour per ton is the same.

Senator Wilson - There might be a little extra cost in the production of a light rail, but I do not think it justifies the higher duty.

Senator GARDINER - I doubt if any extra labour is involved; but if there is, then it is balanced by the greater length of light rails produced from a given amount of metal. It would be as well if the Minister accepted Senator Wilson's proposal. The lighter rails are used chiefly in country districts; as, for instance, forconveying, in the case of Queensland, the cane crop to the sugar mills. They are also extensively used in mining operations throughout the Commonwealth.

Senator Lynch - Hundreds of miles of light rails are used for firewood lines in my State.

Senator GARDINER - Yes ; and I remember the case of one copper mine, where whetherit could continue operations depended entirely upon the price at which wood fuel could be brought to the mine. Therefore, if we put on a shilling here, and another shilling there, in the Tariff, we must add greatly to the difficulties of all engaged in primary production and industrial ventures. I can quite understand, of course, that this Tariff schedule, having been framed on scientific lines, the whole question of the weight of rails and the duty necessary for a light rail as against a heavy rail were fully considered, and that may be one reason why the Minister feels justified now in resisting any attempt to alter the schedule, even if the object be to make certain commodities cheaper to the consumer. I have been struck with the fact that in every case these duties fall very heavily upon the primary producers of this country.

Senator Wilson - I thought you said the other day that it was the wage-earner who had to bear the burden.

Senator GARDINER - The success of mining operations depends upon the working miner. Similarly the success of the pastoral and agricultural industries depends upon the agricultural labourer, the shearer, and other necessary employees. Therefore, the burden of unnecessary duties placed upon commodities required in these industries falls finallyon the men who are actually engaged in the work of production. Senator Earle seemed to complain that Protectionists were losing their grip of Protectionist ideals. Sooner or later they will have to realize that the whole of the wealth comes from the land, and if in this Tariff we put on a little duty here, and a little more weight somewhere else, the burden will soon become so heavy that those engaged in our great primary industries will be unable to continue.

Senator Rowell - And the man on the land does not always get the wealth that is produced.

Senator GARDINER - I thank the honorable senator for the interjection. I realize that he does not, and that is one reason why we should watch this Tariff very carefully. In it there are 480 items, and I venture to say that atleast 200 of themare taking a little more from the man on the land either directly or indirectly.. If we admit it as a sound proposition that the man on the land and the mirier produce the wealth of this country - and I claim that they do - and if we put on 10 per cent. here, 15 per cent. there, and 20 per cent. somewhere else, the primary producing industries of this country will eventually be crushed. I am afraid that the whole of ' the Protectionist building will collapse by Sheer weight of the duties imposed. Perhaps the Protectionists will not see it coming. I do not know where we will be then, but we shall have to begin again, and perhaps the business of reconstruction will not be in. the hands of people elected to a deliberative assembly, like this. I venture to say that when the crumbling comes the disaster will be like that of the temple which Samson destroyed, and perhaps in the destruction there will be more destroyed than we can now conceive. I am very much concerned about thisduty. I am concerned because it presses upon the mining industry, and I have to thank the miners for any introduction to parliamentary life,though not to this Parliament. Naturally, I have some regard for the people who first took me in hand in this way. I do not want to see that industry injured by this Tariff.


Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 8.80 p.m.

Request (by Senator Wilson) proposed -

That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (b), general, per ton, 75s.

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