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Friday, 19 August 1921

Senator WILSON (South Australia) .- I move-

That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties, ad val., British, 15 per cent.; intermediate, 25 per cent.; general, 30 per cent.

This request means a reduction of 5 per cent, in the general and intermediate columns, and of 7i per cent, in the British preference column. It cannot be said that I am taking what has been described as a "geographical stand," because the destructive effects of these high duties are felt all over Australia. It is, indeed, difficult to understand why duties, any duties at all, should be placed on items of this character. If I had my way, or thought it possible to get my way, I should move for much larger reductions. ' I realize, however, the stand that the Government are taking in regard to the Tariff, and also the stand taken by the Minister (Senator Russell). I further realize that, in view of the great information and assistance that honorable gentleman receives from the officials behind him in the corner, it would be difficult to persuade the Senate, as at present constituted, to reduce the duties on such commodities as are now under discussion. I desire to use this item as a means of testing the attitude of the Committee with regard to duties on articles which are of the utmost importance to agriculturists, horticulturists, and primary producers generally. The Commonwealth has spent some millions of money in protecting aud assisting the sugar industry in Queensland, but, at the same time, heavy duties are imposed on machines and appliances which are designed to cheapen the handling of "the cane.

Senator Russell - That is because such implements are made in Australia-

Senator WILSON - 1 shall deal with that phase of the question later. Only this morning I had brought under my notice a practical illustration in a machine which would greatly decrease the cost of production, but which, owing to the absurd character of the Tariff, is unprocurable. That, of course, amounts to simple prohibition.

Senator Russell - To what machine is the honorable senator alluding?

Senator WILSON - A stone cutter. Implements and machinery used in primary production, and all other purposes, must be the very best, irrespective of where it may be manufactured. It is a question of results. It may be that some of these machines which I have in my mind are made in Australia; but if, for Instance, a great improvement is made on a machine in America, it ought to be procurable here at a reasonable price. Even if the machines are made here, -we know as commercial men - or, at any rate, some of us know - that when an opportunity is given by the Government to put prices up, prices go up, and remain there. To speak with perfect candour, I can say that, personally, I never saw an opportunity to- make a fair and legitimate profit without taking advantage of it. However, the primary producers, for whom I am. speaking more particularly now, must have the very best implements and machines. Amongst the articles under this item is the channel-making grader, largely used on river flats in the preliminary work of intense culture.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If we protect the sugar grower, why not protect the man who makes the machines?

Senator WILSON - The honorable senator will have his opportunity to express his views, and I undertake to meet any objections he may raise to my attitude on this question. These graders are not made in Australia, and thus the man who desires to turn waste lands to profit able use is faced with heavy duties. I am speaking of these items individually, because the Minister seems to have an opinion that they are merely small side issues hardly worthy of consideration, and I desire to impress on the Committee how important they are to the man on the land. Garden and field spraying machines are amongst the implements that are made dutiable. Does it 'not seem ridiculous that those whose interest and duty it is to fight and abolish diseases and pests, should not have at their disposal, on reaonable terms, the very best appliances available? Senator Rowell, who is a greater authority than myself on this subject, will doubtless have something to say, and he will tell the Committee that this is no mere local or ' ' geographical ' ' question. These machines are required in the apple districts of Tasmania, and in every other State of the Commonwealth, and duties on machines that can accomplish so much good are a direct menace to production generally. Garden and field rollers and garden hose and reels are made here in Australia, but the next item that strikes my eye is that of syringes, a great variety of which is necessary to all engaged in primary production. The man who scientifically and energetically fights diseases and pests in his garden is doing a great national work. In South Australia, some few years ago, an Act was passed under which the Government sent around men who disinfected the fruit trees throughout the State. In my own case, these Government officials put a tent over the top of the trees, and made a good job of it - so good a job that never since has there been any fruit on the trees worth picking. The work of fighting these pests and diseases is, I repeat, a national one, but the growers ought to be allowed to do it themselves.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The blighting influence of Protection !

Senator WILSON - The case I have cited, whatever the honorable senator may think, was one of absolute destruction. Under this item the Commonwealth Parliament is asked' to indorse a duty of 22^ » per cent, upon, perhaps, the best make of stump extractors the man on the land can secure. There are millions of waste acres in Australia, much of which countryshould be cleared and put under cultivation ; but the clearing is laborious work. The Government have stepped in and precluded freedom of choice in the selection of the farmer's tools of trade. A severe handicap - probably something in the nature of an embargo -has been placed upon British machines. The South Australian Government are offering £10,000, I understand, to the inventor of an implement which will effectively deal with shoots. That bonus presents one side of the picture. The other side is revealed in the rates of duty imposed upon item 161. Is there any industry in Australia more clearly entitled to practical assistance than that of dairy farming? Dairy farmerswork seven days a week. The cows do not " let up " on them, even on Christmas Day. Some varieties of milking machines do not dry off adequately. The man who uses them, knows exactly what he wants, and what different machines will do. Good machines are made in Australia ; but if the dairy farmer considers an imported line better, why should the Government restrict his choice?

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