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Friday, 19 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - As I desire to move a prior request I ask if Senator Wilson will consent to temporarily withdraw his motion ?

Request, by leave, withdrawn.

Senator GARDINER - I move-

That the House of Representatives be requested to make : - Agricultural, horticultural, and viticultural machinery and implements, n.e.i. ; including cane loaders, cane un- loaders, and cane harvesters; channel-making graders; garden and field spraying machines; garden and field rollers; garden, hose reels.; garden syringes; horse road rollers and machines - free.

I trust that Senator Wilson will move subsequently, as he has indicated, in respect of a reduction of duty upon any machine remaining in the item such as, for example, milking machines. I am speaking at this moment under the strain of a severe shock. I realize that my splendid isolation in this Chamber, as a Free Trader, has departed. Senator Wilson has uttered one of the finest Free Trade arguments ever hear.d in the Senate. He has urged that Protection retards civilization. He holds that the man who uses the machine should be the best judge as to which make, and whether local or imported, is the better for his purposes. I hand over the leadership of the Free Trade section of the Senate to the honorable senator, and shall be well satisfied to range myself under the banner which for the future he will carry. I cannot help feeling that if the Tariff debate is prolonged for many more days there may be no Protectionists left in the Committee except the Minister (Senator Russell), and possibly Senator Earle. In fact, it is not impossible that, out of sheer sympathy for the loneliness of the Minister, I myself may be persuaded to switch over and support him. Item 161 deals with implements which very closely concern the man on the land. They are, indeed,his tools of trade. Protection goes altogether too far when it makes the already severe struggle of the rural worker more intensely difficult than ever. Why should the Government, by means of a handicap placed upon British and foreign inventions, restrict the choice of tools of trade for the farmer and orchardist? The man actually engaged in producing from the soil knows better than any one else what he wants. He has probably tried a variety of implements, and knows what each will do, and which will give him the best value. Would local manufacturers be injured if any implement mentioned in the item were admitted free of duty? I mention, by way of example, cane loaders, cane unloaders, and cane harvesters.

Senator Senior - Those implements should be very easily manufactured in this country.

Senator GARDINER - That may be so. But even a simple machine cannot be made until a plant has been established for the purpose. What will be the position of the cane-growers in Queensland and northern New South Wales, where the production of cane is steadily increasing? Is the Sunshine Harvester Company likely to erect a plant for manufacturing the machines required by the cane-growers? I do not think it will. * I objected to a heavy duty to protect the sugar industry, and I object to the imposition of a heavy tax on the implements required for harvesting the cane. We have protected the cane-growing industry, and the Minister is proposing a duty of 22½ per cent. on the machinery the growers require. Channel makers and graders, which are largely used by municipal and shire councils, are also included. These bodies are working on very little capital, and have to undertake extensive works on the money they obtain from land-owners, and they require these machines for roadmaking and other purposes. If, as Senator Wilson says, superior machines are manufactured in America or Great Britain, surely it would be more economical for public bodies to use the most up-to-date machines, which would not only enable them to perform their work more satisfactorily, and at a cheaper cost, but would also be an incentive to local manufacturers to produce a more uptodate article. I have submitted a request, the effect of which is to make half of the articles mentioned in the item free; and if honorable senators are not prepared to accept that proposition, they will either have to support Senator Wilson's request for a reduction to 15 per cent., or the Minister's proposal of 22£ per cent. I do not see why the primary producers should in this, as well as in other instances, be so heavily taxed.

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