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Friday, 19 August 1921

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) . - I desire immediately to correct the comparison made by the Minister (Senator Russell), because of its probable effect upon some honorable senators. I do not propose to question the accuracy of the figures, but I point out that while they may be accurate in one sense, they may be very inaccurate in another. I am informed, and I believe correctly informed, that the prices quoted by the Minister, so far as New Zealand is concerned, are prices delivered to the producers, whereas Australian prices are at store or the source of manufacture.

Senator Plain - How can the New Zealand price be delivered? One farmer might live 100 miles and another 200 miles away from the store.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - Nevertheless, I am informed that that is the position in New Zealand, and I want to put the Australian position clearly before honorable senators. Machinery of the kind referred to in this item is not manufactured to any extent in Western Australia or Queensland, so that by the time the farmer in Western Australia gets a harvester delivered from a Victorian manufacturer, he has to add another £10 or £15 by way of freight to the price quoted by the Minister. Therefore, the Minister's comparison was not a fair one. Australia is a big continent, whereas New Zealand consists of a couple of small islands, and the cost of transport in Australia is a factor that should not be overlooked. I am sure honorable senators have some regard for the farmers of Western Australia and of Queensland, and I am satisfied that the facts I have disclosed need only to be mentioned to insure that the interests of Western Australia and the other distant States will receive consideration. Very few of these implements are made in Western Australia, and that State, as honorable senators are aware, is principally dependent for its existence upon primary production.

Senator Plain - Is there not a Government implement factory in Western Australia?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - Yes. An implement factory was 'established by the Scaddan Government with a view to protecting the interests of the Western Australian producers against the manufactures of Victoria, but, like most other industries undertaken by Governments, it has been a lamentable failure.

Senator Senior -*- I heard Senator Lynch, on one occasion, hold it up as a pattern for South Australia.

Senator Lynch - You give the quotation. The idea is all right. The realization proved a failure.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - If honorable senators read their daily papers carefully, they will have noticed, I think in this morning's Argus, that there was a very heavy loss on "the trading operations of this particular portion of the Western Australian State industry last month, and that is the history of every month with regard to this State trading concern. I remind honorable senators that when they talk about the Australian price for these farming implements, to the price must be added Australian coastal freights, which are probably heavier than in any other part of the world, and, of course, they add materially to the cost of implements to producers in the distant States. This is a factor that must not be' lost' sight of in any comparison between Australian and New Zealand prices. If the figures supplied by the Minister had had relation to the cost of implements -at the various centres of distribution in both Australia and New Zealand, the comparison would have been fair.

Senator Russell - Is there any difference in freight whether we are a Free Trade or Protectionist country ?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I am not submitting that there is. I am merely pointing out that the Minister made what I regard as an unfair comparison between Australian and New Zealand prices for these farm implements. The Minister, like many other . Victorians, apparently thinks that Victoria is Australia; but honorable .senators from other States do not subscribe to that view. In this matter we are concerned, not with the Australian price prevailing in Victoria, but the Australian price for farm implements delivered to the producers in Queensland, Western Australia, or elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

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