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Friday, 19 August 1921

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - I am going to support the request of which notice has been given by Senator Wilson, in so far as the reduction of the duties under the British preferential and intermediate Tariffs is concerned, but I hope that he will agree to allow the duty of 35 per' cent, under the general Tariff to remain as proposed by the Government. We have heard much this morning from the Minister (Senator Russell) and Senator Earle with regard to the prices of agricultural machinery in Australia and .New Zealand, but the information I have obtained from representative New Zealand primary producers in both Sydney and Melbourne is quite contrary to that which those honorable senators have given us. I mentioned the other day to a representative New Zealand primary producer that during the debate on this item in another place, it had been suggested that the prices charged in New Zealand for agricultural implements were far higher than those ruling in Australia for the same class of imported machines. He had taken the trouble to interview certain agricultural implement supplying firms and had no hesitation in denying the assertion that their machines were dearer in New Zealand than in Australia.

Senator Earle - But I have quoted the Massey Harris price list.

Senator DUNCAN - My informant pointed out that the climatic conditions of New Zealand were different from those of Australia and involved certain structural alterations in a great many instances.

Senator Earle - But those alterations at the most would not cost more than 30s. per machine.

Senator DUNCAN - That is not so, my informant said that because of the structural alterations rendered necessary by the different climatic conditions prevailing in New Zealand, certain agricultural machinery was dearer there than in Australia, but that other classes of agricultural machinery were cheaper than they were here.

Senator Russell - But even if the prices were the same in both countries would not the honorable senator prefer to see all this machinery made in the Commonwealth ?

Senator DUNCAN - Even if our manufacturers can get in New Zealand the high prices which the Minister (Senator Russell) says are ruling there in competition with, the world, surely they will have no difficulty in getting fair prices in Australia against similar competition. Our makers of .agricultural implements are not merely manufacturing for the Australian market; they are exporting largely to the markets of the world, and it is surprising to learn just how far afield many of our implements go. New Zealand is one of our best customers for them, and in spite of the fact that the Dominion has no Tariff against agricultural implements, and America and all other countries of the world compete there on even terms, our manufacturers are able to sell as many implements in New Zealand as they can manufacture and send there. We also export to Fiji, South Africa, and the Straits Settlements, and one of our very best customers is Spain, where we sell them against the competition of the cheap labour of other countries. We also export to the Argentine, Java, Sumatra, Siam, the Philippine Islands, and even to Russia.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honorable senator know whether we sell them cheaper abroad than we do at home?

Senator DUNCAN - In some instances, the price for export is lower than the price for home consumption. We give the benefit of our Protective duty to the consumers in other countries. In a great many other instances; however, the price for export is just about the same as it is for local consumption. The point I am most particularly anxious to make is that, under Australian conditions, paying Australian rates of wages, and whatever price is demanded for the Australian material that enters into the manufacture of these implements and machines, we can produce them, export them, and sell them against similar implements made in countries where wages and the cost of production may not bo as high as they are here, either because we can undersell them, or because our article is superior. At any rate, we are able to find a ready market for just as much as we can export; therefore, I cannot see the tremendous necessity for the imposition of a very high duty on agricultural machinery. I am prepared to meet the Government in regard to the general Tariff, which will apply more particularly to foreign countries, where we may in the future have to meet unfair competition; but we know that we need not fear it from Great Britain. In respect to countries to which we may apply the intermediate Tariff, unfair conditions would not be permitted to exist under the reciprocal arrangement made. In these circumstances, the rates under the British and intermediate headings are too high, and I am prepared to support Senator Wilson's request to reduce them, but I am not agreeable to a reduction of the general rate. This is another of the items upon which the Senate was petitioned by the primary producers, who implored us, because of the serious position of the agricultural and primary producing interests of Australia, to ease their load as much as possible. This is one direction in which we can do so. I hope that the majority of honorable senators will support Senator Wilson's request for a reduction in respect to the duties under the British and intermediate headings.

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