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Friday, 19 August 1921

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- Any one who has had experience of the difficulties of the primary producer must welcome a discussion of this kind, which gives an opportunity to refresh one's memory of the difficulties of the man on the land, and to contribute something to the debate which may influence the Government to afford him a certain amount of relief. Whilst we give consideration to the needs of the manufacturing industries, we must hold the scales as evenly as possible, and see that the manufacturer is not benefited unduly at the expense of the primary producer. Included in this item is a number of articles that are absolutely essential, especially in the more closely settled portions of Australia. I have no knowledge of large pastoral areas, because Tasmania is an example amongst the States of close settlement, and there are few holdings of great extent there. The land in that State is difficult to bring under cultivation, because in its virgin state it is so heavily timbered. The expenditure incurred by men taking up original selections in Tasmania is enormous. I have known men who have worked the whole of their lives in the effort to convert the virgin forest into well-improved farms. They have reaped for themselves no advantage except that they have seen their land grow more valuable year by year, have helped in the development of the State, and have made it possible to relieve their sons of the hardships of pioneering which they have had to undergo themselves. 'Recently these men have had a very hard time indeed. It may be said that the northwestern portion of Tasmania is famed throughout the Commonwealth for the production of potatoes, but I venture to say that there is not' one potato-grower in that district who will show a profit on his operations for this year. There are very few whose returns will cover their expenses, because they have no control over the market price of potatoes. The same may be said of those who have been growing chaff. Every one knows that the price the article is bringing this year leaves no margin of profit for the producer. This is not an exceptional year. There have, indeed, been many worse years, whilst, of course, there have been some good years for those engaged in agriculture.

Senator Bolton - Does not the good year make up for the bad year?

Senator PAYNE - It may do so, to some extent, but the suggestion applies with equal force to manufacturing industries. Many manufacturing industries have made very large profits during the last few years, and. they will not have much cause for complaint if by the imposition of duties which would give relief to men engaged in land development their profits were slightly decreased for a time. Garden and' field spraying machines are covered by the item under consideration, and they are absolutely necessary for the orchard industry. Year after year the orchardist is faced with new pests, and with increased difficulty in dealing with old pests, and we should hesitate before we impose increased duties on a machine which is absolutely essential for the success of his industry.

Senator Fairbairn - What about the rural labourers log?

Senator PAYNE - When one considers the wages which workers' in agricultural industries would like to get-

Senator Gardiner - And which the employers would like to pay.

Senator PAYNE - I say that if the log which has been submitted by the workers were put into force, every primary producer would have, to disappear from the face of Australia. They could not possibly hope to carry on. Thousands of men who have small holdings find it almost impossible to develop them as they should be developed, because of the difficulty in obtaining labour at prices which1 will enable them to secure a return for the money spent in their industry. Every one knows the difficulties with which dairymen have to contend. The invention of the cream separator and the milking machine has been a great boon to them. But for their aid, life in the dairying industry would be intolerable at the present time. Whilst under this item milking machines are dutiable at 22^ per cent. British and 35 per cent, foreign, they were under the last Tariff dutiable at 5 per cent. British and 10 per cent, foreign. The milking machine is perhaps a more valuable accessory of the dairying industry than is the cream separator, because of the difficulty of obtaining labour in the industry. I believe that milking machines are being very successfully manufactured in Australia. I do not know how many varieties of the machine are in use, but I know that some imported machines have given excellent results. From a conversation which I had over the telephone with a gentleman interested in milking machines, I have learned that Australian manufacturers turn out a very good article. The question is whether they can supply sufficient machines to meet Australian requirements, and whether those they manufacture meet all the needs of the "dairying industry. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some information on those points.

Senator Russell - Is the honorable senator's friend an importer of milking machines ?

Senator PAYNE - No. . He is not interested at all in importing the overseas article. I rang him up to get some information as to the machines that are made in Australia. I am not standing out for the interests of the importing section of the community.

Senator Russell - I do not suggest that for a moment.

Senator PAYNE - I think that, taking everything into consideration, the Government might agree on this item to accept a reduction in the duty proposed on the British-made articles. Great Britain has for many years supplied us with a fair proportion of the commodities we have required; and I am prepared, in considering these duties, to give Britain a preference. I am not inclined to support the proposal to reduce the duty in the general Tariff on this item. Though I would not oppose a slight reduction of the duty in the intermediate Tariff, I think we should concentrate our attention upon a reduction of the duty proposed on British importations.

Senator Lynch - Does the honorable senator recognise that we obtain our main supplies of machines covered by this item from America and Canada? Is he not prepared to give any relief there?

Senator PAYNE - I am not disposed to give any relief so far as the general Tariff is concerned.- I do not think that would be advisable. It has been stated that with their surplus production American manufacturers are .able to overcome high Tariffs, and if that be so, there is less reason why we should consider American manufacturers in connexion with this item. i

Senator Lynch - Or Canadian manufacturers?

Senator PAYNE - They might by arrangement be placed in a position to take advantage of the intermediate Tariff. Let me say that the duties imposed on these articles in the Canadian Tariff are not anything like so high as the duties set out in the schedule, although Canada has the United States of America alongside her border.

Senator Lynch - The Canadian duty is 12i per cent.

Senator PAYNE - I believe that the Canadian duties are 12½ per cent., British, and 15 per cent., general.

Senator Lynch - No. Twelve and a half per cent., general.

Senator PAYNE - The honorable senator may be correct. I looked up the Canadian Tariff this morning, and I know that the duties imposed by it are lower than those specified in the schedule. In view of the discussion which has taken place on this item, I intend to support a reduction of the duty in the British preference column.

Request that the item, general, be free, agreed to.

Request that the item, intermediate, be free, by leave, withdrawn.

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