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Friday, 19 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - That question need not be discussed until Senator Lynch has an opportunity to propose his request in regard to parts. I should now like to say a word or two in reply to Senator Senior, who is regarded as one of our deepest and clearest thinkers, and most concise speaker. He has argued that a duty of 32s. per ton on iron blooms and bars has an appreciable effect on the price of the implements made from the iron. We have a duty of 22½ per cent. proposed on an article worth £20, in which there may not be 5s. worth of iron; and I do not see why Senator Senior should risk his reputation as a thinker by arguing that a duty of 32s. per ton has the effect he suggests. I cannot complain because the Senate has not accepted ray proposition to make all these implements free of duty; but I am doubtful whether I should, by my vote, alter the Government proposals when I realize that any little amendment in the duties, like any little defect in the wheel of a machine, may throw the whole out of gear, and destroy that which makes this. Tariff scientific.

Senator Russell - You are not a revenue Tariffist!

Senator GARDINER - I am not. I wish the Government were not a revenue Tariffist Government. They received a revenue of £32,000,000 from the Tariff last year.

Senator Russell - The Customs revenue will decrease. This is a 'Protectionist Tariff.

Senator GARDINER - The first month of the current financial year showed even higher returns than those for the last month of the year just ended. It is a revenue Tariff, with a vengeance, which extracts from the public pocket £32,000,000 in one financial period, and £2,600,000 in the first month of the next-

Senator Russell - The number of cargoes landed here during June was affected by the big strike in England. Hence the fall in revenue returns for that month.

Senator GARDINER - I take it, then, that but for the British strike still more cargoes would have been discharged in this country, both during June and July, so that the Customs figures would have been even higher. Senator Pratten related an instance of the marvellous fertility of Australian manufacturing enterprises. He described how an expected loss of 5,000,000 bushels of wheat, due to torrential rainfalls just on the eve of harvest, had been reduced by four-fifths. Virtual ruin stared thousands of farmers in the face, but our protected factories put on an enormous burst of energy by taking up the invention of a farmer at Henty, and turned out innumerable machines for salving the ruined crops. Within six weeks the new invention was at work practically all over the wheat fields of Australia, and the estimated loss of 5,000,000 bushels was reduced to 1,000,000 bushels. It is years since I have heard so wondrous a fairy tale. I do not doubt the word of Senator Pratten. He is in earnest, I am sure, and is confident that his information is correct. But only the wonderful imagination of a Protectionist could have turned an estimated loss of 5,000,000 bushels into the comparatively small loss of 1,000,000 bushels by the rapid-fire distribution of a superb invention all over the stricken wheat- fields of Australia.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honorable senator suggest that my statement was not approximately true?

Senator GARDINER - Oh, no!' It was absolutely true so far as Senator Pratten is concerned. He must make allowances, however, for my obtuse mind and my stolid imagination. I confess my inability to believe that within the period indicated the protected factories of Australia could have collected the necessary material, concentrated the essential labour, and have produced the number of machines necessary to make that extraordinary four-fifths ".save." The days of miracles are past. One or two machines may have been put into one or two wheat fields. One or two farmers may have been sufficiently wealthy to buy the new invention from one or two Australian manufacturers, but the average farmer would have had neither money nor inclination to buy one, faced as he was said to have been with ruin in his paddocks, and an adamant financier in his bank.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Will not the honorable senator admit, at least, that the wheat was saved? My statement was based on figures furnished by the Labour Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales.

Senator GARDINER - I cannot even bring my mind to picture the labour involved in turning out the enormous number of machines, requisite to save fourfifths of the ruined wheat' spread over fields in almost the whole of the wheatproducing States.

Senator Russell - Could not the wheat have been concentrated at one point?

Senator GARDINER - Not in the period mentioned, by Senator Pratten, I think.

Senator Russell - More than 5,000,000 bushels have been put through the heat treatment at one point in Australia.

Senator GARDINER - Concentrated within a matter of a very few weeks?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The figures which I quoted related to New South Wales alone, and I repeat that they emanated from the Minister for Agriculture in that State.

Senator de Largie - But those figures were almost immediately discovered to be incorrect.

Senator Rowell - Senator Pratten is not far out.

Senator GARDINER - Still, I cannot bring myself to believe the beautiful story. If the figures, quoted by Senator Pratten were those originally of the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales, it would seem that that gentleman has not outlived the delightful period in which one believes fairy tales. Possibly the explanation is that the farmers merely imagined the completeness of the disaster, and discovered that they could salvage considerably more of their crop than had been expected.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It cannot be controverted that the ruined wheat crop was gathered in ultimately by these specially manufactured machines.

Senator GARDINER - Gathered from every wheat field in every corner of New South Wales!'

Senator Rowell - Over a wide area the wheat was not ruined or even badly damaged, but was only flattened down by the rain. It was gathered up again by the machines.

Senator GARDINER - I am deeply interested. The more I hear the more I want to know. I invite Senator Pratten to provide this Committee with the actual number of machines turned out to meet the emergency. I am sure he will not discover that, in all the wheat-fields of New South Wales, more than twenty or thirty of them were used.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The machines were at work for many weeks before the whole job had been completed.

Senator GARDINER - I feel bound to accept everything Senator Pratten says. I know that the honorable senator, and the Labour Minister for New South Wales in conjunction, provide a strong source of information. I must take the earliest opportunity to investigate one of these marvellous inventions, and to inspect the factory from which it ha3 been turned out. I do not say that the result of my investigations may not induce me to request the imposition of duties amounting to 2,000 or 3,000 per cent. For it would appear that the new device will prove to be the long looked for means of turning the poor, struggling, hard-pressed, downtrodden farmers, men such as Senator Lynch, into men of affluence.

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