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Tuesday, 23 August 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I agree with Senator Elliott in asking the Committee to carefully consider what it is doing in connexion with these duties. I should not have risen again on this matter were it not to stress three points which ought to be considered before a vote is taken on the request before the Committee. The first point was made by Senator Senior, when he compared the prices of coal and iron here with prices in Great Britain and Germany. Some doubt was thrown on the figures that the honorable senator quoted, but I have been able to turn up a cable which appeared within the last two or three weeks in each of the three Sunday newspapers published in Sydney, the Sunday Sun, the Sunday Times, and the Sunday News. The cable services of these newspapers are similar to those of the three daily newspapers of Melbourne. ' Referring to Sir William Mitchell Thompson, who is apparently a junior Minister of the British Cabinet, since he answers questions, the cable says -

Sir WilliamMitchell Thompson, in answer to questions in the House of Commons gave the ollowing comparisons in current prices : - Coal, Germany, 22s. 6d- per ton; Britain, 32s. 2d. per ton. Bar steel, Germany, £6 15s. per ton; Britain, £10 per ton.

I think, therefore, that the figures quoted by Senator Senior were absolutely correct. The second point is that which was stressed by Senator Lynch, when he said that we are making 75 per cent, of the total agricultural implements and machinery used in Australia. If the honorable senator knew what has actually taken place during the last twelve months in regard to this machinery, he would realize that- we manufactured last year, apparently, only one-half of the total agricultural machinery used in the Commonwealth.

Senator Lynch - Last year ?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes. I refer to the financial year ending 30th June, 1921.

Senator Lynch - Has the honorable senator the figures to Substantiate his statement or is he merely making an estimate?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable senator will remember that Senator Pearce gave the Committee some official figures bearing on this matter.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not on item 162.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - In considering item 161, we discussed the figures relating to the whole of the four or five items grouped around that item, including the item now under discussion. It was pointed out that no one was in a position to give figures showing importations of the separate machines included in these four or five items; but the aggregate figures were available, and Senator Pearce gave the Committee figures which showed that the value of the total manufacture of agricultural implements and machinery in Australia for the year ended 30th June, 1921, was, approximately, £1,500,000. Presumably, that figure was based on the selling price to the farmer. I quoted figures showing the value of the total importations of agricultural implements and machinery for the same financial year, and they showed that the value of the total importations jumped from, approximately, £500,000 in 1919- 20, to nearly £1,000,000 in 1920-21. When duties are paid on these importations, and distributing charges are added, it will be seen that the cost to the farmer of these imported implements and machinery must have amounted to about one-half the total cost of the whole of the implements and machinery bought in Australia. On these figures it is clear that Senator Lynch's estimate that 75 per cent, of the whole of the agricultural implements and machinery used in Australia are manufactured here is incorrect.

Senator Lynch - It would be more useful _ if the honorable senator could back up his statement with statistics.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am giving the statistics which have been quoted in this Chamber, and which, so far, have not been disproved. The figures I gave with respect to importation are absolutely official, and I think that Senator Pearce quoted Mr. ^Knibbs for the figures he gave with respect to the value of the local aggregate production. If we import agricultural implements and machinery of the f.o.b. value of £1,000,000, plus 10 per cent., and the duty and cost of distribution be added, the selling value of these importations is nearly £1,500,000, and the aggregate value of all the machinery used by the farmers of Australia could not be far short of £3,000,000, one-half of which is represented by imports. I 'should like to say a word or two on the point raised by Senator E. D. Millen. I agree that the Committee should hesitate before drastically dealing with the duty in the British preferential column, which has been in force for a good many years. A request has been submitted for a reduction of the duty to 15 per cent, in the British preferential column, which, as Senator E. D. Millen has pointed out, is 5 per cent, lower than the duty imposed under the 1914 Tariff. The request is not fair, in view of the increase in the duties on some of the basic materials used iu these manufactures. I intend consistently to oppose any reductions in the general Tariff on these agricultural implements and machinery, because no vote of mine shall make it easier for American Trusts or German traders to compete unf airly with our local manufacturers.

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