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Tuesday, 23 August 1921

Senator ELLIOTT (Victoria) .- It is undoubtedly true that Australian implement makers were able to sell their harvesters in outside markets before the war, but since then they have been driven out of those markets, with the result that, the American harvester, whose price in Australia is £240, is selling in the Argentine at £360 now that the competition of the Australian machine i9 not felt there.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why do not our manufacturers send their implements to the Argentine?

Senator ELLIOTT - They cannot hope to enter the Argentine market now that the wages they are paying and other costs of manufacturing have increased. I should like, by the means of the following figures, to give the Committee some idea of the increase in wages between 1914 and 1921 :-

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) -Will Senator Elliott now quote some of the 1914 prices for machinery as compared with the prices of to-day?

Senator ELLIOTT - I am endeavouring to show that Australia cannot' possibly hope to compete against Argentine and American prices. How are our manufacturers attempting to cope with the situation as disclosed by these figures ? If we cut off their protection, or make it less than it was in 1914, they will be " between the devil and the deep sea." I should now like to compare the cost of material in 1914 with its cost in 1921. Senator de Largie questioned my statement that steel can be produced in Belgium at £7 10s. per ton ; and in that connexion I submit the following: -


Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - The honorable senator voted for high duties on the galvanized iron and other metal products mentioned at the beginning of that list.

Senator ELLIOTT - I know, but we must be consistent, and we have to deal with the position as it is to-day. We desire to establish the key industries, and we have to make the schedule consistent. Senator Guthrie asked for some comparative figures in regard to the prices of the machines themselves, and on that point I submit the following typical increases since 1914. In each case net cash prices are given : -


Senator Duncan - What is the labour cost in proportion?

Senator ELLIOTT - I have not worked that out. I do not ' wish to weary the Committee with further examples, and merely say that this rise in prices, serious as it is, has been brought about by the rise in the cost of labour and materials. In no case has the manufacturer made a profit out of the rise in prices, because his prices of to-day are below the percentage increases in wages and cost of material.

Senator Lynch - And in the meantime people are induced to leave . the country and rush into the protected industries in the cities!

Senator ELLIOTT - That is not the fault of the manufacturer, but of the industrial system, which must first be remedied. If by lowering the duties we allow our manufactures to be extinguished, we shall find it pretty hard to revive them under any system we can devise.

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