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Wednesday, 24 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I hope the Committee will realize that we are now dealing with a conflict between the manufacturing industry and the mining industry, and that honorable senators will not increase the already heavy loads on the mining industry. The introduction of this Tariff has already put an end to the Great Cobar mining centre.

Senator Earle - No!

Senator GARDINER - The honorable senator can say " No " ; but in Monday's newspapers it was reported that machinery belonging to the Great Cobar plant, to the value of £1,000,000, was sold to a dealer in mining machinery in Newcastle. It was scrapped.

Senator Pearce - Cobar was closed up before this Tariff was introduced.

Senator GARDINER - It was not. I realize that it was greatly shaken during the war; but when it was reeling from the heavy blow due to war conditions, it received its final blow from the Tariff, and passed out. When the manufacture of mining machinery has been so far developed in Australia that, as Senator Pearce has admitted, Ave are exporting it, why should an attempt be made to impose an additional 5 per cent, tax upon a primary industry? A duty of 40 per cent, on this machinery is a long way " over the odds." Let honorable senators contemplate what a 40 per cent, duty means as applied to a big mining plant. They know what a mining plant is, and this duty represents £400 in every £1,000 worth of plant. I -venture to say that, in a big mining plant, £100,000 does not go very far ; and this duty means an addition of £40,000 to the cost of developing one mine. We are told that this machinery is manufactured in Australia, aud, if so, why are we increasing the duty if it is not to enable the local manufacturers to increase their prices? If this machinery will be sold as cheaply in Australia, whether the duty is increased or not, why should we increase it?

Senator Pearce - Because of the increase in imports.

Senator GARDINER - The honorable senator has said that, during 1913 and 1920, American importations increased, but we know that the Tariff had nothing to do with that. We know that the whole of Britain's industrial power was engaged in the manufacture of war material, and Australia naturally went for her mining machinery to the only country that was practically free from the war. In any case,- the increase referred to - from £17,000 to £40,000- was not very great. If the Government realized the importance of the mining industry to Australia, their first concern would be to revive it. The first real impetus that the development of Australia received was from the mining industry. Time and again it has sunk, until we have despaired a little as to its future, but a revival of mining in one place or another has given us fresh hope and new life. The mining industry is dying out to some extent now, because the pampered methods of Protection have made it impossible to conduct it. It will not be long before they make it impossible to conduct any other primary industry. The Government are laying the axe to the root of the tree, and, as a consequence, the secondary, as well as the primary, industries Will wither and fail. There is no member of the Senate who is better acquainted with the importance of mining machinery to the mining industry than Senator Pearce. I could well have understood the honorable senator, in the circumstances, accepting . Senator Drake-Brockman's request as a reasonable one. When reasonable requests are submitted, they ought to be accepted. If I had my way, all this machinery would be admitted free; but I am not asking the Government to accept my view, because they are not the views of the Senate or of this country; but when I find a great industry loaded up with a burden of 40 per cent. on the machinery it requires, I say that if the Senate adjourned to one of our asylums, and its inmates took our place, they could not do worse than to prevent the development of the mining industry of Australia by making it impossible to obtain the machinery necessary for it.

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