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Wednesday, 24 August 1921

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) .- I think that Senator Drake-Brockman is under some misapprehension as to the kind of machinery that is covered by sub-item a. The honorable senator referred to Hampton Plains, but very little of the machinery mentioned in this sub-item is likely to be used there.

Senator Drake-Brockman - I did not suggest that it was.

Senator DE LARGIE - I understood the honorable senator to be under that impression. This machinery is not likely to be used in gold mining. I am assured by an officer of the Trade and Customs Department that sub-item a will apply to the larger machines, such as "steam navvies" and dredging machinery used for surface alluvial, and for tin mining, such as is carried on at Donnybrook, which Senator Drake-Brockman knows very well. Senator Gardiner referred to Cobar. The real trouble at Cobar arose from the fact that since the war the bottom has fallen out of the base metal market. That has had the effect of shutting up many mines all over Australia. I have had some little experience of it myself. The trouble at Cobar has arisen because of the low price of copper, and not because of any difficulty in securing necespary machinery.

Senator Gardiner - Do you not think we have reached the breaking point when men have to pay 14s. for shovels which some years ago could have been bought for 4s.?

Senator DE LARGIE - But shovels are not included in this item.

Senator Gardiner - I did not say that the duties proposed in this item would crush the working man, but I do say that this Tariff will.

Senator DE LARGIE - We are talking about the principle of Protection, and what the honorable senator said only shows that a Tariff cannot be imposed by any rule of thumb method. We have to consider each item on its merits. The machinery and implements used by metalliferous miners, including rock drills, are provided for under another sub-item. I have been interested in mining for many years, and if I thought that any burden was likely to be placed on the industry by the duties proposed in this sub-item, I would strongly oppose it, because at present the mining industry is in the doldrums, the position being worse, probably, than at any time during the last twenty-five years. Winding engines come under another sub-item. Steam navvies and concrete bucket dredging machines, which are dutiable under this sub-item, have been imported in the past chiefly from Germany.

Senator Senior - No; from the United States of America.

Senator DE LARGIE - Very many came from Germany. They have not been manufactured in Australia hitherto to any great extent because we did not have the special material. A very superior kind of steel is required. The work is now being undertaken here, consequently the sub-item, as it stands, will be advantageous to the mining industry generally.

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