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Wednesday, 24 August 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - I do not know whether the Government prefer to be dragged into a recognition of common sense or not; but, apparently, they propose to contest this request, notwithstanding the fact that the records in regard to the position of the base metal industry of Australia provide a sufficient lesson to turn their hearts. I would support a duty upon these machines if they could be made in Australia, but not to the inordinate extent proposed by the Government. I am sure that Senator Drake-Brockman, if he had given expression to his true feelings in regard to the matter, would have moved for a greater reduction than 5 per cent. ; but -we are not here to speak in the language of hyberbole ; we speak only in that language which will insure our getting a little consideration. The imposition of a 40 per cent, duty on the machines required by the base-metal industry of the Commonwealth can have no other effect than that of reducing the population in the far interior, and filling up the coastline with towns. The copper industry, the silver industry, and all the subsidiary metal industries of Australia are in a positive state of stagnation to-day, and yet we have an effort on the part of the Government to make them even more stagnant by the unwarranted imposition of a tax of 40 per cent, upon the cost of the material they need. I do not know what grounds honorable senators have for doing this. We are still waiting for the balance-sheets of the people who are making these machines. Not a tittle of evidence has been brought forward in support of the Government's proposal. On the other hand, we have ample evidence that the base metal industry is dwindling, if it is not already stagnant. A dual obligation rests upon me to serve the interests of my own State, and at the same time, intertwine them with those of Australia as a whole. Therefore, when I find that we are asked to impose extra heavy duties, I want to be supplied with information as to the financial position of the manufacturers who are asking for them. They are probably in the same category as the agricultural implement makers, not one of whom has supplied a balance-sheet for us. We must see that the man who goes into the interior and discovers a metalliferous deposit and makes his mine productive is given a fair opportunity of working it. The Mount Cuthbert Copper Mine, in North Queensland, cannot get men. It is obliged to use these rock-cutting machines in order to minimize the cost of production with copper at £70 per ton. Otherwise the property will remain shut down as it is to-day. I support the request put forward by Senator Drake-Brockman, although it may be regarded as but an ineffectual attempt to obtain fair play for these men who are endeavouring to work mines. We cannot populate the interior of this Commonwealth by making the lot of these men less inviting, less encouraging, and less profitable.

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