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Wednesday, 24 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) .- I should like honorable senators to give particular attention to this item.. It is proposed that dredging machinery imported from Great Britain shall be dutiable at 27| per cent. I am aware that there is one member of the Committee who has a fair knowledge of dredging. I happened to hear a conversation in which it was stated that a firstclass dredging plant can be obtained for £50,000.

Senator Pearce - And every bit of it made in Australia.

Senator GARDINER - That may, or may not be so.

Senator PEARCE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - I have been interested in dredging companies, and I know that every bit of tha necessary plant can be made in Australia.

Senator GARDINER - I take it that the proposed duties are intended for the protection of the Australian manufacturer, and their imposition will mean that he may charge a higher price for this machinery. The manufacturer of a dredging plant in Australia will be able to add 27i per cent, to what, but for this duty against British imports, it would probably cost. If I am right in my estimate that a first-class dredging plant can be obtained for .-650,000, the difference between the free importation of the article from Great Britain and the imposition of the duty of 27£ per cent, upon it, will represent a matter of £13,750. This means that, but for the proposed duty, a company might secure one of these machines, and at the same time be able to pay twenty men for three years while it was testing its fiats to see whether its operations would pay.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Its flats would be tested before the company would buy its machinery.

Senator GARDINER - That is so; but possibly there would be no testing of flats if it were known that 27i per cent. must be added to the present .cost of a dredging, plant. A difference of £13,000 in the cost of a dredging plant might mean all the difference between working a flat and not working it. It might represent the difference between the discovery of fresh deposits and a decision to make no attempt to discover them. Honorable senators will recognise that the prosperity of the dairying industry is largely due to the cream separator. One splendid invention made dairying possible where, but for its discovery, it would not have been possible. It is the same with the mining industry. I do not know whether I am too sanguine with regard to the future of Australia, but I believe that our great riches lie in the mineral wealth of the Commonwealth, and that Australians yet to come will be convinced that we were absolutely blind not to realize in our time the enormous mineral wealth that awaits development in this country. The Government propose duties of 27^, 35, and 40 per cent, to check development of the mining industry. Happily, the Committee has reduced the protection against the German article.

Senator Pearce - By mistake.

Senator GARDINER - Not by a mistake, unless it was a mistake for one honorable senator to pair with another. The German article will, on the request carried by the Committee, be admitted on a duty 5 per cent, less than that proposed by the Government, but no reduction has so far been made on the duty proposed upon British imports- of this machinery. The Australian industry for the manufacture of these machines was brought into existence, passed through its infant stages, and is now a> fully developed industry which, according to Senator Pearce, turns out as good machinery of this kind as can be obtained elsewhere. In the circumstances, there has surely been no demand for an increased duty on this machinery, and why then should we go out of our way to give this additional protection to the local industry? The only effect of the increased duty must be to make other forms of production more costly. The increased duty proposed, for instance, on rock-cutting and excavating machinery must tend to make the iron industry itself less prosperous by .adding to the cost of operating our iron deposits.'

Senator Duncan - Such machinery -will be very necessary if we are to proceed with big irrigation works.

Senator Pearce - Can we. not make » scoop in Australia ?

Senator GARDINER - I venture to say that the manufacturers of this machinery will make a scoop if they are given, the benefit of these heavy duties.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - They are making one already - an annual " scoop."

Senator GARDINER - I direct attention to the fact that a machine which is required by the coal kings, who are getting for their coal to-day from twice to four, times the price they received for it ten. years ago, is to be admitted free under this schedule. If honorable senators will'look at sub-item e of item 170 they will find that it reads - " Coal-cutting machines, ad val., British, 27$ per cent.; intermediate, 35 per cent.; general, 40 per cent."

And then there is the little message - " And on and after 15th June, 1921, ad val., British, free; intermediate, 5 per cent.; general, 10 per cent."

Senator Pearce - That was agreed to on the motion of the honorable senator's acting Leader, Mr. Charlton. "Was ho acting in the interests of the coal kings?

Senator GARDINER - Looking a little further ahead than Senator Pearce has done, I will agree that it was on th«» motion of my Leader, Mr. Charlton. I am very glad that we are sufficiently strong in another place to control the Government's majority, and take it from them on occasion. The coal.-cutting machine used by the coal king, John Brown, the multi-millionaire, is to be admitted free if imported from Great Britain. I do not know Mr. Brown's financial position, but if. as reported, he is a millionaire, he can afford to ' pay a duty on a coal-cutting machine. Why should this machinery required for coal mines whose output is assured, and can be measured and estimated, and in connexion -with. which there oan be no failure, be admitted free, whilst the machinery required for other forms of mining, most uncertain as to their results, is made dutiable at 27$ per cent, on British manufactures? Senator Pearce has reminded me that, coal-cutting machines are to be imported free from Great Britain on the motion of my Leader in another place.. It may be that his position there' is similar to mine here- I can join. with some of my honorable friends in the Committee in securing a reduction of duty in the interests of landowners and primary producers engaged in agriculture; but I can only secure a slight reduction of duty. It may be that my Leader in another place secured the free admission of coal-cutting machines from Great Britain because he is a good Protectionist, and most Protectionists like to be able to obtain free of duty the articles which they use themselves. Mr. Charlton wanted the machinery employed in the business with which he is particularly associated admitted free; but I am not a good Protectionist, and I want the machinery used in every business admitted free of duty, or as near as I can get to that. I am not asking for the free admission of the machinery covered by the sub-item now under consideration, but for a reduction in the duty proposed on British imports of 74 per cent. That is a very reasonable request in view of the fact that the Committee has already reduced the duty proposed on the German and American imports of this machinery by 5 per cent.

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