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Wednesday, 24 August 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - The position seems to me to be very simple. The previous Tariff imposed a duty on these machines of 25 per cent. against British imports. This Tariff proposes a duty of 271/2 per cent., and, as has been explained over and over again, the increase is an attempt to balance an increase in the cost of the raw materials of these machines owing to the basic duty imposed on iron. Senator Drake-Brockman has made a special plea for the pioneer. I would remind the honorable senator that pioneers are not exclusively confined to the State of Western Australia.

Senator Lynch - That was never claimed.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - We have a few in New South Wales. Senator Gardiner does not make the claim that any reduction of this duty will benefit the pioneer.

Senator Gardiner - I do make that claim.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I accept the honorable senator's correction.He does claim that a reduction of this duty will benefit the pioneer. Senator Lynch uses the same argument.

Senator Lynch - I introduced it.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I understand that. While the discussion has been going on, I have been trying to visualize the pioneer who goes away back into the bush with his earth and rock cutting machines in order to discover minerals. I have been trying to visualize the bold pioneer who goes along with his ore-dressing machinery and appliances to discover payable metals. I have been trying to visualize also the prospector who goes along with smelting and leaching machines to discover payable metals. It does seem to me that there is serious misapprehension on the part of some honorable senators as to what this item means. .

Senator Pearce - The pioneer would require a pretty big "Matilda."

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - He would, especially if he took with him one of the dredges to which Senator Gardiner has referred.

Senator Lynch - If that is the best product of the honorable senator's imagination, he ought to turn it out to grass.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not wish to bandy words with any member of the Committee. I am trying to put before honorable senators a logical argument. So far as I can see, these duties are proposed with the special purpose of encouraging the manufacture in Australia of appliances for the extraction of metals after a mine is in going order. It is within my personal knowledge that the effect of these duties, so far as the tinmining industry is concerned, is that every machine for sluicing and dredging for tin, and I think I may say for gold also, is made in Australia, amongst others, by Thompson's, of Castlemaine, by Ruwolt's, a Richmond firm, and by Pool and Steele, in Sydney. Again, it is within my own experience that the assistance the duty on these machines has given during the last ten or twelve years to the local manufacturer has resulted in the fact that Australia not only makes her own tin and gold sluicing and dredging machinery, but exports such machinery very largely to the markets of the East, in competition with the whole world. A trade of considerable dimensions has grown up under the cover of these duties in the past.

Senator Gardiner - Wo; a lower duty.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Lower by only 21- per cent.

Senator Gardiner - No; by 7£ per cent.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The duty to which the honorable senator refers was lower by only 2-£ per cent.

Senator Gardiner - No. The duty in 1913 on British imports of this machinery was 20 per cent.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - In the 1914 Tariff the duty on -machinery included in item 170 was 25 per cent.

Senator Lynch - What was the duty under the 1911 Tariff, which continued until 1914? Do not dodge the question.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am referring to the position during the last ten years, and I reiterate that the difference between the duty proposed by the Government and the duty hitherto operative is only 2i per cent.

Senator Lynch - These machines were made here under lower duties. You cannot deny it.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I repeat that, as the. result of the cover given to our local manufacturers, they have been able to supply, not only the local market at the same price as abroad, but have also been able to build up a. considerable export business with the Malay States, the Eastern Archipelago, and countries as far distant as Nigeria.

Senator Lynch - In countries where machinery is duty free, too.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I intend to support the duty as it stands, because the Tariff has resulted in the establishment of important local industries. I have had no representations from the mining companies in my State against the duties.

Senator Lynch - Have you had no representations from the manufacturers?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - In connexion with this item, I have had no representations from either side, and, so far as my vote is concerned, I am not going to allow Western Australia to run the whole of Australia.

Senator Pearce - Western Australia also has some important manufacturing industries that are concerned in this item.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is so. It appears to me that nearly all the requests for a reduction in this dutv are coming from representatives of Western Australia. I represent New South Wales, in which there are very many mining in terests, all of which are vitally concerned in these duties, and I have had no representations from them. It is fair to assume that if there were any crying evils in connexion with this duty the mining companies would have made overtures to the representatives in this Senate from New South Wales.

Senator Lynch - I have had reams of correspondence from all the mining companies in Australia on this 'subject.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - And the honorable senator has been getting his information from Mr. Petherick, who is employed by the Chamber of Mines in Western Australia in connexion with this matter, and who has been present during the whole of the debate.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - And how many manufacturers have also been present?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I admit that it is a case of six of one and half-a-dozen of the other; but I am going to vote for the duty which, in its incidence, will not operate harshly upon the pathfinder, pioneer, or prospector.

SenatorGARDINER (New South Wales [3.48]. - I merely wish to reply to Senator Pratten's reference to the pioneers. Apparently, he is quite unable to visualize the pioneers in mining being assisted by cheap machinery. Let us have a look at the pioneer setting out, and carrying on his shoulders, not a huge dredge as has been suggested, but his pick, his dish, and his shovel. He gets to a gully, and he tests it, working there, perhaps, for months before he finds what he thinks is a payable proposition. Then he approaches mining investors, bringing before them his prospects and his report. After considering the position, they will probably say, "Well, the plant will cost £50,000" - if they were honest they would add that £13,000 more must be allowed for the payment of duty on the machinery, making the total capital cost of machinery £63,000^- " and the ' show ' is not good enough. You must look elsewhere for something better." If Senator Pratten's imagination will not enable him to see the advantage of the pioneers in the mining industry being assisted by cheap machinery, all I can say is that he must have been a marvellously lucky mining speculator. The pioneer opens up new country; he washes dirt in some unknown stream, and, picking up indications here and there, follows the prospect almost by instinct until he comes upon the real thing which in so many cases cannot be developed owing to the high cost of mining machinery caused by high Customs duties which this Committee and Senator Pratten impose.

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