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Wednesday, 24 August 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - We have in sub-item o one of the usual drag-net provisions of the Tariff schedule. It is tucked away most unobtrusively, but covers a vast quantity of machinery that is imported here, and a very small part of that which is locally manufactured. It relates particularly to mining machinery, and here again is seen the tendency to increase the rates prevailing under the Tariff of 1914. Under the general Tariff a duty of 40 per cent, is imposed as against a duty of 25 per cent, under the old Tariff. I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (c), general, 30 per cent.

I submit this request for the reason that [ wish to continue in employment those now engaged in the mining industry. The records of mining in this country show it to be in a very bad way. Gold-mining is dependent mainly on the premium payable on gold in the markets of the world because of its great scarcity and the demand for it on the part of those who use it in their manufactures. I shall refer particularly to the position of the industry in Western Australia, because it seem3 to me that the proceedings here have resolved themselves into a scramble on the part of many honorable senators to secure whatever they conceive to be in the interests of the States which they represent. I have hitherto endeavoured to take a broad continental view of my duty as a member of the Senate in dealing with the Tariff schedule, but in these circumstances I intend' to depart from that rule. The sub-item affects specially the goldmining industry of the Commonwealth, and particularly that part of it which is carried on in Western Australia. _ Goldmining there at one time gave employment to nearly 75,000 people. The number employed to-day is very much reduced, but we still have there untold wealth in the shape of gold yet to be discovered. The annual report of the Chamber of Mines of Western Australia tells the doleful story that mining there during the last four or five years has shrunk to the extent of one-half in the value of its output and the number of men employed. Western Australia has proved a valuable outlet for the eastern States during periods of depression, and it has an enormous auriferous area that is still unexplored. The arguments that have been employed in connexion with the duties relating to the base metal industries can be applied with fourfold force to the gold-mining industry. The new finds made lately at Hampton Plains a"a Mount Monger, in the neighbourhood of Kalgoorlie, show that the State has not yet been half prospected. Those finds were made in a district which had been walked over for years by miners and others. Although large areas there still remain to he explored, the dwindling margin of profit, has reduced the industry to a very low ebb. It is proposed, however, to increase the duty on all classes of machinery, including mining machinery, covered by sub-item c. What are honorable senators- going to do? Are they going to close down, metalliferous mining in this country, or are they going to revive it? I>o they want people who are far afield and have not a chance to put their claims specially before the Committee to continue their operations? .1 cannot approach this

Chamber without tripping over the hangers on and the claqueurs of the manufacturers who haunt the entrances. Where are the representatives of the men out*back? They have no voice in this Chamber except that which I and a few others raise for them. I am raising my voice now for a clear-cut reduction of 10 per cent, on the machinery used by them. I want their machinery to be put on the same level as that used by others. Most of it is very much in advance of what is required for coal-mining. A coal-cutting machine is a simple device compared with the many complex machines employed today in winning gold.

Senator Henderson - Has the honorable senator ever seen a coal-cutting machine at work

Senator LYNCH - Yes, in the honorable senator's own beloved centre, Collie.

Senator Henderson - And yet he says that a coal-cutter is not a complicated piece of mechanism.

Senator LYNCH - It is simple in comparison with some of the machinery used in winning gold in this country. I ask the Committee to agree to this request, and so to give a morsel of comfort and consideration to those engaged in gold mining. The manufacturers who make this machinery here should be prepared to carry on behind a Tariff shield of 30 per cent. The duty for. which I ask is 5 per cent, above that which operated under the high Tariff of 1914. I submit this request in the earnest hope that honorable senators will at least recognise how necessary it is to keep our miners employed. They are the mainstay of the interior. One cannot read the history of metalliferous mining in this country without being positively pained by the story of its waning condition. The time is slowly, but surely, coming when only exceptionally rich mines will be worked. Senator Henderson has referred to the intricacies of coal-cutting machinery. This Parliament in its wisdom recognised that high speed reciprocating engines socially used in the mining industry should be admitted free. I know something of those machines, having worked them, and they are a fair sample of the intricate pieces of mechanism that are used in the gold-mining industry today. I do not want to waste time. I ask honorable senators to agree to a reduction of 10 per cent, in the general Tariff on this sub-item. If my request is carried, as I hope it will be, I shall submit requests for reductions in the duties in the other two columns. I make the request in the interests of the mining industry, which is in a bad way in the Commonwealth to-day. Men are to-day being drawn to the cities from the metalliferous areas of the Commonwealth, which extend east and west, and from the north of Queensland to southern Tasmania.

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