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Wednesday, 24 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - In carrying on a discussion with intelligent men, I usually have no difficulty in making myself understood, but it seems that I have to speak quite a number of times here in order to convey to some honorable senators what I have in mind. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) and Senator Earle both assume that my argument in regard to tractors was that if they were allowed to come in free our merchants would fill their storehouses with them, and hold them in readiness for use in time of war. If such an interpretation could reasonably be placed upon my remarks, I can only say that this strenuous twenty-two-hours-a-day work must be telling on me. I did not suggest that if we allowed tractors to come in free storekeepers and others would be induced to hold them in readiness for use in Avar. The point that I wished to make was that there would be such a demand for them - so many farmers would use them - that large stocks would be held, and that in the event of war they would prove of great value in the defence of Australia. I am glad that Senator de Largie has enlightened the Committee regarding the merits of the Australian-made tractor. Senator Duncan has told me of the thousands of tractors that were used to haul guns and heavy goods in France, of the thousands that were disabled, and. of the enormous wastage that took place. This item gives us an opportunity to open up a debate on entirely new lines. Under an intelligent trading system, we should have at ' our disposal modern appliances for transport which would be useful for defence purposes. After fiftyyears of Protection,we cannot produce these tractors here and sell them for less than £450. If they could be sold at £250 each, they would be largely used. TheFordson farm tractor can be purchased in America for from £190 to £200, whereas the cost for one of reasonable size here is £412. TheFordson tractor takes the place of a team of horses. It can be used for carrying as well as for ploughing, and is fairly fast. ,

Senator de Largie - Its top speed on a good road is only 4 miles an hour.

Senator GARDINER - On an ordinary,wellmacadamized road, itwould travel at the rate of 15 miles an hour. At the Sydney Show held last Easter, I inspected a Fordson tractor on behalf of a friend of mine, and made full inquiries as towhat it would do. It is practically a motor lorry combination, and its ploughing speed is estimated at 21/2 miles an hour.

Senator Henderson - One can plough with a team of horses at that rate.

Senator GARDINER - The honorable senator is mistaken. With a team of horses, one ploughs for a distance of about 150 yards and then pulls up for a spell. If tractors were admitted free of duty, and could be purchased at about one-half their present price, we should have ten in usewhere only one is now employed. Another point for consideration is that, with their more general use,we should have on our farms a large body of trained men skilled in their use. We pay skilled men for teaching our boys to put their heels together properly and turn to the left or the right; but what kind of trained men would Ave not have for war purposes if we had a body of men who knew their tractor machines from A to Z, and could put right anything that went wrong with them?

Senator Duncan - I think we should have a quorum to listen to this interesting address. [Quorum formed].

Senator GARDINER - I shall conclude, as I commenced, by saying that I had no idea that, as Senator E. D. Millen suggested, if the duties on these machines were removed the result would be that our warehouses would be stocked up with them, waiting for war. My idea was that if they were admitted free of duty they could be purchased at a reasonable price, and would be acquired by most farmers in this country instead of as at present by about one in every 100. I say that this would be a big item of war preparation, secured without a demand upon the general taxpayer. Senator E. D. Millen merely attempted to throw ridicule upon what I have said. I am rather pleased to find that, notwithstanding his great intellect and reasoning power, the honorable senator has come down to the level of the Protectionists with whom he is associated, and has argued as stupidly as any Protectionist. The honorable senator twisted my remarks, and tried to heap ridicule upon arguments to which he was unable to reply. He has fallen a long way from the position which he occupied when, as Senator Lynch has reminded us, he made use of his powers of oratory in opposing Protective duties. He was a Free Trade brother then, but he is now a father of Protection. I have little doubt that when another Government is in power the honorable senator will be found reasoning in favour of a sane 'policy for Australia. That is what I am trying to do> now. I have previously said that if the Government are not sufficiently in earnest to admit free of duty machinery which might be used for transport of war material, I shall not again vote for a single item of military expenditure. It is unreasonable and unfair that, in the interests of a few manufacturers, we should be asked to leave Australia helpless in time of war and should then call upon the general taxpayers to make a pretence of getting ready for "war by paying for a highly-organized 'Defence Department. The time has come for us to seriously consider the future defence of Australia; and we cannot do that better than by enabling our people to obtain this class of machinery as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

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