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Wednesday, 24 August 1921

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - i-I think the time has arrived when I should ask honorable senators not to make second-reading speeches time and again 011 successive items of the schedule. ' The discussion should not be of such a general character in dealing with separate items.

Senator LYNCH - This sub-item covers a type of machine about to be used in farming in this country. They must be used extensively if we are to hold our own. Horse power is being displaced everywhere. Although it still lingers on the farm in Australia, it must ultimately be displaced by mechanical power. I have no intention of proceeding to the extremes to which Senator Gardiner is prepared to go, but I do think it wise, in order to set the pace for manufacturers in Australia, that they should be given adequate, but not excessive, protection. That is why I have been asking for small concessions in connexion with these duties, though I am sorry to say with little or no success. The only means we have of keeping local manufacturers of tractors up to the mark is competition with their manufactures from outside. I will give honorable senators a personal experience of my own in connexion with this matter. It may be considered rather bad taste to obtrude one's personal experience, but in the circumstances that is, perhaps, excusable. There is used in this country, though not very extensively, a tractor that is well known as the " Steel Mule." The agents for the machine in Adelaide are also well known. It is an American machine. I went to the office of the agents to make some inquiries about it. The agent told me that he had travelled around the world to discover what might be considered a suitable tractor for a small farm. He gave me quotations of his own tractor, and he said, " Before you make up your mind have a good look round." He then took out some papers, and amongst them there was one giving the quotation for this particular tractor in America at $400. or £80. I asked him the Australian price, and he replied £400. The Australian firms were operating, but not holding their own under the previous protection of 30 per cent., and the proposal now is to raise the duty in the general Tariff to 40 per cent. The only effect will be to raise the price to the farmer.

Senator de Largie - How can you say that local mauufacturers were unable to hold their own.

Senator LYNCH - Because tractors were being imported to this country.

Senator de Largie - The Australian tractors are the best on the market.

Senator LYNCH - What is the use of the honorable senator saying that when American tractors were coming in over the 30 per cent. barrier, which is now to be raised to 40 per cent.? The Adelaide agent to whom I have referred showed me that the Australian price was five times as great as the American quotation.

Senator de Largie - That agent was " pulling your leg." He knew this Tariff discussion was pending.

Senator LYNCH - I am giving the Committee facts which Senator de Largie cannot refute. I challenge contradiction of what I am saying.

Senator de Largie - You are talking of something you know nothing about.

Senator LYNCH - The offensiveness of the honorable senator, Mr. Chairman, is likely to cause dissension in this Chamber instead of helping to expedite business. I do not want to bandy words with him in this matter. I do not want to thrust my opinion down any one's throat with the pragmatical air assumed by the honorable senator. The honorable senator should learn to keep his station as Government Whip in this Chamber. If he did he would facilitate the transaction of business. Make no mistake about that. He courts this criticism by his persistent interjections, and when I am giving the Committee concrete facts he hurls innuendoes at me, suggesting that I do not know what I am talking about. It is not the place of the Government Whip to intrude his personal views in this way, on this and as he has done on other occasions also. But let me come back to the sub-item under discussion. If the duty is increased as proposed, the only effect will be an added cost to the pur chaser of tractors. The Ballarat concern, so far as I know, is working very well. I have had no representations from those associated with it for an increase in the duty. The Richmond manufacturer is, I believe, turning out a good type of tractor, and I understand a first-class tractor is also being produced by a New South Wales firm. But all this has been achieved under the old Tariff, and, therefore, any proposal to increase the duty should have substantial warrant. We should see to it that the cost of tractors does not rest too heavily upon those who wish to displace horse-labour on their farms. We may do this by insuring effective competition among local manufacturers, who should be encouraged to perfect their organization and system. The position of America must be considered. If we shut out American manufacturers they will surely retaliate against us later on.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The United States of America has done that already. Fortyfive cents a lb. on wool is a pretty heavy impost.

Senator LYNCH - There will be more, too, under this policy. I repeat that the proposal now before the Committee can have only one effect, namely, to increase the price of tractors to Australian farmers, and I am raising my voice against it. We are justified in giving reasonable protection to our manufacturers, but we must keep in mind the interests of those who have to buy their output.

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