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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) . - This item covers steel ropes used for mining purposes as well as for lifts, and also, in this city, for tramway purposes. I understand that the greatly increased duties which are to come into operation on and after 1st January next are proposed in contemplation of the establishment of a local industry to manufacture wire ropes. I need not point out that wire ropes are used in mines and lifts, and that where they are so employed the lives of men depend upon their strength and durability. I am informed that much skill and experience is required to produce a reliable article. The proposal is that we should depart from our habit of obtaining the most reliable ropes procurable, and which, with one exception, I understand, come from Great Britain, in order to substitute an experiment that is to be carried out in Australia. We all know that where men's lives are at stake the imported ropes will be used, and consequently the mining industry in Australia - and my chief concern is in regard to that industry - will be called upon to pay these largely increased duties. I have had worked out the difference in the amount that would be collected under the present duties of 5 per cent, and 10 per cent., as compared with the duties to come into operation on 1st January next. I do not propose to go into all the figures as to our imports and the countries from which they are obtained; it is sufficient to say that the amount collected annually under the duties now operating would be only £791 per annum, whereas if the new duties to come into force after 1st January next are agreed to, the revenue collected should amount to £40,564 per annum. That is a very big increase. It is a tremendous burden to impose on the mining industry of Australia, the chief user of these ropes, merely for the possibility of establishing the industry here.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable senator is not overlooking the powers conferred on the Minister for Trade and Customs under clause 11 of the Bill?

Senator DRAKEBROCKMAN.No.I am hopeful that, in any event, we shall not experiment with this item, dealing, as it does, with material upon which the lives of the men working in our mines depend. We know that the mining companies and owners of lifts will insist upon having the best ropes procurable in the world. The best are manufactured . by three or four firms in Great Britain and one firm in America, which produces a special class of rope.

Senator Earle - What makes the honorable senator think that we cannot make wire rope in Australia?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I am informed by those who are able to advise me, and particularly by the President of the Kalgoorlie Chamber of Mines, who certainly knows something of the subject, as well as the Chairman of the Melbourne Tramways Board, which is probably the largest buyer of this particular class of rope in Australia, that the manufacture of steel wire ropes is a very difficult operation., requiring a great deal of skill and the employment of people who have spent practically the whole of their lives in acquiring the necessary knowledge. The process of drawing wire rope, to the right size and strength is both technical and difficult. I am told that it is so difficult that, despite the experience of the firms I have mentioned, they are not always successful. The experience of the Melbourne Tramways Board is that a rope produced by, say, firm A," will last only a few weeks; whereas another rope, apparently identical in every particular, will last five or six times as long. The Melbourne Tramways Board imports all its wire ropes.

Senator Pearce - -They are not made here.

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