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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator ELLIOTT (Victoria) .- I cannot understand why the Government do not take every, step to keep the local explosives industry energetically alive. The home production of explosives is vital to Australia, in case of anything happening which might cut us off from British supplies. At present there is a formidable rebellion, in India, and who knows but that in a few years the Indian Empire may have been reft from the British Empire. It is not certain but that South Africa herself may be hostile to us at some future date. If such possibilities became facts Australia would be cut off. We would be left without means for defending ourselves unless we had made our own preparations to that end. It has been stated that Australian explosives are dangerous, and that a safe product cannot be made here. An explosive is being imported from South Africa which has been manufactured by black labour; its friends assert that it is quite safe. If cheap South African black labour can produce a safe explosive, cannot white Australian workers do thesame ?

Senator Drake-Brockman - It is not asserted that they cannot, but that they do not.

Senator ELLIOTT - The particulars given by Senator Duncan reveal the extent to which the local material is used. If it were not deemed safe by the miners actually using it, there would soon be such an outcry as would be heard all over Australia. The local manufacturers are prepared to bind themselves for the next five years to supply at the same prices as rule to-day. No objection can be taken, therefore, on the score of increased costs following increased protection. The chief ingredient, which comes from Norway, is dutiable in Australia, whilst it is admitted free of duty to South Africa. The manufacturers of explosives in South Africa employ black labour at low wages. Why should we not give this industry a similar amount of protection to that which we have given to other industries of a like nature? It has been said that the local factory is the " pup " of a monopoly; but that is a very extraordinary argument to be used in support of the case of the de Beers Company, -which is a competitor of the local industry, and, as honorable senators are aware, is one of the greatest monopolies in the world. I would personally have been prepared to move for higher duties on this article than have been proposed.

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