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Thursday, 17 November 1921

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) . - I trust the Committee will adhere to its previous decision in connexion with this item. We have given a lot away to date, and we should not give away very much more. This article very materially affects men on the land, who are the backbone of the country; and in the interests of the whole of Australia we must have first consideration for those who are developing our outback territory. But, judging by the Tariff generally, and this item in particular, very little consideration has been shown them. We are told, bv certain interested parties, that if this industry" does not receive adequate protection it will have to go out of existence. I say deliberately that if it cannot carry on without too much artificial bolstering up it should go under. But we cannot allow the men on the land to discontinue their operations, because if they fail wc all fail. Senator Lynch very truly pointed out that through the operation of this Tariff conditions are being made very easy for the men in the cities.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Committee has already placed a duty of 44s. a ton on those making wire.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I do not care if we make it impossible for the wire manufacturers to proceed. I do not favour any duties being imposed from the raw material up. If we made a mistake by imposing too high a duty on the raw material, does that justify us in imposing an excessive duty on the manufactured article? Surely not. According to the Minister's logic, which I contend is wrong, if we make one false step we must follow it on with another. Unfortunately we have accepted these absurdly high duties on the raw material used in the manufacture of wire; and who is going to pay? The unfortunate user. Who is he? The man on the land, of course. We hear the cry from one end of Australia, and almost from one end of the Empire, to the other, that if we do not people our empty spaces we cannot hope to hold this country. But in this and in other directions we are making it impossible for our empty spaces to be peopled. The position is utterly ridiculous and absurd. We are demanding mora and more from the primary producer; and what is happening? The price of meat has fallen to almost nothing. Wheat has dropped to about half the price it was last year, and many primary products axe in a similar position. Notwithstanding these facts, we are making it impossible for those who are at present following rural occupations to struggle on, and extremely difficult for men with limited capital to undertake farming pursuits. It is suicidal and ridiculous, to put it mildly. I have been taunted with the statement that this and other industries will go out of existence without adequate protection. Let the industries fail, but do not let us make it impossible for farmers to profitably work their holdings. Any one with any outlook at all mustrealize that the first essential is to people the continent. We must have men who will work in the country districts, because the cities will automatically look after themselves. In connexion with this and other items, we appear to have had too great a regard for the rights of the men in the cities. I do not know where it is all leading. Some honorable senators and honorable members in another place seem to have entirely disregarded the fundamental principles of economy. We are told that we ought to make the Commonwealth self-contained, and, striking and wonderful pictures are drawn showing ships proceeding in all directions with Australian products, manufactured and otherwise, to all the countries on the face of the earth. But those who draw this imaginary picture fail to observe that the ships coming here for our produce will be empty. They also overlook the fact that trade is really a matter of barter, and that if we send products out of this country we have to import other goods in* order to pay for them.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - That is the only way a country can trade.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - Of course it is. Some say that they will obtain money for their products. What are they to do with it? Are they going to eat it? This wretched Tariff is based on the absurd principle that we are going to send our products abroad and that nothing will be brought back. I sincerely trust that the Committee will adhere to its previous decision in connexion with this item. We have not asked for much - not nearly so much as I favoured - and I trust we will insist upon our request.

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