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Thursday, 17 November 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I must say that I did enjoy Senator E. D. Milieu's reply to Senator Drake-Brockman. It induced me to paraphrase an old saying with the remark, " Set a Free Trader to answer a Free Trader."

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does Senator Gardiner suggest that a Free Trader is a thief?

Senator GARDINER - Such a thought is a long way from my mind. The Leader of the Senate contends that it is not possible to reduce the duty on wire because we have imposed a high duty on the raw material of wire. As a matter of fact, that is not so. I intend to quote figures given 'by Senator Russell which go to show that the raw material used in the manufacture of wire is produced in Australia. Referring to the importations of iron in its most crude state, Senator Russell gave the following figures when the Tariff schedule was previously under consideration in this chamber. He said: -

In 1913, a record year, we imported 2,633j841 cwt., and for the following years the figures were:- 1914-15, 1,667,000 cwt.; 1915-16, 1,728,000 cwt.; 1916-17, 1,329,000 cwt.; 1917-18, 293,000 cwt.; 1918-19, 276,000 cwt.; and 1919- 20, 367,000 cwt. The production for Australia in 1920 was 2,264,666 cwt, as compared with 2,633,847 cwt. imported in 1913.

Why the sudden drop in the volume of importations in later years? The reason was that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company were then in full swing. They were ' having the ore dug from the earth and manufactured into iron here. It is incorrect to say that there is a duty on the raw material used in the manufacture of wire, if that raw material is not. being imported, but is being produced, in Australia. We therefore start from the basis that the raw material for the manufacture of wire being produced here pays no duty.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Produced at what cost?

Senator GARDINER - If it is produced at an exorbitant cost, it will not make wire cheaper to those who require to use it, if we add to the cost of production the difference between a duty of 44s. and a duty of 62s. per ton. Whatever the cost of production of the raw material may be, it does not justify us in saying to the people who make wire from it, "We shall give you a protective duty sufficient not only to enable you to compete' with outsiders in the manufacture of wire, but also to enable you to draw from the people who require to use your wire £1 or 28s. per ton," according to the amount of duty imposed. We are up against the position in this case that a primary industry is competing for advantage with a secondary industry. It appears to me that the secondary industry, which is less beneficial on the whole, is given the greater consideration by the imposition of -these heavy duties. The primary industries, which are of primary advantage to Australia, because without them we must go down, have to pay all these duties. I can give an illustration from New South Wales. We have read recently in the press that within the last few weeks disastrous bush fires have spread over miles of country in that State, and have destroyed miles of wire, which must be replaced. Is it fair to mv to the men who have lost so much of their wealth as the result of these fires that we intend to compel them to pay an exorbitant cost for the fencing which they must replace?

Senator Reid - The posts may have gone, but not much of the wire will have been injured by the fires.

Senator GARDINER - I do not know what Senator Reid's experience of bush fires may be, .but I have not much use for wire over which a bush fire has passed. In much of the back country of New South Wales the grass hangs to the wire, and when the fire reaches it it very nearly melts the wire.

Senator Crawford - What difference would 8s. per ton make in the cost of a mile of fencing?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The weight is about 14 cwt. per mile for a six-wire fence.

Senator GARDINER - That figure appears to me to be astonishingly low. The weight, of course, will depend on the kind of fence erected. Some may use No. 12 wire, and others No. 10 wire.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - No. 10 wire is that which is in general use.

Senator GARDINER - There is No. 8 wire, which is better still.

Senator Plain - That is the wire used by all farmers.

Senator GARDINER - No; by some farmers. It may be used in the little garden patches in Victoria, but it is nob used on the larger areas in New South Wales, where No. 10 wire is most popular. The question is whether we are prepared to add to the cost which the people who have been burnt out in New South Wales must pay to replace their fences. People on the land are continually renewing their fences. Has the Committee refused fair protection to the wire industry ? I say that it has not. A duty of 44s. per ton against the foreigner, and of 20s. per ton against British imports, is fair protection, and infinitely higher than Protectionists themselves asked for a few years ago. When Protectionists were framing a Protective Tariff twenty years ago, wages in Australia, as compared with those in other countries, were much, higher than they are to-day. I am told that wages in Sweden are to-day better than they are in Australia. I know that wages in Great Britain are infinitely higher than they were ten years ago. I believe there are quite a number of places in Great Britain where men are receiving better wages than are paid in Australia.

Senator de Largie - Wages are coming down in the Old Country.

Senator GARDINER - I know that, and I know that a big effort is being made to bring them down here, but wages are not going to come down very rapidly anywhere. I was very much interested in Senator Lynch's statement on this matter. The honorable senator, being a farmer, ought to know that if you sow wheat you must expect a crop of wheat, and if you sow oats you must expect a crop of oats. Senator Lynch has been sowing Protection as long as I have known him, and he expects now to get a Free Trade crop. It has been suggested that members of the party to which I belong in another place are responsible for the Tariff. The people of Australia are responsible for £he Tariff. They have become converted to Protection. They like to make things dearer, and have sent men into Parliament to make them pay higher prices for whatever they want, and as a consequence, in the words of a member of the Country party in another place, " the backbone of the country always gets it in the neck." If we press our request on this item no injury will be done to the wire industry, because, with the exception of a few tons, the raw material required for the industry is produced here, as shown by the figures given by Senator Russell. A duty of 44s. per ton against foreign countries is quite high enough, . especially as the farmer, grazier, and orchardist will have to pay it. We shall be dealing later with the wire required for the manufacture of barbed wire, which is No. 16 wire, and if we do not press our request on this item we shall be told that still higher duties should be imposed on barbed wire. Senator Lynch has complained that the primary producer is voiceless in this House. I have kept a record of the speeches made by honorable senators, and in view of those made by Senator Lynch and. Senator Drake-Brockman I am inclined to say that the primary producer is not only not voiceless here, but is heard to a greater extent than are those concerned in all other interests combined.

Senator Duncan - The primary producer is better represented in this Chamber than in another place, where there is a strong separate party to represent him..

Senator GARDINER - That is so. This is a case in which the interests of two sections of the community, the secondary and primary producers, conflict, and I think, that the secondary producers ought not to ask the primary producers to pay a higher duty than that already suggested by the Committee.

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