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Thursday, 17 November 1921

Senator EARLE (Tasmania) .- I again rise, in sorrow, to disagree with the remarks made by those new-born Free Trade members of this Chamber. No matter how convincing the arguments in favour of the general principle of Protection may be; they become more rabid in their desire for Free Trade. Of course, it is their business- to advocate principles which they believe will be acceptable to their constituents, but I hazard the opinion that at the last general election the people of Australia knew only two or three Free Traders in this Senate, whereas to-day we have Senators Drake-Brockman, Lynch, Wilson, Thomas, Gardiner, all well known as Free Traders.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Do you call yourself a Protectionist?

Senator EARLE - I do.

Senator Drake-Brockman - I think you are a Prohibitionist and that I am a Protectionist.

Senator EARLE - I came into this Parliament under the banner of a Protectionist Government, and I intend to stick to the policy upon which I was returned. Some honorable senators who advocate Free Trade were returned on a Protectionist policy. All th'e experience gained by Australia during the war is to be ignored, by them. They seem to forget our helplessness, owing to the inability of our manufacturers at that time to supply us with some of the essential requirements for the carrying on of the nation. Apparently they are now prepared to place us at the mercy of outside manufacturers under the pretext that they are considering the interests of the primary producers.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Do you not consider 44s. per ton protection ?

Senator EARLE - Neither the honorable senator nor I can say what measure of protection is absolutely necessary for this particular industry. I have no de- sire to give any manufacturer such' protection as will enable him to exploit the people of this country. We have already passed 'a Bill for the appointment of a Tariff Board, whose duty it will be to> investigate all the problems surrounding our manufacturing interests, and report to the Government if, in any particular industry, the protection afforded is too high. Our main purpose should be to establish essential industries in Australia. We may then control the manufacturers, if necessary, by means of the Tariff Board. If, however, we press the request, our industries may be abandoned, and there may then be no occasion for a report from the Tariff Board at all.

Senator Lynch - Conversely, will not the Board have authority to suggest that the duties are too low, and are working an injury to the manufacturer?

Senator EARLE - Certainly, but does not the honorable senator see that if, owing to inadequate protection, an industry is killed, no recommendation of the Tariff Board could bring it back to life? If, on the other hand, an industry is flourishing, and if the Tariff Board ascertains that the measure of protection is too great, it may recommend the Government to reduce the duty.

Senator Wilson - Would you say that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company's shares were not a payable investment?

Senator EARLE - No. 3 hope tie Newcastle steel works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company will continue to prosper, but if it were not for the protection afforded the industry by this Parliament the products of the Newcastle works would be undersold by outside manufacturers, and 'this great industry would be lost to Australia. Honorable senators should realize that this Tariff is not merely a matter of a. few shillings or a. few pence to the producers of these commodities. The object is to get industries established in Australia. We may then control them, as I have already explained, if they are exploiting the people of the Commonwealth. .No doubt some honorable senators approach the reconsideration of Tariff items in fear and trembling lest the vote they give be not the same as when last .these items were before the Committee. My vote has been given consistently for substantial protection in order to foster Australian industries. Therefore, I intend to support the Government on this occasion.

Senator E.D. MILLEN (New South Wales - Minister for Repatriation) [4.191. - I want to make just one observation before the Committee goes to a vote on this item. Senator Wilson said, I think, that the fixing of the duties on rods was a mistake, or that it was passed through an oversight. I find that it was the subject of considerable debate, and that a specific amendment was submitted to reduce the item, but the Committee, by seventeen votes to six, rejected the amendment. I submit, therefore, that this Committee cannot now consistently agree to a lower duty upon the manufactured article.

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