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Thursday, 17 November 1921

Senator WILSON (South Australia) . - I must congratulate the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) on the very able way in which he has stated his case. Those who desire high duties are exceedingly fortunate in possessing such an advocate. When the Tariff was last before this Committee, honorable: senators debated what would be the effect as time went on of the different Tariffs one on the other. When speaking on 'that occasion I concluded by saying: -

I would stress the importance of the vote we are about to give, and earnestly ask honorable, senators to retain their right to make such reductions as they may deem necessary in the later items of the division.

The Minister, very cleverly, has made out a case based upon the fact that the Committee carried a duty of 44s. per ton on the raw material. Senator Gardiner stated that all the raw material used in Australia is produced in Australia. In view of that there is very little left of the Minister's argument.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Are you maintaining that the duty on the raw material does not raise the price?

Senator WILSON - It will not raise the price because there will be none imported.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then the placing of an extra duty upon wire will not raise its price.

Senator WILSON - Wire is in a different position. In the one case the article is a natural product, which has to be dug out of the earth, and in the other case it has to be commercially handled.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The rod has to be manufactured, and if a duty on it will not raise the price, a duty on wire will not raise the price of wire.

Senator WILSON - That may be the Minister's logic. Bods are only handled by two or three manufacturers, who - and I give them credit for it - work together. Very few of the large manufacturers in Australia to-day engage in cut-throat competition. Competition in wire" is virtually cut off. Senator Newland has stated that he advocated Protection on every platform throughout his electorate. That is true. I also was & Protectionist at the last election, but a very, very qualified one. I also said distinctly, on several occasions, that we should have a Tariff to protect those who are using and consuming articles within Australia. The price of a commodity on which we imposed a duty a few weeks ago immediately rose to the full extent of the duty, and the manufacturers immediately repeated orders by cable for further requirements. During recent years there has been extensive development in sparsely settled areas, and, in consequence, a larger quantity of fencing wire has been required. The extra impost has to be paid by those who use wire. Unfortunately, after the impetus given to land settlement during recent years, practically all the products of the land have fallen in price, and the primary producer should, therefore, be given consideration when the opportunity offers. Even if the duty we propose were adopted, it would not mean that operations in these industries would discontinue. In the early stages of wire manufacture in Australia, it was stated in evidence that there would be no necessity to impose high duties; but now the industry is on a firm basis, and wire is being made from rods produced from our own iron ore, we are asked to impose higher rates. I trust the Committee will adhere to the requests it has made in connexion with the important items in the schedule, particularly those which affect the men on the land. The Minister is asking the Committee to accept all the amendments made in another place, and up to the present he has not asked us to insist on even one request. Surely there are some instances in which ho thinks that we are right!

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If I think we should press our request, I shall say so.

Senator WILSON - We do not have to wait for the Minister to say what is right.

SenatorReid. - It is not a question of what is right, but what is best.

Senator WILSON - If it is right, it is best. The imposition of the duties we suggest will not interfere with the operations of the wire-making industry in Australia, because it is adequately protected, and I trust the Committee will adhere to its request.

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