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Thursday, 17 November 1921

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Repatriation) . - I have had: an opportunity, since Senator Lynch spoke, of conferring with a responsible officer of the Department, who reiterates the statement. The matter is, perhaps, a little complicated; as disclosed by some of the correspondence which Senator Lynch has read. Therefore, I suggest that the honorable senator take advantage of an opportunity to interview the officer of the Department personally, and inspect the files, which will be made available to him.

Senator Lynch - I did so when the Tariff was going through in August last. This correspondence has passed since then.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think there are some papers, which, if the honorable senator would see them, would perhaps help to clear up any doubt that exists in his mind as to the accuracy of the information that is supplied by the Department.

Senator Lynch - I have the letter here from the Department, and also the letter of the firm which, it was stated, 'was manufacturing the machines.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - At all events I suggest that- the honorable senator peruse the file again. Possibly the misunderstanding will then be cleared up.

Senator Lynch - Nothing short of a miracle can clear it up.

Senator Keating - The firm themselves were not very explicit about the matter.

Senator Lynch - They are very exact. They say that they do not manufacture the machines.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I can only offer the suggestion to the honorable senator, and it is for him to accept it or reject it. I can assure him that it is made in perfect good faith. Now, as to the item itself : A considerable amount of time has been consumed in discussing whether the British preferential Tariff shall be 25 per cent, or 30 per cent. In view of the range of duty passed in connexion with other items, there is very good reason why honorable senators should accept the duties proposed by another place. At all events I hope the Committee will now come to a decision on the matter.

Senator GARDINER(New South

Wales) [8.28]. - I am ready to come to a decision without any further delay, and therefore I shall delay the Committee for only a few minutes. When this item came to us from another place, the British preferential duty was fixed at 30 per cent., and we requested a reduction to 25 per cent., but we allowed the intermediate and general Tariffs to stand. Senator Thomas very properly emphasized the anomalous position of those loyalists who speak of their love of Empire, but are not prepared to agree to a Tariff that will permit of trading with the Empire. Let us suppose that instead of a Tariff, the Senate had sent to another place a proposal that every person who bought £1 worth of goods from Great Britain would be fined 5s., and the other House said that the fine should be increased to 6s., I can imagine what these loyalists, who speak quite earnestly about their love of Empire, and all the rest of it, would say. They would declare it to be a most iniquitous proposal. This Committee say, " There shall be an embargo of 5s. on every man who buys anything from Great Britain, or who uses any article from Great Britain." The other House says, " Make the penalty 6s." I agree with Senator E. D. Millen that the difference is too trivial to quarrel about. To my mind, both figures are wrong. There should be absolute Free Trade between this country and Great Britain. Even if there is a slight difference in the wages paid in the two countries it is made up by the fact that great Britain has greater difficulties to overcome in getting her raw material, and that she has to pay higher shipping freights on the goods transported to this country. It has been said that Australia requires a handicap of 30 per cent. I deny that. It has been proved that Australians can compete with the workmen of other nations in every industry. We have the ability and the expert workmen, and we certainly do not need a handicap of 30 per cent, to put us on an equality. Why should we not say bo Britain, "In order to assist you to get back your trade, we will give you an advantage of 15 per cent, over other countries " ? The other House says " No, we will give you a preference of 10 per cent."

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