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Thursday, 17 November 1921

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Repatriation) . - The honorable gentleman is now stating another condition. He said that he would be content if I assured this Committee that the machines were being made here. I told him that I could give that assurance and the name of the firm that makes them. Now he says, "If I show that it* is untrue, what then?" If the honorable member is not prepared to accept the statement which he invited,* it is no use my making it. I would like to tell the Committee the name of the firm, and possibly the Committee will be more ready to accept my assurance than is Senator Lynch. The name of the firm is Weymouth.

Senator Lynch - I have their letter here.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable gentleman has not studied the terminology of that letter. I understand that Weymouth's declined to quote for the machines, but they did not say that they did not make 'them. Although they make them, they do not sell them. They do not do their own -distributing. They manufacture the machines, and hand the distribution over to another firm. That is the explanation. I invited the honorable gentleman to go down to the Department and get more particulars. If he will do so the whole position will be placed clearly before him. I have listened to many arguments that have been put forward, and I respect them all. They were arguments which, from the Free Trade standpoint, were entitled to a great deal of respect, but I cannot understand them being urged against this item. They would be very proper arguments to urge against the second reading of the Bill, or by those who, like Senator Gardiner, object to Tariffs altogether. They are as applicable to every other item in the" Tariff as to this item. There is a call for a reasonable appearance of consistency in the way honorable senators speak and ' vote. I will remind the Committee of some of the arguments that have been used here. How unfair, ridiculous, and illogical it is to apply arguments to this item unless the same arguments are applied to all other items. The Committee has been told that the reason why the duty should be lowered is because the articles enter into the home, but the Committee has placed duties on dozens of things that enter Into the home. If that can be used as an argument against the imposition of a duty on electrical appliances, it is equally an argument against a duty on other home requisites. Without a word of opposition we have been passing these higher duties, and we are now told that in this instance we are making the article in question dearer. But that argument could be applied to many other items, and would be in accordance with the beliefof Free Traders.

A majority of honorable senators have, by their votes, or the absence of a hostile vote, approved of the Protectionist policy and the general principles embodied in the Tariff. Senator Gardiner said that we were imposing a fine on Great Britain; but that could also be said concerning the duties imposed on other articles, because this would be just as much a fine on Great Britain if we left the duty at 20 per cent, as if it were 25 per cent: If the duty represents "a 'fine on those who trade with Great Britain, it is a fine whatever the duty may be, and the same can be said concerning every other item in the Tariff where a duty is imposed on the importation of goods from Great Britain. Honorable senators, with a good deal of cordiality, have been supporting these impositions or fines, and how can they regard this as more objectionable than others which have received their assent?

Senator Gardiner - But surely a fine of, say, 2s. would not be as objectionable as one of 4s.?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The fine, as it has been termed, applies to many other items. Reference has also been made to the question of wages. I do not know what the difference is, but whatever it is in regard to this particular article, the argument is equally applicable to other items on which the Committee has decided to give a reasonable measure of protection, higher, perhaps, than in this instance. I cannot understand why honorable senators should adduce such arguments on this item, and completely throw them overboard when they are dealing with others.

Senator Gardiner - Does not the Minister think a duty of 25 per cent, unreasonable'?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If I should judge the position by the standard set in this Tariff, and accepted by the second reading of the Bill being carried, the duty is not high.

Senator Payne - Will the Minister justify such a small difference as 10 per cent, between - the British preferential and general Tariff?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The measure of protection being accorded is in keeping with that adopted in connexion with other items. It is above the average preference extended to Great Britain.

Senator Payne - No; I nave perused the schedule, and I find that it is below it.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) -On many items there is no preference at all.

Senator Payne - In the metals and machinery division alone there is a 15 per cent, preference.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not say that an item cannot be found in which the preference is not higher; but the average is not as high as in this instance. There are dozens of items where there is no preference at all.

Senator Payne - In a great majority of instances it is from 12½ to 15 per cent.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The average preference is not more than 10 per cent. Some honorable senators have said that it is not fair to reduce the preference to Great Britain, and thus interfere with her trade.' This Tariff was not brought into operation for protecting British trade, but with the idea of assisting Australian industries. It is really only a matter of secondary consideration to give preference to British manufactures. If, as Senator Payne suggests, we should not reduce the preference to Great Britain, I ask him is it fair to withdraw reasonable protection from Australian industries?

Senator Gardiner - There is no evidence that it is reasonable.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - That is what we need.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The trouble is that honorable senators do not appear to have a standard.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Yes, the standard of common sense.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) -There does not appear to be any standard, because in some cases votes have been recorded in support of high duties on some items, and on others the same honorable senators have favoured low duties.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - That is not so.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have endeavoured to find some level or standard which could apply, as far' as possible, as equally to one trade as to another, but honorable senators have voted for high duties in some instances and for low ones in others. The country has adopted a certain standard, and having done that, the onus is on those who desire to place certain industries on a lower level than others. I ask the Committee to support my proposal, because it affords reasonable protection to the industry generally. I do not know why, honorable senators should single out particular industries for consideration, and, in the words of the late Sir George Reid, say concerning others, "Let them flounder and fight for themselves." I ask the Committee to treat all industries alike, and if it desires to do that, it should 'accord support to the motion I have submitted.

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