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Thursday, 17 November 1921

Senator ELLIOTT (Victoria) .- I should not have spoken had it not been for the argument advanced by Senator Payne in contrasting the duty on angle iron and various other articles with the duty now under consideration. The total cost of angle iron comprises the cost of the raw material and of the labour expended in its mamufacture. The cost of this labour is very small, whereas in the case of such instruments as -electrical appliances, the cost of the raw material used is very small and the labour involved is very great. In order to protect our own industries we should re-adjust the amount of preference, and that is why honorable senators are prepared to extend such a large amount of preference to Great Britain on this item compared with others. The electrical industry is making great strides, not only in Tasmania, but in Victoria, on account of the development of the Morwell scheme. Huge contracts for electrical appliances are being entered into by the Electricity Commissioners, and there is a condition imposed that as much as possible of the appliances required should be manufactured locally. I have seen a blacksmith in the country make an electrical welding machine, with which he welded a wheel. The trouble is that local manufacturers cannot compete with firms in other countries who, as Senator Vardon has shown, pay their skilled workmen less than£4 a week, as against £6 2s.10d. paid in Australia. That was Mr. Justice Biggins' award, and it was made retrospective to 1st January last. The cost of that increased wage has to be made up by the people who are endeavouring to establish this industry in Australia. Mr. Justice Higgins ordered the payment of a weekly wage instead of a daily one, and consequently holidays and any other loss of time have to be borne by the struggling manufacturers. There has been a total increase of 35 per cent, in the cost of this labour, and, if the suggested reduction of duty is insisted upon, it will have a very serious effect on the extension of this industry.

Senator Payne - My suggestion provides for a duty 17½ per cent, higher than in the last Tariff.

Senator ELLIOTT - These industries did not exist prior to the war, and they cannot be carried on with the enormous discrepancy in wages, which I have referred to, unless very substantial preference is granted.

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