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Friday, 21 May 1926

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon T Givens (QUEENSLAND) - Order! The discussion is extending beyond the scope of the bill.

Senator GUTHRIE - We should give preference to the British steamship lines. I should like to see an alteration in the tariff on timber. Norwegian vessels bring dressed timber to Australia; but if the tariff were altered so that the timber would be landed here, undressed, employment would be given to a large number of people in this- country, instead of the work being done in Norway and Sweden, where long hours and cheap labour obtain.

Senator Grant - And protection. The honorable senator desires long hours and low wages, as in Norway and Sweden.

Senator GUTHRIE - That is not so. The honorable senator has a short memory when it suits him. Although a great deal of dressed timber comes from Scandinavia, Norway and Sweden take very little goods from us. I am informed that, if the word " super " in the tariff were altered to " lineal," the timber would be imported in an undressed condition and dressed in Australia. This would not mean that we would not import the timber in an undressed condition, nor would it mean that when it was dressed in Australia the cost would be materially increased. Purchasers of timber in Australia have to pay for it according to the size before it is dressed. Thus they pay for boards6½ inches by 1 inch, although when received here they are only 6 inches by inch. I am told that if we varied the tariff in the direction I have indicated, employment would be given to 1,000 men in Australia in the dressing of timber.

Senator MCLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Would it increase the freight cost ?

Senator GUTHRIE - Steamers from Scandinavia enjoy an unfair advantage over British companies. After bringing this timber here, they have been able to capture a lot of back-loading in the form of wool and other produce. Their seamen are paid only £5 a month, as against the British rate of £9. It seems to me that the reciprocal tariff arrangement with Canada gives that country the thick end of the stick. Australia's exports to Canada in 1921-22 amounted in value to £365,000, whereas in that year we importedfrom Canada goods to the value of £3,146,000. I doubt, therefore, whether the agreement will prove advantageous to this country.

Senator Grant - We shall gain nothing by it.

Senator GUTHRIE - I do not think we shall. The activities of the United States of America in Canada are very great, since the United States of America has 700 branch factories there. The balance of trade is all in favour of Canada, which, I understand, has already imposed dumping duties on goods forwhich we are trying to find a market there. In 1924-25, our exports to the United States of America amounted in value to £9,200,000, but our imports totalled £34,556,000. The Tariff Board is doing its work well. It sifts evidence on both sides, and impartially advises the Government on matters into which it has made a. thorough investigation. Since the men on the land are responsible for 75 per cent. of the wealth of this country, one would naturally like to see their implements, sold at as low a price as possible. Nevertheless, I am a Protectionist, even in. the matter, of agricultural implements. There are 140 factories in Australia engaged in the manufacture of these implements. The works at Sunshine afford a striking example of the success that has attended this important secondary industry. A new city has sprung up,, and probably the best and most effective agricultural implements in the world are produced there. Testis mony to- that fact is afforded by the large numbed of patents, that have been taken out for various classes- of implements. I understand that the cost of this- machinery is just as- high in New Zealand as in Australia, despite the- former country's freetrade policy. No less than 458,000 people are employed in. primary industries in Australia. Our exports of wool last year were valued at £63,000,000, wheat £34,000,000,. flour £6,000,000, butter £10,000,000, milk products £1,000,000, meat £7,000,000, and fruit £3,000,000. It was a wonderful result. Australia would be in a. parlous condition, to-day without the wool industry,, in which we lead the world, both as regards the numbers of our flocks, the excellence of our sheep, the quantity of wool produced per head, and the intrinsic value per pound. Last year our exports of wool, skins, mutton, lambs, and tallow realized £77,000,000, or just a fraction under 50 per cent. of our total exports. It must not be thought that all this, wealth, goes into a few hands. There are over 80,000 families directly interested in sheep husbandry in Australia, but there' is room for- great expansion in the production of wool. During the last ton years the number of sheep in the world1 has-decreased by 61, 000,000, and to-day there is a world shortage of wool. As the result of high price- levels for wool in 1924, scientists burned their attention to the production or invention of other kinds of textile threads in order to cheapen the cost of textiles generally. Their researches led to the discovery of sniafil, a. wood product like rayon,, which has been wrongly designated as artificial silk. Enormous quantities of rayon are now being, used to the detriment of the genuine article. As I have stated, it is made from wood pulp, is very inflammable, and, being a vegetable matter, is a conductor of both heat and cold, does not wear well, and when wet becomes very clammy. Sniafil is in the same category. Some people erroneously speak of it as artificial wool. It is made from wood pulp, which costs only 2d. a lb.,, and as the supply is unlimited', it is possible that, when it is produced in a more attractive form, it may become a serious competitor with our great staple industry. But, like the so-called artificial silk, it is very inflammable, it is a conductor of heat and cold, and does not- wear well. On the other hand, it may be dyed any colour, and spun into any diameter, so we cannot say definitely that it will not one clay become a serious competitor with wool. In the circumstances, it is very desirable- that every aid that sciencecan give the wool industry in Australia should be made available to our wool growers, for whilst we lead the world in wool we have yet a lot to learn in that branch of production, as well as in all our primary and secondary industries. I should like to see twice the number of flock owners in Australia. This country is capable of carrying 120,000',000 sheep. Over 30 years ago-, when it was not developed- to the- same extent as to-day, Australia carried 106,000,000 sheep.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon T Givens - The honorable senator's remarks are interesting, but I am afraid they are not relevant to the bill.

Senator GUTHRIE - They are relevant, Mr. President, inasmuch as the diminution of our flocks is, in some measure, due bo ravages by dingoesand the invasion of our pastoral areas by the rabbit pest. To cope with these- difficulties we should do all that is possible to make wire netting available to pastoralists at a reasonable figure.

Senator Foll - Imported wire netting?'

Senator GUTHRIE - No ; I should like to see it all made in Australia. The industry is established in New South Wales as an important adjunct to the great steel industry, and to ensure its expansion it may be necessary to offer a bounty on production. I support the Government in the action it has taken to safeguard the people of Australia by providing protection for Australian industries.

Senator GRAHAM(Western Australia) |"3.6"|. - At the outset, I should like to say that, as far as possible, I am attired in Australian-made clothes.

Senator Guthrie - I have always been.

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