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Wednesday, 26 May 1926

Senator SIR HENRY BARWELL - I thought I had completed the circle. If, however, the honorable senator is in doubt, I advise him to secure a copy of my remarks to-morrow and read them carefully. I am not saying that all increases in the tariff are wrong. My point is that proper discrimination is not being observed in the imposition of these duties, and that the readiness to impose unreasonable duties is placing an undue burden upon the people of Australia generally and upon our primary producers in particular. Something has been said in the course of this debate about prohibition. I believe there are one or two prohibitionists in this chamber. I regret that Senator Graham is not present, because I understand that in tariff matters he is a prohibitionist. I invite these tariff prohibitionists to consider what the effect would be if we completely shut out all imports of commodities which could, in any circumstances, be produced in Australia. The merest tyro in economics must realize the dependence of imports upon exports, or vice versa, the dependence of exports upon imports. Australia is receiving approximately £140,000,000- last year I think the amount was £136,000,000- in payment for herexports. Is it not clear that if our tariff prohibited imports we should lose that amount which at present we receive in payment for our exports? It is manifest that, if we export goods, we must take goods of some kind in payment. This simple fact seems to be lost sight of by many people who set themselves up as economists. If sometimes we do not buy from those countries to which we ship our products it is clear that they cannot continue to buy from us. No country can buy always without selling to the country from which it buys. I am convinced that before long the people of Australia will wake up to the fact that these increases in tariff duties are placing a heavy burden upon the community generally by hampering industry, restricting trade, and rendering impossible the full development of the natural resources of Australia. I believe the time is not far distant when tariff revision will be the all-important issue at Commonwealth elections and then the party to be returned to power will be that party which promises to re- lieve the people of some of the burdens which are being imposed upon them by the present high tariff. I am convinced that if the duties were reduced to reasonable limits, whilst some few secondary industries might go to the wall, agriculture would be encouraged, primary production generally would be assisted, commerce would be strengthened, and the welfare of all classes would be very considerably augmented. The point I wish to emphasize is that in the imposition of tariff duties we should discriminate between those secondary industries which ought to be assisted and those which may be regarded as economically wasteful. I referred just now to the matchmaking industry as one. Senator Ogden dealt fully, and very ably, with the industry engaged in the manufacture of electrical appliances, and showed how the imposition of high duties on electrical equipment had considerably retarded the expansion of other secondary industries in the Commonwealth. I wish to make it clear that I am not arguing against a protective tariff, because I am a protectionist myself. I believe that, in a young country like Australia, it is necessary to protect certain necessary industries, but not those industries that are wasteful from an economic stand-point.

Senator Elliott - Has the honorable senator any line of demarcation?

Senator Sir HENRYBARWELL.I do not think it is possible more clearly to draw the line of demarcation than I have done, by advocating a policy of discrimination in respect of secondary industries that enjoy protection under the tariff. We should consider - and the Prime Minister has said that the Government will consider - the effect of protective duties upon our primary industries and upon industries which depend, as regards their surplus output, upon outside markets. What I am complaining of is that there is no such discrimination in the existing tariff. If the tariff has the effect of hampering our primary industries, the tendency will be to place an undue burden upon the people generally, and particularly upon our primary producers. My remarks have been somewhat general in character, and may be taken as a declaration of the fiscal faith that is in me. Like other honorable senators, I shall have an opportunity of saying more when the items are before this chamber.

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