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Friday, 28 May 1926

Senator PLAIN (Victoria) .- I have always been a fairly strong protectionist. The benefits conferred on this country by the adoption of that policy have caused me never to regret having adopted that policy in early life. I listened attentively to the remarks of Senator Lynch, whose speeches are always instructive and interesting; but this morning I was unable to follow him in his references to Canada. The honorable senator endeavoured to compare industrial conditions in Canada with those existing in Australia. ' Such a comparison is impossible. Canada is a much older country than Australia. Moreover, she is able to draw upon the best bone and muscle of European countries. The result has been that her primary resources have been developed to an extent that we can scarcely hope to equal for some time. Canada is in the position to demand good prices for her products, because, if she cannot get her price from one customer, she can get it from another. Australia is not in that position. Not only is Australia a much younger country, but its distance from the markets of the world is also much greater. We must depend upon our own resources and the energy and ability of our people to a much greater extent than is necessary in Canada. Nevertheless, the progress made by Australia is greater than that made by Canada in the same period. I claim also that the Australian race is superior to the Canadian, and I look forward to the time - and I do not refer to the distant future - when Australia will be a greater nation and a mightier people than our sister dominion. Our resources are probably not equalled by those of Canada; while our climate is far superior. Our people are energetic, intelligent, and ambitious. I predict s great destiny for Australia. British traditions are unchallenged; and so long as we have reasonable freedom to encourage our secondary industries, Australia must become a great nation. So far as the individual items in the tariff are concerned, I reserve to myself the right to vote as I think best. I claim that the protection which we have given to our industries during the past few years has placed them on a footing which has enabled them to compete with other countries. I remind Senator Lynch that since the first tariff was introduced the prices of agricultural implements in Australia have fallen. Some years ago the value of our primary production greatly exceeded that of our secondary industries; but since the introduction of the tariff that position has been reversed. In 1920 our primary production - agricultural and dairy produce - was valued at £92,774,000. By 1924 the amount had increased to £127,724,000. For the same years our secondary production was valued at £75,362,000 and £131,848,000 respectively.

Senator Payne - A very substantial increase.

Senator PLAIN - Yes. In every State of the Commonwealth the number of factories has increased since 1918. In that year 5,460 factories existed in New South Wales, 5,720 in Victoria, 1,778 in Queensland, 1,313 in South Australia, 553 in Tasmania, and 764 in Western Australia. The number of factories in 1924 was respectively 6,702, 7,096, 1,878, 1,609, 669, and 1,999. Those figures show that since 191S Western Australia has made great progress iri regard to her secondary industries. At the close of the war the hands employed in Australian factories numbered 340,475. In 1924 this number had increased to 412,410. I have a few figures in reference to agricultural machinery contradicting those given by Senator Lynch.

Naturally, as a producer, I am concerned about the price of these implements, but I realize that we cannot expect to get them nowadays for what we paid for them prior to the war. The economic conditions of every country have altered. Furthermore, the duty on these implements has been increased. In these circumstances one would expect to pay a little more for them, but, as a matter of fact, they are cheaper to-day. A 6-ft. stripper harvester, which cost £155 in. 1920, is listed at £128 to-day; an 8-ft. stripper harvester, listed at £192 10s. in 1920, costs £160 to-day; an 8-ft. header harvester, which cost £242 10s. in. 1920, is listed at £184 to-day. These figures prove that the manufacturers of these implements have not passed on the increased duty to the consumers, and I am hopeful that, as this industry becomes more efficient and their output grows as a result of the imposition of this duty, they will be able to sell their machines at still lower prices. I look forward to the day when Australian industries, primary and secondary, will be equal to those of Canada. With mass production we should be able to compete with the world. But, until we reach that stage, our secondary, as well as our primary, industries must have that consideration extended to them which they have enjoyed in the past. My vote will always go to assist them in every possible way.

Senator BARNES(Victoria) r2.34"l_. - The question before the Senate is of vital importance to the development of Australia. We are a young country. In our early stages it was only natural that we should be exploited by older countries; but, as we grew up, Ave discovered that, if we are not actually a nation, we are at least a nation in embryo. We looked at the vastness of other countries from which our parents had come, and thought of what they had done, and we asked ourselves, "Why do we, in a country like this, want assistance from or continue to be under a compliment to any other country?" We realized that we had here the manhood and the vigour required for the development of a nation, and, quite wisely, we set about organizing them. Wc made a start in our schools by providing the youth of our country with the best education. As a result, we have in Aus tralia to-day men and women capable of doing anything which is possible for any human being to do. Having these people here, our next task was to set to work to provide employment for them and prevent (hem from being victimized by the importation of the products of other countries whose general conditions are vastly below those of Australia. Very wisely our Government appointed a Tariff Board. Ministers cannot be expected to do everything. They must depend on the advice of experts. I take it that the members of the Tariff Board are reasonably honest and capable common-sense men whose task it is to call evidence, sift it, and submit to the Government reports based upon it. On the reports of the board the Government frames its tariff. I freely confess that I have not gone into all the recommendations of the Tariff Board. Like many other people in Australia, I am a busy man. I do not think there is any individual in this country who can follow everything that is being done. It is absolutely certain that no Government can directly follow everything that is being done in Commonwealth activities. That is why commissions are appointed. Their purpose is to obtain the best results for the benefit of every one. The Tariff Board has been appointed to obtain the best results for every one, and the Government acting on what the board has recommended is honestly trying to do something to benefit Australia. I arn an Australian. I am an out-and-out protectionist. I would protect the industries of this country from any possible competition. I am a great believer in my own country and in the methods we have adopted to train our people. Some may think there are great possibilities in keeping the people ignorant, but no country . can attain the best results unless its people are trained in the best means of developing it. We have done very well in that direction in Australia, and I postulate that our people are capable of doing anything. Other countries may be more developed, and their organization may be superior to ours, but their labour conditions may be so inferior to our own as to enable them to supply articles cheaply to Australia. If we are to build a nation here, as I know we shall do, we must protect ourselves from that kind of exploitation. Wo should not be expected to permit people of other countries to flood our land with articles we are capable of making ourselves. A nation whose people are practically slaves, could wipe out Australia, and in fact all civilization. But when we are dealing with an educated people such as we have in Australia, and with people who want to make the best of their country, we must be guided by the recommendations of the organization which the country provides to guide Parliament in the matter of what protection should be afforded to its young industries. I am wholeheartedly in support of the tariff before us. During the last few months I have had the opportunity of inspecting a glass works in Sydney. The people who invested their money in those works have been struggling for years, but as the result of the imposition of the present tariff they have now 2,000 men employed in their factory, and as soon as the necessary buildings can be completed they propose to give employment to a further 2,000 men. In Sydney I also inspected an engineering establishment where I saw young Australians, working under excellent conditions, turning out what appeared to me splendid work. I do not mention names. I am speaking as an Australian, whose desire it is, to see his country developed in the way it ought to be developed. These young men were engaged in the manufacture of motor accessories. I asked the manager why they could not produce motor cars, and he informed me that they hoped to be able to undertake that work when the tariff had been passed by Parliament. I also asked him whether it was not possible to undertake the manufacture of motor engines, and he said that that was also intended.

Senator McLachlan - It would not be economical to do that work in Australia,

Senator BARNES.When the tariff is passed it should be possible. Even if manufacturing costs in Australia are slightly higher than in other countries, we should have the work done here rather than allow our own people to be unemployed. It appears to be the desire of some honorable senators to see the citizens of other countries fully employed, and to allow our own people to be idle. One of freetrade Britain's principal exports to-day is her manhood.

Senator Thompson - There are not many British people coming here.

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