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Tuesday, 8 June 1926

Senator KINGSMILL (Western Australia) . - Any honorable senator engaged, as I for some time have been, in an endeavour to discover some system in this protective tariff, would find sufficient in this item alone to discourage him. We have here one of the greatest anomalies in connexion with the tariff. First, we have the Federal Government expressing its intention to spend, during the next nineteen years, a large sum of money on road construction in Australia; and then we have the Tariff Board, or whoever is responsible, placing this obstacle in the way. To me it is utterly incomprehensible. Yet the Minister has given us no explanation. No evidence has been adduced to show that the people who are engaged in the manufacture of road-making machinery in Australia cannot carry on profitably with a duty of 27½ per cent. Nor has there been any evidence in support of a differentiation betwen this and other classes of machinery justifying an additional 7½ per cent, being added in this case. I have repeatedly endeavoured to ascertain the true meaning of the term "commercially manufactured in Australia," but invariably those whom I have questioned have evaded a direct reply. It has not been shown that roadmaking machinery cannot be commercially manufactured in Australia. Personally, I believe that it can be made here on a commercial basis.

Senator Crawford - There are 30 firms in Australia manufacturing this class of machinery.

Senator KINGSMILL - Then, why is it necessary to raise the duty? The Minister has destroyed his own argument.

Senator Crawford - I have already pointed out that wages have decreased in Great Britain, whereas during the same period they have increased in Australia.

Senator KINGSMILL - I desireto refer to the honorary statistician to this Senate, a gentleman whose figures are always based upon the latest available records. I refer to Senator Lynch, who carries out his duties as statistician in a thorough and systematic manner, necessitating the burning of much midnight oil. He has pointed out that in one industry the wages paid in Great Britain are better than those paid in the same industry in Australia. They are better because the workers there put their heart into their work. If the policy now advocated is persisted in, we shall be told year after year that, for this industry to survive, increased duties will be necessary; and merely on the strength of a general statement the duties will, no doubt, be increased. This tariff is being put through on general statements. There has been no information relating specifically to the items under discussion. That is not good enough for me. I do not believe that road-making machinery cannot be commercially made in Australia under existing conditions. I believe that the action taken by the Tariff Board, or the Minister for Trade and Customs, is a contravention of the principle underlying the Government's proposal to make money available for the construction of good roads, which it considers are essential to the proper development of Australia. Are the interests of the people who are employed in this industry to be compared with the interests of the hundreds of thousands of settlers on the land, who are really the backbone of the country, and on whom our future prosperity and advancement depend ? What are the interests of the few compared with the interests of the many for whom cheap road-making machinery is essential? There is not the slightest justification for differentiation between cement-making and roadmaking machinery. Judging from' the experience of the United States of America, which of all countries has adopted the most scientific, method of road-making, the tendency is towards cement roads. Anything that will relieve the present position should be done. Furthermore, I do not believe for a moment, that this item, if carried in the present form, will benefit any people except employees in this particular industry. I do not want to make any suggestion as to why Senator Needham has moved his amendment.

Senator Needham - The honorable senator is very decent about the matter.'

Senator KINGSMILL -I hope I am, and that I shall always remain so. I unreservedly welcome the honorable senator's amendment, and I think that what he has said should carry some weight; but when we find honorable gentlemen who have been so consistently protectionist, if, indeed, a protectionist can be consistent-

Senator Needham - I have heard the honorable senator himself advocating protection.

Senator KINGSMILL - I am a protectionist, but not in the sense suggested by the honorable senator. In this matter I am a protectionist to the extent of 27½ per cent., though I am aware that some Victorian protectionists favour duties of 50 per cent., 60 per cent., and even 100 per cent. But when an honorable senator of pronounced fiscal beliefs, such as Senator Needham, thinks it his duty to oppose the proposed increase, other considerations should be relegated to the background. I shall undoubtedly support Senator Needham's amendment, and I should like, also, to take this opportunity to ask the Minister once more what is the definition of "commercially manufactured" in Australia. Up to the present I have never been able to get a satisfactory definition.

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