Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Tuesday, 8 June 1926

Senator MILLEN (Tasmania) . - I have listened with surprise to some of the remarks that have been made during this debate. It seems strange to me that certain honorable senators should ask how a reduction of 7$ per cent, in the duty on road-making machinery could affect the cost of a road. Senator McLachlan spoke of the class of roads made in the United States of America, and he and honorable senators generally have referred to the urgent necessity of constructing roads capable of withstanding the stresses imposed on them under modern traffic conditions. The " roadmaking machinery " used in Australia today comes largely within the category of the shovel, the fork, and the rake, with occasionally a roller. Practically no progress has been made in methods of construction.

Senator Crawford - That remark does not apply to Queensland.

Senator MILLEN - No. In Queensland, after one has travelled by road for 50 miles or so, one wonders whether one's head is still on one's body.

Senator Crawford - It depends on the head.

Senator MILLEN - It is a most unfortunate body that has to travel over Queensland roads. Vast strides are being made in the science of road-making. The road-making methods of a few years ago are practically valueless to-day, and in the near 'future will; be of even less value. Any municipality or roadmaking contractor who depends on the old type of machinery will be completely behind the times. In the United States of America road-making machinery is constantly being replaced because of the invention of more up-to-date plants. As soon as an improvement is discovered the plant in use is scrapped, and the new scheme is put into operation. Australia will have to adopt similar methods. The latest machinery to-day may be obsolete a few months hence. It seems to me that Australia will demand better roads. This result can be achieved by improved plant and improved methods, but principally by improved machinery. Therefore, it is obvious that, with the constant change necessitated by continued improvements in machinery, the added duty might easily become a heavy burden. I support Senator Needham in his amendment. Something must be done to aid the local governing authorities and the roadmaking contractors to provide what modern means of transport demand. If this duty be imposed, contractors will naturally, as a matter of business, pass on the increased cost of construction that it will involve. The Minister, when asked why the tariff was being increased, said that it was largely because of the increase in wages. He explained that tariffs were ruled by wages; and of the truth of that statement we have had a fair illustration throughout the consideration of this schedule. Wherever it appears that wages have increased, extra duties are demanded. It seems to me, however, that the peg must he put in somewhere.

Senator Crawford - The increase in wages has been general.

Senator MILLEN - Yes; but if manufacturers can go to the Tariff Board every time there is an increase in wages and obtain an increased duty, where is the line to bo drawn ?

SenatorReid. - Has the honorable senator any instance of that?

Senator MILLEN - We have it in the item under discussion. I am reminded of a little ditty that I read in the New York Life 'some years ago. So far as my memory serves me, it runs -

The railway man he made a raid -

A dollar more the railroad paid;

The railroad then demanded aid -

More fares, more freight, the shipper paid.

The shipper "'stung" the wholesale trade;

It kicked a bit, but still it paid.

The wholesale trade, tho' sore dismayed,

Promptly bled the retail trade.

The retail trade, as best it can,

Collects it from the railroad man.

And so it goes - so wise are men -

The railroad man began again.

Senator Grant - What is wrong with that? That is all right.

Senator MILLEN - But a time will come when the people of Australia will say that a stop must be put to it - that this collusion must terminate.

Senator Lynch - All things have an end.

Senator MILLEN - And bad things should have a quick end.

Senator Grant - The policy of protection has no end.

Senator MILLEN - In some respects it is becoming a romance.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell - Economic forces will take a hand in the matter soon.

Senator MILLEN - They are beginning now to manifest themselves. The Government contends that it is essential to protect the manufacturers of roadmaking and other machinery, some of which is used in mines. The mining industry - one of the best that the Commonwealth ever had - has been almost strangled.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell - Because of the cost of production.

Senator MILLEN - Yes.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell - Largely owing to the tariff.

Senator Reid - It is not entirely due to the increased duty on machinery.

Senator MILLEN - I do not say that it is. But it is the last straw that breaks the camel's back. The tariff has unquestionably helped to strangle our one-time magnificent mining industry. Something must be done to stabilize it, and the desired result cannot bo achieved by increasing the cost of production. We aretold that some twenty factories are concerned in the manufacture of roadmaking and certain other machinery covered by this item, and that 1,000 men are employed in the industry. But many thousands of men have been affected by the throttling of the mining industry. Should not honorable senators consider how much it has meant to Australia? In many parts of this fair land we see the effects of mining activities having been abandoned, yet the representatives of such States as Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania are asked to assist industries at the cost of strangling the mining industry.

Senator Barnes - The mining " sharks " strangled it.

Senator MILLEN - The mining " shark " on the scene in the early stages - before the mine has started operations. His " mine " consists, as a rule, of a piece of stone carried in his hip pocket, andhe is often able to gull the public. But I am speaking of mines that were in full operation and paid dividends.

Senator Barnes - Does the honorable senator think that the " shark " got out when dividends were beiug paid?

Senator MILLEN - He would get out . as the first robber.

Senator Barnes - Watch the share lists.

Senator MILLEN - Nobody scans the share lists of mining companies to-day. Mining is too precarious. An increase in duty that will add in any degree to the cost of mining will do an irreparable wrong to this country.

Suggest corrections