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Tuesday, 8 June 1926

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to make sub-item (e) read -

Mining machinery, n.e.i., ad valorem, British 27½ per cent., intermediate 50 per cent., general 55 per cent.

This sub-item deals solely with mining machinery. That industry, as honorable senators are aware, has been severely handicapped in recent years. Western Australia is the leading gold-producing State of the Commonwealth. A royal commission was appointed by this Government in 1925 to inquire into the financial position of Western Australia, as affected by. federation. Two of the three commissioners expressed the view that, whatever benefit federation might have conferred upon other States, it had not benefited Western Australia. As the Western Australian gold-mining industry is at present declining, additional imposts such as are now proposed will handicap it still further. The value of mining in Western Australia in 1901 was £7,458,000, in 1910 £6,522,000, in 1920 £4,110,000, and in 1923 £2,747,000. The value of the gold produced in 1901 was £7,235,000, in 1910 £6,246,000, in 1920 £3,475,000, and in 1923 £2,232,000.

Senator Crawford - Can the honorable senator give the gold yield per ton of ore treated during those years?

Senator NEEDHAM - I have not the figures before me. The number of employees engaged in the gold-mining industry in Western Australia in 1910 was 17,711, in 1919, 8,346, and in 1923, 6,497. These figures clearly indicate the extent to which gold mining in Western Australia has declined during recent years. The decline is to some extent due to the fact- that the mines are now working on ore of a lower grade, which has increased the cost of production. The Western Australian Government is now conferring with the mining companies in that State in an endeavour to revive the industry, but up to the present I do not think the companies have expressed any opinion as to the feasibility of the scheme. It is reasonable, however, to assume that the imposition of higher Customs duties must further hamper the industry. Years ago, when the gold yield was greater and the industry generally more prosperous, duties such as are now proposed on mining machinery could have been paid without detrimentally affecting production. 1 quote the following from the annual report of the Tariff Board on the incidence of the tariff on Western Australia -

The significance of this oan be appreciated when it is learned that in the eastern States approximately50 per cent, of local primary products is consumed locally, whereas in Western Australia only 20 per ceut, at best, of some of their local primary products is consumed locally, and that in a number of cases this percentage falls to 10 per cent, and even lower. It is necessary to recollect in this connexion that the principal expnnsion in Western Australian industry is along the line of primary production, and that the cost of material and plant and tools has been greatly enhanced during the last decade, which adds considerably to their capital outlay in placing their settlers upon the land.

I have moved this request, not as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, but as a representative of Western Australia, and in doing so, have simply expressed my own views.

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