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Wednesday, 9 June 1926

Senator CRAWFORD (Queensland) (Honorary Minister) . - The meters covered by this item are used to record the quantity of current used by the consumer. Prior to September, 1922, they were admitted free from the "United Kingdom, and at a duty of 15 per cent. In September, 1922, the duty was raised to 35 per cent. British, 40 per cent, intermediate, and 45 per cent, general, for the protection of the local industry for their manufacture, then recently established in Australia. This item supplies a striking example of the effect of the establishment of an industry on the price to the consumer of the article it manufactures. In 1922, although they were admitted from Britain free and from elsewhere at a duty of 15 per cent., the price, of certain of these meters was £2 5s. In 1924 and 1925, in spite of the imposition of duties of 35 per cent, 40 per cent., and ,45 per cent., the price of the same meters fell to £1 7s. 6d. The reduction in cost of production in England and in overseas countries was much greater than in Australia. The cost of production in England was only half the cost in Australia. The lower cost in England is. accounted for by mass production and the lower rate of wages paid in that country. This forced the price of the locally-made meter down to a figure which represented little more than the cost of production. The local manufacturers, of whom there are now two, are dependent upon the manufacture of these meters for the continuance of their industry. The larger concern, which employed from 300 to 400 hands, had to discharge a number of employees, and the number of employees in the other concern was reduced, to fifteen or sixteen. The annual requirements are estimated at from 110,000 to 120,000 of these meters, valued at £150,000. There is, therefore, scope for a very important industry to meet local requirements, lt is estimated that one of the manufacturing firms can turn out 3,000 and the other 800 of these meters per week, and so the requirements of the Commonwealth can be locally supplied. The Sydney Municipal Council has absorbed 100,000 of the locallymanufactured meters, and I am informed that their quality is -equal to that of the imported article.

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