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Thursday, 10 June 1926

Senator CRAWFORD (QueenslandHonorary Minister) .- The Tariff Board points out how difficult it is to ascertain what rate of duty is necessary in connexion with an article which previously has not been manufactured in Australia. The board made very exhaustive investigations into this subject and obtained a good deal of useful information. It sets out the costs in Australia as compared with costs in Belgium, where, at the present time, most of our importations of sheet glass come from. The board states that the cost of limestone, which is used very largely in the manufacture of sheet glass, is 100 per cent, more in Australia than in Belgium.

Senator Payne - I made no reference whatever to costs in Belgium.

Senator CRAWFORD - It does not concern me what Senator Payne was talking about. I am putting the facts before the committee, and I tell honorable senators that, according to information furnished by the Tariff Board, Belgium will be the chief competitor of the Australian manufacturers in this particular industry.

Senator Payne - Is the Minister ignoring what I said about the British glass?

Senator CRAWFORD - I do not propose to deal with that phase of the subject at this stage; I intend to state my case in my own way. Fuel 'costs are 59 per cent higher -in Australia than in Belgium, silica bricks 92 per cent, higher, timber for cases 50 per cent, higher, and wages 139 per cent, higher in Australia than in Belgium. Those figures, I think, make out a very good case for a substantial duty.

Senator Guthrie - How much more, on the average, would the Australian working nian have to pay for the building of a house, owing to the proposed increased duty on sheet glass?

Senator CRAWFORD - It would mean about a penny a pane extra. Senator Payne stated that the increase on the present duty would be about 525 per cent. I point out, however, that the present tariff on sheet glass is purely a revenue duty, and will be quite useless as a protective duty. The Tariff Board states that on certain sizes of glass - those most generally used - the proposed impost will be 50 per cent., as against the United Kingdom. As I have already pointed out, Belgium., and not Great Britain, is the principal competitor of the Australian manufacturer. In Belgium not only are materials much cheaper, but the work is cheaply performed by women and girls. I think that the hundreds of thousands of people to whom Senator Payne refers, who will live in houses in the construction of which Australian glass will be used, will much prefer to pay an extra 2s. or 3s. for the glass in each house, because they will have the satisfaction of knowing that Australian workmen have been employed, under Australian rates and hours, and under the conditions prescribed by law and custom in this coun try. I point out, also, that, in addition to the increased labour costs in Australia, factories are more expensive to erect, and the machinery is more costly to provide, than in Belgium. While the capital outlay will be greater here, the output will be less, and while the factories in Australia operate only six days a week, those in Belgium work seven - they never stop. 'No reasonable person would begrudge the necessary protection to an industry that has to compete against factories operated under such conditions as obtain in Belgium.

Senator Payne - I agree with all the Minister has said about Belgium.

Senator CRAWFORD - Then of what does the honorable senator complain ?

Senator Payne - If the Minister ignores what I have said, I cannot help it.

Senator CRAWFORD - I have not done that. Let me read a final word from the report of the Tariff Board: -

In the opinion of the Tariff Board there need be no hesitance, however, in accepting the recommendation of this particular duty, owing to the fact that it is a proposed deferred duty, and the board can, and will, keep in close touch with the industry, if established, and will investigate from time to time the costs of production, and so have a means of discovering whether or not the duty is justifiable, and, further, whether the consuming public of Australia is being fairly treated. Should it be found either that the proposed duty is inadequate, or that excessive prices are being charged to the public, the board will not hesitate to make a recommendation for an alteration in the tariff that will safeguard the situation.

By way of interjection I stated that it was the intention of the company that proposed to be the pioneer in the manufacture of sheet glass in Australia, to confine its activities in the first place to Sydney. But it intends to charge the same price for its products in all the States. When the business grows it will erect similar plant in the other States.

Senator H Hays - What about the British manufacturers of glass?

Senator CRAWFORD - Only a comparatively small proportion of the glass Used in Australia comes from Great Britain at the present time. Britain, tinder the existing tariff, is receiving a concession of £8,000,000 in preferential duties, and the tariff now before the committee will add another £500,000 to that sum. I think that my sympathies with the British manufacturer are as sincere as those of any other honorable senator; but I cannot help putting Australia first.

Senator Grant - The Minister means the Australian manufacturers.

Senator CRAWFORD - I also include their employees. I am not on© of those who think that protection benefits only the people who invest their money in protected industries, or those who are employed by them. Protection is good for the community as a whole, and every £1 that we can keep in this country means so much more prosperity to the people generally. I contend that, in all the circumstances, the proposed duties are quite reasonable. If they are found to be too> high they can be reduced. It is far better to give a new industry a higher protection than it requires, knowing that the duty can be reduced, than to give it less than is necessary to enable it to make a fair start.

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