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Thursday, 10 June 1926

Senator THOMPSON (Queensland) . - From the vote taken on the item relating to mining machinery it is evident that the majority of honorable senators are against a reduction of the Government's proposals. I now desire to ask for an additional duty in respect of this item. At Ulam, in Central Queensland, betweenRockhampton and Gladstone, there are immense deposits of high-class marble, which, if the industry were sufficiently protected, could supply the wants of Australia. Any higher duty now imposed could be reduced later when the industry had become established. There are many difficulties in the way of the successful development of these marble deposits. They are situated 16 miles from a railway station, which, in turn, is 17 miles from a port.

Senator Elliott - -How many hours a week are worked in the quarries?

Senator THOMPSON - Under existing conditions in Queensland, I suppose that 44 hours would constitute a week's work. Carriage to the railway station is costly, as is also the freight fromRockhampton to other parts of Australia. The tariff provides for British preference, but not much marble comes here from Great Britain; most of it comes from Italy. I do not ask that the British rate be affected ; but, having regard to the fact that wages in Italy are much lower than in Australia, that the rate of exchange is in favour of importers, inasmuch as the lira is at a considerable discount, and that the freight from Italy to Australia is less than fromRockhampton to Melbourne, I suggest that the duty under the general tariff be increased by 10 per cent. In the quarries to which I have referred there is ample marble to supply Australia's requirements; but, as it takes time to obtain men skilled in sawing marble slabs, I suggest that the tariff should be deferred until the 1st January next. In making this request I am. not unmindful of the increase which the Government has already granted. Its proposals are a fairly substantial increase on the old duties. But, in order to develop these immense marble deposits, an additional 10 per cent. duty is necessary. I therefore move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties, sub-item (c) : British, 25 per cent.; intermediate, 40 per cent.: general, 45 per cent.

The decision in respect of this sub-item I am prepared to accept, as applying also to" sub-items d and e.

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