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Thursday, 22 March 1928

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - I believe that Senator Chapman was right when he said that this item was agreed to in a somewhat hurried fashion, because there are a number of points in connexion with these proposed duties which have not been ventilated. For instance, the Tariff Board in effect informed the applicants for increased duties that they did not know their own business. The applicants said that they were asking for a duty equal to 50 per cent., but the Tariff Board in its report said that they had understated their case, and proceeded to recommend duties of 50 per cent. British, 60 per cent, intermediate, and 75 per cent, general. It is quite clear that the board would have awarded even higher duties. I emphasize the point that I do not think it is within the functions of the Tariff Board to tell any applicant for increased duties that he is understating his case. According to the reports of the inquiry, no representative of the users of iron pipes was examined. The only witnesses were those who wanted increased duties. They were interested parties, and the Tariff Board came to a decision on ex parte evidence. To appreciate the absurdity of these increased rates one has only to refer to page 40 of the report, where it will be seen that -the board- stated that without a subsidy from another industry or very exceptional preferences over and above the tariff Hoskins Limited could not carry on the manufacture of iron and steel pipes in Australia except at a .loss. I characterize that statement as the height of absurdity. That portion of the board's report is not in accordance with facts. What is the history of the company? I recall what was said years ago by a representative of that firm, who stayed in the galleries until the last item of the tariff affecting iron and steel duties was passed by Parliament. That gentleman and his representatives led us to believe that the industry was an unpayable one, but Mr. Hoskins died a multi-millionaire. Now the Tariff Board tells us that without a subsidy iron cannot be profitably manufactured in Australia by that firm.. Honorable senators will remember the progress the late Mr. Hoskins made in his business, how he eventually became a mighty iron master, and made millions of money in this country. Any one standing on the top of the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney can see a twelvestorey building owned by Hoskins Limited which was constructed out of the profits of an industry which the Tariff Board says could not be profitably conducted without a subsidy. These are facts which cannot be successfully challenged.. The Tariff Board was not justified in making that statement. The business record of the late Mr. Hoskins proved conclusively that he had made an immense fortune out of the iron and steel industry in this country. Why should we, by means of tariff protection, assist others to become millionaires? Let us reach finality in this matter. I hope that Senator Chapman will submit his request to another place to reduce the duty, so as to make it possible for the farmers and pioneers in our out-back country, where the rainfall is scanty, to obtain iron water pipes at a reasonable price, thus making those areas habitable and, perhaps, profitable. To farmers in such locations water is the first essential.

Senator Chapman - There are millions of acres in South Australia that could be occupied profitably if water could be secured at a reasonable price.

Senator LYNCH - I agree with the honorable senator, and having had experience of our arid areas, I can speak with, authority. We all know what the Kalgoorlie water scheme, promoted by the late Lord Forrest, meant to the people in the gold-field areas of Western Australia during the early period, and what it means to them to-day. It brought happiness and civilization to thousands of people who, till then, were suffering great privations. Under this item the Government proposes to give an additional protection of 50 per cent. British preferential to the manufacturers of iron pipes. It is about time we took stock of our position. I feel sure that no honorable senator would willingly load the scales in favour of a small section in this community, at the expense of the majority of the people who already are groaning under a heavy load of taxation. We have had a similar experience in connexion with the manufacture of harvesters in Australia. Unfortunately, the firm engaged in that business succeeded in convincing successive governments that, without high protective duties, it could not carry on. Again, the high duties sanctioned by Parliament help manufacturers to become millionaires in far less than the span of an ordinary lifetime. Why should not the unfortunate consumer - the primary producer - get a hearing? It is important to bear in mind also that the applicants made a request for duties of 30s. British, 40s. intermediate, and 50s. a ton in the general tariff on the importations of pig iron, and the board recommended duties of 30s. British, 40s. intermediate and 65s. in the general tariff - actually more in the general tariff than had been asked for. How foolish a person would be if- he insisted upon paying a shopkeeper 15s. for an article which was priced for retail at 10s., or if he insisted upon giving his tailor £9 for a suit of clothes priced at £8. Obviously the Tariff Board considered that the request for increased duties on pig iron was altogether too moderate, and, in effect, said to the applicants': - "You are asking too little. We intend to give you more than you are asking for, because we believe that you do not know your own business." Surely honorable senators will do something to put this matter right. Why do not we tell the board that it is not discharging its duties efficiently?

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