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Wednesday, 29 April 1936

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) . - Honorable senators on this side of the chamber are in the fortunate position that they need not become wildly excited over the tariff debate. Honorable senators opposite appear to be somewhat perturbed, particularly in respect of the duties on some items, and there seems to be a possibility of a split in the ranks.

Senator Dein - We have not all to vote in the same way.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - No ; I believe that there will be honest differences of opinion. Like Senator Dein, I have not yet made up my mind how I shall vote on certain items; but although I am not a high protectionist, I urn a keen advocate of the reasonable protection of Australian manufacturers, because we should not import goods which can be manufactured economically in this country. Even under a protective policy there can be two-way trade. It seems unreasonable to suggest that, while cement is being manufactured successfully and economically in Australia, supplies should be imported free of duty from Great Britain and allowed to enter into competition with the local product. Those who believe in the free admission of British cement may even go so far as to suggest that concrete blocks should also be imported from that country. It is an admission of weakness even to debate the question of the free importation of British cement into a country with plants capable of producing all that it requires. The duties on cement will be determined by the votes of honorable senators opposite. When the last tariff schedule was before the Senate the Government had the support of two members of the New South Wales Labour party, who, on more than one occasion, saved it from defeat. I intend to follow the debate on the cement duties very closely and to support the case which has the greater merit. According to information supplied by the Industries Protection League of New South Wales it appears that between 1932-33 and 1934-35 imports increased by 273/4 per cent. and exports decreased by63/4 per cent. - a total disadvantage to the Australian trade of 341/2 per cent.

Senator Guthrie - Those are not the latest figures.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - They have been supplied by the friends of honorable senators opposite. When approached by a representative of manufacturers I informed him that some manufacturers interview Labour representatives in the hope of securing their support for high duties, but when they received protection they did not care what happened to the workers whom they employed. These figures show that we are asked to give a further advantage to Great Britain to the detriment of an Australian industry. The general result of the Ottawa agreement has been to place Australia at a considerable disadvantage. The statement has been made that the landing of 11,000 tons of British cement in Western Australia during the next few weeks will have the effect of depriving 88 men of employment.

Senator Hardy Senator Hardy interjecting.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - I draw the attention of honorable senators to a passage in Hansard which is a splendid example of the vivid descriptive powers of Senator Hardy. In 1933, during the debate on the customs tariff, he said -

I am astounded tofind the Leader of the Senate and the Minister in charge of the bill playing political leap-frog or riding on a merry-go-round the tunc of which changes nightly.

Senator Hardy - That demonstrates how well the Minister has done since, because he has come to the revision of the tariff.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - The honorable senator continued -

If we are to have such political somersaults, such fiscal acrobatics, what hope is there of sound government? The same somersaulting has been indulged in by the Minister in charge of the bill. He also has been able to change his fiscal ideas overnight, to shed his opinions as easily as a snake sheds its skin in the spring.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator does not know my fiscal opinions.

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