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Wednesday, 6 May 1936

Senator GIBSON (Victoria) .- Item 161, upon which the- Senate voted last night, was of comparatively minor importance. As a matter of fact, the total value of the imports covered by it did not exceed £1,000, so that the item was not of much consequence. Senator Herbert Hays has pointed out correctly that imports of machinery from Canada and the United States of America have fallen away considerably. Of the machines covered by the item now before the committee, there are no importations, because the International Harvester Company has arranged for the manufacture of its reaper-threshers in Australia, and the Massey Harris Company has combined with H. V. McKay and Company for a similar purpose.

Senator Hardy - "Would not the establishment of the International Harvester Company in Australia bc of advantage to the Commonwealth ?

Senator GIBSON - I am not suggesting otherwise. I desire to emphasize, however, that this enterprise is now, in conjunction with an Australian company, manufacturing agricultural implements in Australia. This matter, which at one time was of great importance, has now become one of relatively minor importance. In 1934, the total imports into Australia of farm machinery of all descriptions, including agricultural, pastoral and dairying implements, were valued at only £284,000, whereas the value of implements manufactured in Australia was £1,767,000. In contrast with those figures, the imports in 1927 were as high as £973,000, and the value of the Australian manufactures, £3,819,000. The position to-day is that our requirements are being manufactured in the Commonwealth; but, as Senator Herbert Hays has truthfully pointed our, the cost of these machines is too high. As I endeavoured to show last night, it cost £226 to sell £700 worth of agricultural machinery. In the face of those figures, obviously something is wrong in our methods of distribution. It is. a pity that competition is non-existent; it has been definitely eliminated.

Senator Hardy - There would have to be a considerable volume of foreign competition to affect the present prices of Australian machinery.

Senator GIBSON - I have already pointed out that the International Harvester Company is having its machinery manufactured in Australia, while the Massey Harris Company has combined with H. V. McKay and Company. I do not use the term " combined " in any sense of disparagement, but these arrangements have tended to abolish competition.

Senator Guthrie - If there is no competition, why is it necessary for an enterprise to spend so much money in putting its implements on the market?

Senator GIBSON - That excessive expenditure, I believe, induced the Tariff Board to report as it did.

Senator Sir George Pearce - Mitchell and Company Proprietary Limited is in competition with H. V. McKay and Company.

Senator GIBSON - Yes; in addition to Mitchell and Company Proprietary Limited, there are Shearer and Sons Limited, T. Robinson and Company Proprietary Limited, and quite a number of other manufacturers; but the competition of the International Harvester Company has ceased. I would like to see a reduction of the cost of agricultural machinery to the farmers, without affecting the profits made by the Australian manufacturers. In my opinion, this can be effected very largely-

Senator Brown - By dismissing the salesmen ?

Senator GIBSON - If an expenditure of £266 was required to sell £700 worth of machinery, I fail to see that any harm would be done by dismissing the salesmen.

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