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Wednesday, 6 May 1936

Senator E B JOHNSTON (Western Australia) . - I move -

That the House of Representatives ho requested to make the duties,sub-item (B) (1) (2) and (3) ad valorem, general, 25 per cent.

Before dealing specifically with this item, which covers mining and metallurgical machinery, I suggest that the primary producers of Australia will be surprised to learn that out of seven Country party senators, only four- Senators Badman, Carroll,and Gibson, and , myself- voted to preserve their interests in the division just taken in regard to duties on agricultural machinery. Apparently only four out of the farmers' direct representatives in this chamber are prepared to fight for the true interests of the primary producers of this country.

This item vitally concerns the great mining industry. During the last few years many people have invested a good deal of money in the development of this industry, and most of the new development is taking place in Western Australia. The recommendations of the Tariff Board, which inquires independently into tariff matters, and which is being used by this Government to whip up its supporters in regard to duties on cement, were totally ignored by this Government when it dealt with the duties on agricultural machinery, despite the fact that such machinery is a far more important factor than cement in Australian industry. We find also that this Government is prepared to ignore the board's recommendations in regard to duties on importations of gold-mining machinery. In respect of all these subitems, it approves of a general tariff rate considerably in excess of that recommended by the board. Contrast this attitude with the attitude it adopted in connexion with items covering agricultural machinery when the Minister quoted ad infinitum, the opinions of the Tariff Board; he went to unusual limits in that direction ; indeed, he failed only to tell us that the board, after making thorough investigations, recommended very much lower duties than those which the Government was prepared to accept. I remind honorable senators that in recent years there has been a marked increase of importations of mining machinery, more than half of which has been installed in the State of Western Australia. Along with -the Leader of the Senate, (Senator Pearce), I have the honour to represent that State in this chamber. However, there is a marked difference between our views on these matters ; whilst I advocate a reduction of duties, to at least the levels recommended by the Tariff Board, the Loader of the Senate, in regard to both agricultural and mining machinery,, supports very much higher duties than those recommended by the board. Indeed, if I had my way, I would reduce the duties on these importations very much below those advised by that tribunal. I am not satisfied with the recommendation of the Tariff Board, because I believe in very much lower duties than it has advocated. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) also is not satisfied with the board's recommendations, but for an entirely different reason; he believes that the duties should be much higher. The right honorable gentleman has joined with the Leader of the Labour party (Senator Collings) - a gentleman for whom every honorable senator has a great measure of respect. It is strange to find the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition in agreement as to the placing of a very much higher burden "on the agricultural and mining industries than the Tariff Board has recommended. On page 4 of its report, dated the 15th October, 1935, the board gave the following extract from evidence on behalf of Australian mining interests by Mr. G. L. Chilvers, representing the Broken Hill mining companies and their associated treatment companies, and, through the Chamber of Mines of Western Australia, the mining companies associated with that body: -

Owing partly to the assistance of exchange,' and partly to the development of the local engineering industry, the Australian manufacturer of mining machinery could compete in many instances even if the imported plant were admitted free of duty.

Metallurgical practice and machines are being constantly improved, and, if the local mining interests are to keep abreast of developments, they must have the freest possible choice of design, and must be able to purchase their plant and .equipment at prices as nearly as possible competitive with those paid overseas.

By-law admission is requested of several appliances of types not manufactured in Australia.

That is most important to the large number of new mining companies which have taken up leases in Western Australia with a view to their development and the production of gold. Mr. G. S. Murray, representing Frank Manford Limited, and the Chamber of Mines of Western Australia, said, in evidence before the Tariff Board -

There are many machines and appliances which should be classed under tariff items 170 (b) or 170 (e), but on which at present duty is demanded at higher duties under other tariff items. A re-easting of the item is desirable.

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