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Thursday, 7 May 1936

Senator LECKIE (Victoria) . - In connexion with sub-item l, which covers sugar refining machinery, I point out that the old duties were British 45 per cent., and general 55 per cent., subject to exchange adjustments. The duties now proposed are, British 25 per cent., intermediate42½ per cent., and general 53¾ per cent. What is the reason for these reductions? Australian manufacturers are able to supply this class of machinery; as a matter of fact, during the last three years they made sugarrefining machinery valued at £261,000. Seeing that the sugar industry is already heavily protected, and in view of the report appearing in yesterday's press that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company made a profit of nearly £500,000 during the last six months, it seems only right that this company, which derives much of its income from Australian sources, should, in return, be- prepared to place its orders for machinery with Australian firms.

Senator Hardy - The company claims that it derives the major portion of its revenue from sources outside Australia.

Senator LECKIE - Much of it comes from Australian sources. I ask the Minister to explain why these reductions have been made. They seem unnecessary. This is an item on which the Government could have leaned towards this Australian manufacturers.

Senator A.J. McLACHLAN (South Australia - Postmaster-General) [3.27 J . - The Tariff Board's inquiry into the duty on sugar machinery originated in a request made by machinery manufacturers in the United Kingdom for a reduction of duties, in order that they might have "full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of article 10 of the Ottawa agreement." The inquiry covered all the equipment for sugar mills and refineries, which, if imported under the 1933 tariff, would be classifiable under item 176 f 1 machines and machinery n.e.i., and item 208 a manufactures of metals n.e.i. Evidence submitted to the board indicated that machinery valued at £261,000 had been locally supplied by leading manufacturers during the previous three years, and that its production waa an important section of the general engineering industry. Moreover, as Australian engineering firms have .successfully produced sugar machinery under varying trade conditions and obtained a large proportion of the business offering, their efficiency, service, and method of production cannot be seriously challenged. The board considered that the rates now proposed should have the effect of keeping local prices at a reasonable level, and at the same time, permitting the importation of such equipment as cannot be commercially produced in Australia. The general tariff rate is slightly higher than that recommended by the board, a margin for treaty negotiation purposes having been provided.

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