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Thursday, 7 May 1936


Senator BROWN (Queensland) . - I support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), because, as representatives of Queensland and as good Australians, we consider that the machinery required by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company should be manufactured in Australia. I am sure that the employees of Walkers Limited, will regret to learn that their position may be jeopardized by the action of British manufacturers, and that the Government is adopting a recommendation of the Tariff Board, providing for reduced duties on imported machinery. We contend emphatically that, when the machinery can be manufactured in Australia, the Government should not, by decreasing the protective duty, destroy an industry that is producing machinery of the highest possible quality.


Senator Hardy - Even if the price is high.


Senator BROWN - Yes. In order to assist the Australian dairying industry, the home price of butter is higher than world's parity; but the Opposition does not contend that that price should be reduced. It desires that the dairymen shall receive a fair price for their product; our manufacturers of machinery also should enjoy the same consideration. With the competition which occurs between the various firms in the Commonwealth, the Labour party considers that a fair price is maintained for machinery of this class.


Senator Hardy -And themanufacturers are making a fair profit.


Senator BROWN - The honorable senator believes in the capitalistic system, which enables profits to be made ; it is my hope that we shall ultimately be able to depart from it. I point out, however, that Walkers Limited, of Maryborough, have made no unfair profits by exploiting the consumers of their product. Does Senator Hardy make any assertion to the contrary ?


Senator Guthrie - The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is making excessive profits.


Senator BROWN - The Colonial Sugar Refining Company admittedlyhas made large profits; but this Government or any other government, if it exercised its powers, could relieve that firm of a portion of those profits. But because the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has made huge profits, why should the tariff be reduced in order to permit the entry of sugar-refining machinery from Great Britain? The contention that because a refining company is making allegedly excessive profits we must attack the manufacture of sugar-refining machinery - an industry which has been built up by industrial pioneers - is, in my opinion, puerile. Reference has been made to the volume of business transacted by British manufacturers of this class of machinery. From remarks that have been uttered, one would conclude that they do not export large quantities to Australia andthat, therefore, they should be given a reasonable opportunity to increase their sales in the Commonwealth, although it would be to the detriment of Australian industry. I quote the following extract from the Tariff Board's report of the 17th December, 1934 : -

Exports of sugar-making and refining machinery other than centrifugals, from the United Kingdom for the calendar years since 1930 are as follow: -

 

!From that information, I conclude that the manufacturers of the United Kingdom are enjoying a particularly busy time and that they are competing successfully on the Australian market. The Government should heed the protest of the Opposition; instead of blindly following the recommendations of the Tariff Board on almost every occasion, it should recognize the wisdom of adequately safeguarding Australian industries. The Labour party contends that the Australian people pay a reasonable price for their sugar. The industry has been organized thoroughly and efficiently from base to apex, and the agreement between the Government and the sugar interests for the sale of sugar within the Commonwealth at a satisfactory price has been renewed for a further period of five years.


Senator Guthrie - The price is not satisfactory to Victorian consumers.


Senator BROWN - It is satisfactory to the Australian public generally. The only protest made has emanated from a few dowagers who constitute the Housewives' Association - a few individuals who are probably paid to carry on propaganda against the sugar industry. In my opinion, they have no considerable following.


Senator Guthrie - The sugar industry costs the Australian consumers millions of pounds a year.


Senator BROWN - That contention has been so often refuted that I shall not bother now to expose how fallacious it is. Senator Guthrie can only submit a set of figures; he is blinded by cyphers, and is unable to view the industry in proper perspective. There are considerations other than price. If all Australian industries were organized on the same efficient basis as the sugar industry, less difficulty in preserving their existence would be experienced.


Senator Guthrie - The profits, of the Colonial Sugar Refining . Company amounted to £500,000 during the last six months.


Senator BROWN - The honorable senator is obsessed with the operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. The profits made by that concern are not relevant to the present discussion.


Senator Abbott - If those profits were distributed over the entire Australian population, the amount that each person would receive would be equivalent to onefourteenth of a penny.


Senator BROWN - I realize that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company takes its profits from the pockets of the workers. On a previous occasion the Opposition showed what percentage of the company's profits -was made in Australia and what percentage in other parts of the world. Senator Guthrie interjected that, during the last six months, this company has made a profit of £500,000. If' that is so, why should the honorable senator, and the Government, make an effort to obtain from the United Kingdom cheaper machinery for the use of the company?


Senator Guthrie - I did not advocate that.


Senator BROWN - If the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is receiving a fair price for its commodity it should be made to pay a fair price for its machinery.


Senator Guthrie - I agree.


Senator BROWN - When Senator Guthrie quoted the profits of that concern, I understood him to use those figures as a reason for cheapening the price of machinery. Surely that would enable ' the enterprise to increase its profits !


Senator Guthrie - I should like to see the company purchase all its requirements of machinery within the Commonwealth.


Senator BROWN - That being so, the honorable senator should support the request of the Opposition that the industry be safeguarded against any " sop " to the British manufacturers through the Ottawa agreement.


Senator Hardy - How much machinery was imported from Great Britain last year?


Senator BROWN - I have already stated the value of exports from the Old Country.


Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - But not all of those exports came to Australia.


Senator BROWN - I pointed out that Great Britain enjoys a large business in the sale of machinery of this class. In order to survive, the British manufacturers do not need to launch an attack upon Australian industry. Some honorable senators have conveyed the impression that the industry in Great Britain " is going to the dogs " ; therefore Australia must extend some assistance to it. The Leader of the Opposition pointed out the admirable work that has been done in the production of this machinery in the Commonwealth. Some splendidly equipped mills are operating in Queensland. Mr. Goldsmith, general manager and director of Walkers Limited, Maryborough, stated before the Tariff Board -

Walkers Limited was originally established in Ballarat, Victoria, in the year 1864, and at Maryborough, Queensland, in 1868. The manufacture of sugar machinery, which was first undertaken by Walkers Limited in the seventies of last century, has been carried on continuously from then to the present time, and it can bc safely stated that during that period there is no part of a. sugar mill which has not been manufactured or supplied from their works.


Senator Herbert Hays - Then what is all the fuss about?


Senator BROWN - The necessary machinery can be manufactured in Australia-


Senator Herbert Hays - It is being manufactured in Australia.


Senator BROWN - And it is being sold under fair conditions. For those reasons there is no necessity for altering the tariff to enable the British manufacturers to compete in supplying this type of machinery. Unfortunately, the tariff has been reduced.


Senator Hardy - But there have been no importations.


Senator BROWN - In my opinion the tariff has been reduced for a purpose. The Minister in charge of the bill (Senator A. J. McLachlan) has stated that the British manufacturers made application for the position to be reviewed.


Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That is correct.


Senator BROWN - The intention behind the reduction of the tariff is to allow those manufacturers to compete with the Australian industry. If a demand for machinery of this class is created, the British manufacturers will have an opportunity to supply it.


Senator Hardy - Has any of this machinery been imported?


Senator BROWN - The fact that no machinery has been imported does not destroy my argument. Australian manufacturers have protested against any reduction of the duty. Obviously, if the British manufacturers are unable to compete under the lowered duties, it will be competent for them to make a further application. Then if the principle upon which the Government is acting is sound, the request will be referred to the Tariff Board, which must take cognizance of evidence furnished by the British manufacturers, and might recommend a further reduction of the duties.


Senator Hardy - If under these duties there are no imports of British machinery, will the honorable senator be converted to a lower duty?


Senator BROWN - I object to this constant tinkering with the tariff under the terms of the Ottawa agreement.


Senator Leckie - Who said that no sugar-making machinery had been imported ?


Senator BROWN - The PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) has informed the Senate that there have been no importations of that class of machinery.


Senator Leckie - British manufacturers would not be exporting to Australia every year.


Senator BROWN - If under the lower duties British machinery is imported harm will be done to an important industry, and good Australian workers will lose employment.







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