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Thursday, 7 May 1936

Senator LECKIE (Victoria) .- Australian engineering firms have been manufacturing sugar machinery for years, and owners of mills who purchased their machinery are in a better position ns regards replacements than are mill owners who are using British machinery. The point which the Minister missed is this: Unless these lower duties encourage competition by British manufacturers, they are of no avail. Can the Minister give the committee an assurance that no British machinery will be imported under this item?

Senator Hardy - Why should hot British manufacturers have a reasonable opportunity to compete in the Australian market ?

Senator LECKIE - If British machinery is imported, orders will be lost by Australian manufacturers, and Australian engineers and workmen will lose employment.

Senator Collings - Of course they will.

Senator LECKIE - On the other hand, if the duties have not been reduced sufficiently to encourage competition from British manufacturers, this Government is, to use a colloquialism, "selling them a pup ".

Senator A.J. McLACHLAN (South Australia - Postmaster-General [4.2] . - One Queensland senator expressed some doubt as to the value of the concessions secured to the Queensland sugar industry in the British market.

Senator Brown - 'What has British preference in regard to sugar to do with this item?

Senator Gibson - It may have a lot to do with it.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Great Britain finds a market for 84 per cent, of the surplus Australian sugar production. In the statistical year 1933-34, the United Kingdom market took 283,358 tons of Australian sugar, valued at over £2,000,000. Of the total exports of Australian sugar, New South Wales provided 723 tons, Victoria 189 tons and Queensland 307,020 tons, valued at £2,275,609.

Senator Collings - What has that to do with this item? Because one industry is flourishing that is not a reason why the Government should " knock " another.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Surely it is not necessary to remind the honorable gentleman that it is part of the bond that preference should be given by Britain to the Australian sugar industry?

Senator Collings - It is not part of the bond that we should so reduce the tariff as to allow British machinery to injure an important Australian industry.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable gentleman must be aware that this matter was discussed when the Ottawa agreement was under consideration, and that this item was referred to the Tariff Board. Senator Brown would now advocate the dishonouring of that compact, notwithstanding that Queensland sugar-growers enjoy such important concessions in the British market. I am reminded that at this present moment, when the honorable gentleman is so vigorously protesting against the small modicum of business which British manufacturers may obtain in our market, the Premier of his State is in London endeavouring to induce the British Government to continue its preference to Australian sugar.

Senator Collings - Some Federal Ministers are in London, too, on Commonwealth business.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I tell the honorable senator that if, as the result of the attacks upon it, the Ottawa agreement is jettisoned, the sugar industry of Queensland will suffer seriously. I ask them, as reasonable men, to consider the possibility of the sugar, which is now disposed of in England, having to be sold elsewhere.

Senator Collings - Surely the Minister does not believe that?

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition would not intentionally be offensive. If I did not believe it, I would not say it.

Senator Collings - Has the PostmasterGeneral ever heard of selfhypnotism ?

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Evidently the honorable senator is smarting under logic from which he cannot escape. When he claims increased protection for Walkers Limited, of Maryborough - a firm which has not itself complained of the duties - he knows that he is imperilling an industry upon which a large portion of the people of Queensland depend.

Senator Collings - Did Walkers Limited protest before the Tariff Board ?

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - No ; nor have they protested since then. Surely the company is a better judge of its own business than is the honorable senator. I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition should read the Tariff Board's report, from which I have already quoted a number of extracts.

Senator Collings - The Minister has not yet quoted the best parts of it.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - We should not deal lightly with a subject of such importance. The Tariff Board's report has been framed in the light of the Ottawa agreement. The board recommended certain duties on the basis of the existing exchange. That may be, as Senator Brown stated, only a small part of our obligations; but it serves to illustrate what I am tempted to describe as the utter lack of morality of those who say that the Government should not give effect to the findings of the board, but who support the Premier of Queensland in his attempts to maintain preference in Britain for Queensland sugar.

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