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Thursday, 7 May 1936

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) . - There are sub-tropical areas in New South Wales where sugar is produced, and in which sugar mills are operating. Mr. Myers, a representative of New South Wales manufacturers, and two representatives of Victorian engineering firms, are strongly opposed to a reduction of the duties on machinery used in the sugar industry. I shall not read in toto the statement of Mr. H. S. Goldsmith, general manager and director of Walkers Limited, Maryborough, but I consider that honorable senators should be apprised of the following facts -

United Kingdom manufacturers have, in the past, supplied a large quantity of sugar machinery in direct competition with Australian manufacturers, and, at the present time, a complete new crushing plant consisting of four 36-in. x 78-in. roller mills have just been imported into Cairns for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company's Hambledon Mill, the reported weight being 400 tons.

Walkers Limited, is at the present time constructing two mills of a similar type and capacity, and, given the opportunity, would have been quite competent to manufacture the mills imported from the United Kingdom.

The weight of a mill is about 170 or 180 tons, and the value in the region of £10,000. The number of mills in a factory ranges from three to five.

There are 32 sugar factories, or approximately 100 mills situated in Queensland and New South Wales. As the Colonial Sugar

Refining Company owns six of these factories, it would be operating about twenty mills.

I remind honorable senators that Australian manufacturers supply only fourfifths of the machinery required by the industry. The remainder, which is imported, represents a considerable proportion, and Australian manufacturers should be making it. Mr. Goldsmith proceeded -

Generally speaking, Australian engineers have had very little of the big equipment business from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but have more than held their own with overseas competitors in supplying new and replacement machinery and equipment to the balance of the factories.

Sugar-growing is an asset of immense advantage to Australia as a whole, although the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator A. J. McLachlan) would apparently have the Senate believe otherwise; Queensland is not the only State to benefit by it. Some of the southern States have areas under sugar cultivation.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I did not notice any sugar growing in Tasmania.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - No, but Tasmania produces potatoes, hops and carbide, in addition to other com:modities to which protection is granted.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Senator J. B. Hayes). - I remind the honorable senator that the committee is dealing with machinery for the refining of sugar, not hops and carbide. I ask him to confine his remarks to the item.

Senator J.V. MacDONALD.Because centres such as Maryborough and Bundaberg, which are vitally concerned in this matter, are located in Queensland, honorable senators representing -other States are apt to think that this matter is relatively insignificant. Although I represent Queensland I take a deep interest in the tariff as affecting the industrial welfare of all States; it matters not to me whether an industry is situated in Warrnambool, Port Pirie, or Bunbury. Honorable senators should not confine their interests to industries in the particular centres with which they are familiar; they should adopt an Australia-wide outlook. Apparently the existing duty was deemed to be quite ample in 1933, when it was framed under the Ottawa agreement. If the initial protests of British manufac turers against the tariff are successful, we may expect every month to receive requests from them for the downward revision of duties, on the pretence that we are not observing the spirit of Ottawa. In connexion with the manufacture of machinery required in the sugar industry, a representative of the British manufacturers went so far as to say that the number of years which Walkers Limited have been established should safeguard their industry from possible ill-effects from the overseas competition. I have previously pointed out that five years ago this enterprise was on the point of going out of existence. The number of employees had been reduced to a mere 200 and the general manager was obliged to travel extensively abroad to obtain some new commodity to manufacture in order to keep that once great concern alive. I hope that the request moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) will be carried. The Minister asked what Queensland would do if the British preference to Australian sugar were reduced ; I might retort : " How would the Commonwealth itself regard such an occurrence?" The sale of the surplus production of Australian sugar in Great Britain increases the London funds, with which we meet out overseas commitments, by an average amount of £2,000,000 a year. In view of the facts I have given, particularly in regard to the general Australian interest in the sugar industry, honorable senators should shed their prejudices. The representatives of other States should realize that the Australian manufacturers of machinery of this class are vitally concerned, and any action taken which is detrimental to Bundaberg and Maryborough will have repercussions among manufacturers in Sydney and Melbourne.

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