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Thursday, 7 May 1936

Senator HARDY (New South Wales) . - As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has submitted a request to increase the duty on machinery required for the refining of sugar, I desire to define my attitude on this point. In the early stages of the discussion of the schedule he said that it was not the intention of the Opposition to move for increased duties, when it considered that it had no prospects of success. The present request can be cited as an entire contradiction of the honorable senator's statement because, as the division will show, it has no prospects of success. It is not my intention to support the request. Evidence submitted to the Tariff Board cannot always be interpreted as a protest. Members of the Labour party have quoted the evidence given by Australian manufacturers in regard to this item and have contended that it represented a protest against a reduction of duties. I consider that that is not a natural or inevitable conclusion. Have the Australian manufacturers protested against the recommendation of the Tariff Board ?

Senator Collings - Yes.

Senator HARDY - Have any protests been made by the sugar-growers of Queensland ? Surelyif this duty was calculated to be disadvantageous to the industry they would quickly realize it and protest.

SenatorCollings. -The Opposition does not assert that it would be disadvantageous to the sugar-growers.

Senator HARDY - I am glad of that ; but the action advocated by the Leader of the Opposition will prove disadvantageous to the sugar-cane industry because the prohibitive tariff which he proposes must necessarily increase the cost of production. If a prohibitive tariff is imposed certain machinery, which may be an improvement upon that now in operation in Australia, will be debarred from entering this country. Does the honorable senator suggest for one moment that if an improved machine is made in England, the Australian sugar-growing industry should be denied the advantage of it unless they pay excessive duties on it? If these machines are subjected to high duties new machines must represent a higher capital value than the machines previously in use. Therefore, the cost of production of sugar must consequently be increased. In my opinion, by submitting this request the honorable senator is not acting in the best interests of the sugar industry. In my opinion he is doing it the greatest conceivable disservice. The actual cost of sugar refining will be increased and the logicalconclusion is that, if the honorable senator is going to allow a margin of profit to the producers, the selling price must be raised. In that event the United Kingdom will, of necessity, be asked to grant a greater degree of preference to Australian sugar. If the honorable senator is sincerely desirous of assisting the sugargrowers, he should endeavour to reduce the refining costs to the lowest possible level. To ensure this he should consent to the manufacturers of machinery meeting a reasonable amount of external competition, particularly in capital good's. The Government does not ask the committee to agree to duties which will enable British machinery to compete on an unreasonable or preferential basis. For those reasons I shall vote against the request.

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